How to Get Perfect Beachy Waves

A step-by-step tutorial to nailing the effortless, back-from-the-shore hairstyle, courtesy of our pro stylist Carmen Warren.
By Natasha Marsh

Hair: BeachyWaves Hair: BeachyWaves

Step 1: Wash Hair

Whether you have long hair, short hair, wavy hair, or straight hair, all great hairstyles start with a healthy foundation—a.k.a. a good wash! Grab your favorite shampoo and conditioner—Shopbop Stylist Carmen Warren loves Rahua Hydration Shampoo & Rahua Hydration Conditioner—then cleanse as usual. Next, Warren recommends lightly towel drying to get out excess water before hair styling.

Hair: BeachyWaves Hair: BeachyWaves

Step 2: Apply Product

Warren recommends applying styling products on damp, towel-dried hair. If you’re looking to add thickness, Warren suggests adding Ceremonia Guava Beach Waves Texture Spray; Ouai Wave Spray for medium textures; and Oribe Matte Waves Texture Lotion for coarse hair (bonus: it also tames frizz). Those with fine hair should add in product slowly, as too much can weigh hair down. “Let product soak into hair for a minimum of three to five minutes, depending on the density of curl,” the expert advises. After product is applied, run a wide-toothed comb or brush through hair (Warren recommends the Oribe Wide Tooth Comb or Yves Durif The Brush Dor). Both will ensure product is evenly distributed.

Step 3: Dry & Style

Before you begin blow drying, apply a heat protectant to avoid excess heat damage. Next, Warren recommends completely drying the hair using a combination of the T3 AireLuxe Hair Dryer and Sam Villa Artist Series Thermal Brush. Now, it’s time to get your beachy wave on! The stylist’s pro technique: Take a one-inch (the larger the rod of the curling iron, the looser the wave) barrel curling iron and flat iron (ST3 SinglePass 1.0” Ceramic Curling Iron is among her favorite) to lay the foundation of the wave. Warren suggests starting 2-3 inches from the root and working your way down, loosening your grip once you reach the ends. To ensure waves are not too perfect, switch up the direction of each wave: curl clockwise, then counter-clockwise, to prevent curls from wrapping around each other and looking overdone. Once the hair is completely curled, finish by finger-combing and smoothing out any areas that need extra TLC.

Hair: BeachyWaves Hair: BeachyWaves
Hair: BeachyWaves Hair: BeachyWaves

Step 4: Set & Spritz

Perfectly imperfect is the ultimate goal for beachy waves, so the stylist recommends setting your hairstyle. Not only does a hairspray or polishing product keep the waves in place longer, but a balm or oil (Warren suggests Rahua Smoothing Hair Balm or OUAI Hair Oil) will add just the right amount of shine. “If you want a more textured beach wave, finish with a texture spray for a messier beach-like vibe—as if you’re walking along the beachside in Malibu and the wind is blowing,” she adds.

Hair: Beachy Waves Hair: Beachy Waves

Step 5: Complete the Look

The only thing that could improve your sea-swept, beachy waves? A glowy, sun-kissed face to match. Of course, SPF is a nonnegotiable if you’re spending time in the sun—and we love a tinted priming formula like this Supergoop Glowscreen SPF 40 for an easy base. To get a fresh flush, try a multitasking tool (such as the Ogee Sculpted Face Stick and Wander Double Date Lip & Cheek Balm) for some subtle contouring and a hint of healthy color. Finally, finish it off with a sweep of lengthening mascara (Buxom Lash Moisturizing Mascara), an ultra-shiny lip gloss (Sigma Renew Lip Oil) and voilà! Beach babe status, without the sandy toes.