Of all the mysterious, maddening hair fantasies we see on the runway during Fashion Month, effortless messy waves are the most perplexing. For starters, anything described as effortless usually takes an absurd amount of effort—or at least some secret know-how. Once you factor in the length, texture, and “to heat-style or not to heat-style” variables to the equation, you’ve got a complex hair problem worthy of a team of scientists and a whiteboard.
Since we take our own hyperbole seriously, we’ve collected the best ways to get peak effortless waves with and without hot tools.
How To Get Messy Waves Without Any Heat
If you deal with breakage on the daily and don’t want to risk heat styling, you can still get in on the messy waves action. Begin with totally dry hair and ready lots and lots of firm-hold mousse. Rake the mousse through your hair with your fingers, starting at the mid lengths (if you start at the roots, you’ll get wet-look hair; cool if you want that, but FYI in case you don’t) and work your way down.
Next, fold sections of your hair upwards at about one-inch intervals, then gently squeeze. It feels a little funny at first and you might feel compelled to overthink it, but it’s really that easy. Once you’ve folded your hair into waves you’re happy with, set them in place with flexible hairspray. Done and done.
How To Get Messy Waves With A Curling Wand
The trick to getting that awesome undone look with a curling wand is all in the way you work the barrel. Start by holding the barrel of your wand vertically—and partially wrap one-inch sections of your hair around the wand to shape it. Give the look just the right amount of piece-y finish by raking your hands through the waves and setting them with a dry conditioner. Lastly, run a texturizer throughout the length of your waves. Pro tip: Rub the gel between your hands first to warm up the product. It’ll help disperse the gel through your hair more easily.
As for short hair, the approach to creating soft, natural waves is more or less the same with one major difference: your tools. We recommend using a one-and-a-half-inch barrel wand, again held vertically when curling. Start each section midway down and leave your ends straight to create more modern wave.
How To Get Messy Waves With A Flat Iron
Warning: When a pro stylist even tells you getting waves with a flatiron is harder than it looks, it means you’re going to need to give yourself the time to practice. First, it’s crucial that you’ve got a straightener that easily glides through your hair. One with beveled edges that will help since your hair won’t snag at the sides when you rotate the iron. Next, you want to twist the iron up and down, making sure to changing the direction the iron is pointing. When the iron bevels up, the top of your iron should be pointing up, and when it bevels under, the top of your iron should be pointing down. The finished result is a looser, more ’70s finish than you’d get with a curling iron. But just as cool.