7 Effortless Beach Waves Hairstyles—and How to Do Them Yourself

We asked celebrity hairstylists to share their best tips on bringing the beach to your hair. 

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Stylish casual woman enjoying sun at tropical beach
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There are a lot of things to love about the beach—the sun in your face, the fresh sea salt smell, and the soothing white noise of crashing waves. Not to mention the beauty benefits—a beach day can not only give your skin that extra boost of vitamin D (just remember sunscreen!), it also holds the uncanny power of making everyone's hair look incredibly lived-in, textured, and just plain cool.

Unfortunately, most of us can't spend every morning lounging on the beach for the sake of a good hair day. But it is possible to create those beautiful beach waves with the right tools, products, and techniques at home.

According to Paul Cucinello, a celebrity hairstylist and co-founder of Cucinello Beauty, real beach hair is totally different from what most hashtag results show. "It's more of that surprise you get when you come out of the saltwater and run your fingers through your hair with leftover suntan lotion," he says. "If you have any kind of natural wave to your hair, you'll probably discover that it looks really good when you do less intentional styling to it for a change. The heat from the sun coupled with salty beach air is like letting nature give you a beautiful blowout."

To create hair that looks like you really spent the day at the beach, you'll probably need to use more than one product at a time, and more product than you're used to using. "Dry texture spray or dry shampoo at the roots keeps hair with lots of product in it from looking greasy," says Cucinello.

Barely-there lived-in beach waves

To create this look, you'll want to start with damp hair and give it a generous mist of a thickening volume spray, like Cucinello Beauty Arouse Thickening Volume Spray ($48; cucinellobeauty.com) or Oribe Volumista Mist for Volume ($44; amazon.com). "Flip your head over and blast hair about 80 percent dry, then flip your head back over and create a U-shaped section from the points of recession to the crown and clip away," says Cucinello. "Using a large waving wand, take about eight random 1-inch sections and wrap them around the wand in a stretched-out coil—continue your way around the head alternating directions forward and back. Drop the top section down and create a short center part, about 2 inches."

Continue with your waving wand on about six 1-inch sections, and make sure to leave the ends out and let the top of the section fall straight back to give you some extra-beachy volume. "Finish with a light mist of thickening volume spray all over and gently scrunch hair to break up waves," says Cucinello.

Flat iron beach waves using a bending technique

This technique creates a more subtle wave, and you can even use it to create just a slight bend. "Start on dry hair and drop down sections 1 inch at a time," says celebrity hairstylist Clariss Rubenstein. "Starting at the root, bend the hair in one direction, then the other, dramatically flipping your wrist under and up and moving your way down the hair shaft until you get to the end." Shake out waves with your fingers and apply a dry texturizer, like Unite Hair Texturiza Spray ($32; amazon.com).

Beach waves on curly/textured hair

Recreating believable, beachy waves requires lots of varying textures—some curls, some waves, and a few strategically placed braided pieces. Try using a combination of techniques on top of your natural hair pattern. "Prep dry hair with a quarter-sized amount of curl sculpting cream evenly distributed throughout, like Cucinello Beauty Money $hot Curl & Style Manipulator ($34; cucinellobeauty.com) or R+Co Turntable Curl Defining Créme ($34, randco.com)," says Cucinello. "Using a waving wand, a curling iron, and a deep waver, take chunks and alternate tools and placement—place some waves high and some curls only at the midshaft."

Add a few smaller braids around the hairline to replicate the tighter wave patterns that usually occur around the nape of the neck, temples, and sideburns. "Give hair a light mist of dry spray at the roots and then undo the braids," suggests Cucinello. "Finish with a dime-sized amount of the same curl sculpting cream scrunched into hair to combine textures."

Beach waves using twirling technique

Start with day-old, dry hair, and spray your roots with a dry texturizing spray, like Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray ($49; sephora.com) or DesignME Puff.Me Dry Texture Spray ($26; amazon.com) "Beginning at and rotating around your part, lightly mist hair with water to slightly dampen, but not soak," says Cucinello. "Then, take 1-inch chunks and twist them until they look like loose ropes."

Clip the ends of each twist up to its own base using small clips until the next section is revealed. "Continue lightly misting each new section with water, then repeat the twists using larger and smaller sections and clipping them up," says Cucinello. "Once all your sections are done (and your arms feel like they're going to fall off), spray your entire head with a generous coat of dry spray." Let your hair set until each section feels dry to the touch.

If you prefer, you can speed it up with a diffuser and hairdryer set to low speed and high heat. "Remove all the clips, dropping sections from the nape of the neck moving up to the part," says Cucinello. "Flip your head over and shake twists out by massaging your scalp with your fingertips and shaking hands through hair stopping mid-shaft." Flip hair back over and finish with a light mist of workable hair spray, like the DesignME Hold.Me Three Way Hair Spray ($12; amazon.com) or Sachajuan Moulding Spray ($30; amazon.com).

Flat iron beach waves using an 'S' technique

Start with dry hair and, taking 1-inch sections, place hair in a flat iron, like Dyson Corrale Hair Straightener ($499; sephora.com). "Instead of bending it in the way you would usually do a flat iron wave, keep it flat and create an 'S' pattern with the hair, opening and closing the iron on it consistently," suggests Rubenstein. "Continue this pattern down the hair shaft—this will create a flatter, less voluminous, imperfect wave."

After the entire head is done, rake out waves with your hands and add texturizer. "R+Co Badlands Dry Shampoo Paste ($32, amazon.com) makes hair nice and beachy with a little grit—I love this product," says Rubenstein.

Mermaid beach waves

Mermaid waves are probably one of the most requested versions of beach waves and they're easier to create than you might think. "3-barrel curling irons are the pro's go-to secret weapon for making realistic ripples on longer hair—I use BondiBoost Wave Wand ($58; bondiboost.com)," says Cucinello. "The key to using them is to make sure that each wave begins where the last wave ends…and most importantly, leave the ends out." The straighter ends keep it looking beachy instead of like you're going to prom.

Beach waves with overnight braids

To create this look, you want to start with dry hair and divide it in half imperfectly, so it looks unintentional. "Rub a quarter-sized amount of lightweight styling cream between your hands and evenly rake it through both sides of your hair—I use Cucinello Beauty Re:Touch Smooth Texture Upgrade ($56; cucinellobeauty.com) or JVN Complete Hydrating Air Dry Hair Cream ($24; sephora.com)," says Cucinello. "Roll each side back, starting at the hairline, and create two loose French braids, securing the ends with a snag-free elastic band like Blax Snag-Free Clear Elastic Bands ($6; amazon.com). Allow hair to set until dried. Undo braids by raking fingers through hair in downward motions.

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