An Owner’s Guide to Naturally Wavy Hair

Perfect waves are coveted far and wide by the straight-haired and curly-haired alike, but if you were born with naturally wavy hair, then you’re already well aware that sometimes your texture feels like a curse rather than a blessing. It occupies a middle ground—not as wash-and-go as straight strands, without the bounce of natural curls. But even though getting there may take a little extra (occasionally tedious) work, waves can look shiny and gorgeous, so long as you know how to style them.

The key to making your wavy hair work, says Gary Howse, co-owner and founder of Gary Manuel Salons in Seattle, is to pick a texture and commit to it. “If you’re going to go straight, go straight and really shiny and make that the focus. Or,” he advises, “pick curly and learn how to accentuate the curl.”

If you want to play up your texture…

Scrunch with mousse.
Okay, we fully realize how 1991 that directive sounds, but 2015’s updated foam formulas promise to leave hair sexy and touchable, not crunchy. We’re fans of Vidal Sassoon Pro Series Waves Foam Mousse, which enhances waves with flexible polymers that create a soft, defined texture.

Coarser wavy hair may require a more heavy-duty, stronger hold product. Ouidad Curl Recovery Curl Defining Styling Soufflé is designed to moisturize and define dry or damaged textured hair, especially those that are natural or transitioning.

Master the anti-gravity blow-dry.
Wavy hair can get weighed down, so there are additional factors that contribute to the perfect blow-dry. “When you’re going curly, you have to think about, ‘How do I dry my hair in a way that it’s not being pulled on?,’” Howse says. This may mean flipping your head upside down, or leaning your head to one side while you dry hair with a bell-shaped diffuser. A diffuser, of course, is absolutely crucial: This attachment clips onto the nozzle of your hair dryer to spread out the airflow over a wider area, giving you a gentler blow-dry that plays up natural texture while minimizing frizz. It’s a must-have.

If you want to go straight…

Prep hair with product.
Wavy hair requires both moisture to fight frizz and hold to keep a blowout from falling flat. Living Proof Perfect Hair Day (PhD) is a new 5-in-1 styling treatment that offers both. The lightweight cream is the very first to combine the company’s two patented molecules: OFPMA, which smooths the cuticle and adds shine sans silicones, and PBAE, which creatures fullness without crunchy texture.

Blow-dry with a brush.
The key to achieving the ideal smooth, shiny blowout is pulling hair tight with a round brush while you angle the dryer down toward the ends of hair. “If you can’t feel the tension pulling, then you’re not doing it right,” Howse says.

Perfect your flat iron technique.”
“Be very careful about using a flat iron in a way that makes [your style] look like 10 years ago,” Howse warns. You don’t want stick straight strands so much as you want smooth texture that still has movement at the ends. “Think circles; I’m not pulling it down as much as I’m pulling it out and around, so you’re actually putting a bit of curve in it with the flat iron,” Howse instructs, “so it looks modern.”

No matter which texture you choose…

DON’T air dry your hair. “You’ve got to dry your hair all the way,” Howse says. “When you have curly hair, sometimes getting it three-fourths dry is great, because if you take it all the way it gets fuzzy.” When you have wavy hair, however, the extra water is going to do more harm than good. “If you’re going straight, it’s probably going to go fuzzy on you as it starts to [air] dry.”

DO brush gently. Wavy hair tends to be more fragile than straight hair, and overbrushing can lead to breakage and frizz. Goody Tanglefix Gentle Detangling Brush is the perfect brush, given its flexible plastic bristles which make it super gentle on waves.