How to Make Beach Waves with a Flat Iron

Get easy, breazy, woke up like this hair — no beach required.

The idea of creating curls with a tool that’s supposed to straighten your hair sounds counterintuitive, but the flat iron is a truly versatile beast. Depending on the technique — and the type of flat iron you’re using — you can create all kinds of different styles outside of pinstrait locks, ranging from standard curls you’d achieve with a traditional curling iron to looser, more beachy waves.

With the help of Emily Heser, an editorial hairstylist with Cutler Salon in NYC, we’re teaching you how to create the latter. Heser said that this looser version is not only easier to achieve, but also isn’t as damaging since you’re applying less heat and aren’t pulling on your hair.

The How To:

For beachy waves, grab a flat iron that’s 1 to 1.25 inches. If possible, adjust the heat and turn it up to between 375 and 425 degrees. If you have thick or coarse hair, you’ll want it higher; if you have thin or fine hair, opt for the lower heat setting. We're using Hot Tools Black Gold 1.25in Flat Iron ($80).

“I like to start with hair that feels clean of heavy product or hairspray, as the flat iron can stick to the product in your hair, creating creases, and can make curling more difficult,” noted Heser. “Also, always keep the sections small. The smaller the sections, the more natural the waves.”

Once prepped, grab a small, one to two-inch section of hair and bend it to create the shape of a “C.” Quickly clamp the iron down over the entire section for about five to 10 seconds, said Heser.

“With the section still in the iron, create another ‘C’-shape and repeat. You are essentially creating a series of ‘S’-shapes with the hair and tapping the flat iron over it to create a wave, until you reach the ends,” she explained. “Each section should go in the opposite direction from the last. So, if you curve to the right on one section, curve to the left on the next.”

Heser said not to worry about making it perfect because it looks much better — and way more believable — when it isn’t belabored. When you’ve finished your last section, gently brush through your hair with a natural bristle or nylon bristle paddle brush.

“This will break up all the sections and blend them together seamlessly,” she said. “I like to finish with a touch of Redken All Soft Argan Oil ($30) through the ends and a few spritzes of Redken Wind Blown Texturizing Hair Spray ($19) through the roots and mid lengths.” We did the same, but with IGK's Beach Club Texture Spray ($29).

For an even more natural finish, she said to spritz a little salt spray into your hair and gently blow dry, using your fingers instead of a brush, on a medium or cool setting. This breaks up any waves that might look too done for a look that says, “Did I or didn’t I just get back from the shore? I’ll never tell!”

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