The One Beauty Product Curly Haired Girls Should Swear By For Perfect Beachy Waves

For 22 years, I hated my curly hair. Every morning before middle, high school and college, I fried my natural waves with a straightening iron. For the majority of my life, I was barely willing to leave my bedroom unless every kink in my hair had been flattened beyond recognition. Then, the summer after I graduated college, I discovered beach hair (I know, I know — that is an embarrassingly late age to realize how great beach hair is, especially for someone who has seen Blue Crush 30+ times, but just go with it). I loved what the salt water did to my hair — it made it just the right amount of naturally voluminous and sexy, while still keeping it under control — and I wanted it took look like that all the time. So I set out on a mission to find the best product for everyday beach waves, since I couldn't lay be the ocean every day.

After a series of trial and error with mousse, gel, curling irons, hair spray and any other curling agent you can possibly think of (trust me, I tried them all) I stumbled upon the curly girl product that trumps all others: salt spray.

Here is a photo of my "beach waves" after taking a shower at my apartment in New York City, which is sadly nowhere near the ocean, as proof that salt spray really is a valid substitute for actual salt water:

So how are you supposed to use salt spray, otherwise known as the secret ingredient to perfectly wavy hair?

If you're naturally curly, you can use sea salt spray when your hair is dry to enhance the waves you already have. Spray lightly into dry hair and avoid your roots. It also works on damp hair (this goes for curly and straight haired women), but make sure you comb out all of the knots while your hair is still soaking wet, because dousing tangles in salt will only make them worse. Spritz into your damp hair — again, everywhere but the roots — then flip your head and scrunch a little. You'll end up with loose, natural looking waves instead of crunchy curls. You can dry with a diffuser if you're in a hurry, but you'll get the best results if you let it air dry. In the summer heat, it's bound to do it quickly!

Birchbox on YouTube

Since salt dries out your hair, you want to make sure to use a deep conditioning mask once a week to keep your strands healthy.

Here are five salt sprays I, as a curly haired girl, swear by.

1. All Around Best Salt Spray

Nuance by Salma Hayek Texturizing Sea Salt Spray, $13, Zabiva

Celebrity beauty products can, admittedly, be hit or miss, but I am a die hard user of all things Salma Hayek and her salt spray is no exception. It creates picture-perfect waves whether you spray it in wet, dry, damp, dirty — whatever — hair, and holds forever. It's becoming increasingly hard to find (if anyone else wants to get a petition going to increase availability, email me...) so whenever I do manage to track it down I buy a few bottles at a time and stockpile.

2. Best For Sprucing Up Dry Hair

Bumble and Bumble Surf Spray, $27, Amazon

When my friends and I go away for a beach weekend, there is never a shortage of this product because every single one of us carries it in our travel bags at all time. I don't love the way it smells, but I can't deny that it provides a solid hold — kind of like hair spray. I prefer to use this product when my hair has air-dried as a way to spruce up my natural curls, because I've found it doesn't necessarily "create" curls, it just enhances them.

3. Best Smelling

Oribe After Beach Spray And Shine Spray, $42, Amazon

This is, far and away, the best smelling product on the entire planet. It functions in a similar way to the celeb-favorite texturizing spray (which Kim Kardashian swears by, by the way) in that it adds texture and shine, but this one also adds curls. Spray on dry, curly hair — you can even use it after you've gone in the actual ocean — to give yourself luxe locks with an intoxicating scent.

4. Best Budget Spray

John Freida Beach Blonde Sea Waves, $7, Amazon

John Frieda re-introduced this product into circulation this year, and people went nuts. A whole bottle is only $8, so it's great for keeping in the car or your beach back and using liberally as needed. It works well on wet or dry hair, and provides good texture — especially when you scrunch your ends thoroughly.

5. Best For Shine

Bumble And Bumble Surf Infusion, $26, Amazon

Since Bumble & Bumble pretty much invented salt spray (well, they were the first ones I'd ever heard of at least), it only seems fair that they get a double mention on the list. This spray has a blend of tropical and botanical oils that condition hair and provide UV protection, which make it perfect for carrying along to the beach. Because of the combination of oils, this spray provides more shine than all of the others, and comes in a teeny little bottle that fits in a clutch or makeup bag and can be easily transported.

You should always embrace your natural curls, and these salt sprays will only help!

Images: Instagram/Zoeweinerrr; Courtesy of Brands