Having a wavy hair pattern may seem like the best of both worlds, but when you want to rock what you've naturally got, wavy hair still presents its own set of challenges. You need a product that's strong enough to shape and define your hair's natural bends, but still lightweight and, at the same time, hydrating. To help determine the best hair products for wavy hair, Bustle spoke with John Paul Mitchell Systems brand ambassador and salon owner Paula Peralta to get her expert advice.
Before you get to the products, Peralta stresses that how you
cut your hair will affect your waves. "Longer hair has more weight, which will drag down the waves, so be sure to have the appropriate layered haircut to allow a cascade of curls," she explains. Products aside, you'll also want to be careful about the tools you're using to style your hair. "Excessive thermal styling can diminish the wave structure over time," Peralta says, which means it's essential to apply a heat protectant spray or serum prior to using any hot styling tools to keep your hair healthy and your waves intact.
When it comes to picking a product, Peralta says that whether your hair is short or long, it's all about looking for a formula that enhances what you've got without weighing down your natural wave pattern. "Look for a two-part system," she says, adding that wavy-haired products should "hydrate the hair and help it develop memory and hold to create definition." This combo is key when it comes to maintaining your style throughout the day without leaving your hair damaged or dry, and it's easy to spot. On the ingredients list, look for oils (such as argan or coconut) to restore moisture, smooth out unwanted frizz, and add shine. And for hold, look for copolymers like VP/VA copolymer, which are traditionally used in gels and hairsprays to lock your style in place.
But no matter which product you choose, Peralta also recommends adding
a diffuser attachment to your blow dryer. "Diffusers are great for coaxing your natural wave, and for even more definition, finger-coiling the hair before diffusing will maximize your natural texture," she explains.
And now, discover the best hair products for wavy hair, from gels and foams to serums and creams.
1 Expert’s Pick: Best Refreshing Foam For Wavy Hair
Peralta's pick, this
Paul Mitchell Lavender Mint Curl Refresh Foam works double-duty to create lightweight definition and perk up your waves. "You can use this foam on freshly shampooed hair to create and enhance waves, and you can use it on dry hair throughout the week to control frizz and refresh waves," she explains. The creamy mousse has a calming lavender and mint scent, and the formula is color-safe, paraben-free, and vegan. It's also loaded with nourishing ingredients like jojoba oil, coconut oil, and mango seed butter, which moisturize your hair as the foam defines your natural waves. Relevant review: “I love this product. I scrunch it into my wavy hair when hair is wet. I let it air dry, and it is amazing .. a curl boost without any residue. Once dry, you can not feel product in hair. love it.” 2 Editor’s Pick: Best Hair Mask For Wavy Hair
“It's rare that a beauty product convinces me on the first try, but this
deep conditioning mask was just what my long, wavy hair needed to perk it up. True to its promise, my hair was immediately shinier and smoother after using it. I always keep a jar of it on hand.” — Ileana Morales Valentine, Bustle editor 3 Editor’s Pick: Best Dry Shampoo For Wavy Hair
“My wavy hair is also very fine, so I often wake in the morning with rumpled waves that look a little less than clean. While this
R+Co dry shampoo mist isn’t my go-to when my hair is really in need of a wash, I love how the product is actually a mist rather than a dry powder, so a few spritzes can reset my waves without adding frizz. I also think it makes my strands look a little bit cleaner while maintaining their soft texture — and like all R+Co products, it smells really nice, too.” — Kori Perten, Bustle editor 4 Editor’s Pick: Best Texturizing Spray For Wavy Hair
"Hate to break it to you, but
Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray really is worth the splurge. It gives my hair the undone bedhead look I love, but it also defines my waves, so the overall effect is mussy, not messy (an important difference). It's completely weightless, nor is it sticky or greasy, so my hair feels much softer than it does with other, less elegant texture sprays I've tried. And the scent is to die for. You don't even need to wear perfume with this stuff." — Caroline Goldstein, Bustle editor 5 Best Styling Cream For Wavy Hair
If you prefer to work a dollop of styling cream through your damp hair before heading out the door,
Moroccanoil’s Curl Defining Cream adds a twist to waves as it holds them in place and smooths away unwanted frizz. Polymers like polyquaternium create memory and hold as you scrunch the cream through your hair, while the argan oil in the formula helps nourish and hydrate. Because it's relatively lightweight, you can combine the cream with other curl-enhancing products, like a styling spray, or, use it before blow-drying your hair with a diffuser attachment. Relevant review: “I don't have curly hair, but it is wavy and I wanted to accentuate the curls as much as possible. I have tried 4 or 5 products but this is by FAR the best one. My hair is SO soft, curls beautifully, and it smells so damn good. [...] My hair looks great and doesn't get greasy after a day or two of not washing it out which is a huge plus. 10/10.” 6 Best Styling Spray For Wavy Hair
Styling spray is a go-to for anyone with wavy hair. But where the usual sea salt sprays have a tendency to dry out your hair and make it feel crunchy,
John Frieda’s Frizz Ease Dream Curls Daily Styling Spray helps create silky smooth definition. The alcohol-free formula won't cause dryness, and it's suitable for color-treated and chemically treated hair. Plus, it offers heat protection if you plan to mist this through your waves while they're damp and follow up by blow drying your hair with a diffuser to further define your curls. To help add hold to your natural wave pattern, whether used on damp hair or to revive a second-day style, John Frieda's formula combines a blend of copolymers with nourishing ingredients like olive oil. Relevant review: “Love it. I never use anything else. I have long wavy hair and most products leave my hair greasy or crunchy. This products does neither. It defies my curls but you would never know I had anything in my hair if you touched it. It does not flake or get sticky. Yes, it’s perfect. I only wish I could get a better deal on ordering more than one, or find a larger size.” 7 Best Smoothing Serum For Wavy Hair
Whether you want to add a polished finish to your waves or smooth them out (with the help of a flat iron) into perfectly straight strands, the
Garnier Fructis Sleek & Shine Anti-Frizz Serum will help get the job done. This cult-classic drugstore product wipes out unwanted frizz with argan and apricot kernel oils, which work to moisturize dry hair (aka the reason your hair is frizzy in the first place) and increase shine. And while it's traditionally thought of as a smoothing serum for when you want to straighten your hair, many Amazon reviewers note that it's great for waves and curls, too. Relevant review: “i have very thick, unlayered wavy/curly hair which explodes in the heat and humidity. this stuff keeps my hair shiny and sleek, no frizzing. it smells really nice and doesn't make my hair clumpy or oily like a lot of products do. great for the price, highly recommend.” 8 Best Defining Gel For Waves & Curls
Forget everything you know about traditional gels that leave your waves feeling crunchy and looking flakey.
DevaCurl’s Light Defining Styling Hair Gel is a soft-hold gel that contains ingredients like castor oil, hydrolyzed wheat protein, and hydrolyzed soy protein, which moisturize and strengthen hair while providing smoothness and shine. DevaCurl's gel gets scrunched into curls while they're still soaking wet, forming what the brand calls a "curl cast," which defines your waves and seals out frizz. The formula is also vegan and free of sulfates, parabens, and silicones — the latter being known to weigh down fine hair. Relevant review: “It's true, there's no crunch. This is more of a moisturizer for your hair, it holds the spirals in place. I love it. LOVE IT!! DevaCurl is my favorite for my biracial kids hair.” 9 Best Leave-In Conditioner Spray For Wavy Hair OUAI’s leave-in conditioner gets so many things right. The formula is just creamy enough to feel nourishing on wavy/curly hair that’s dehydrated or dry, but it’s not so heavy that it will weigh fine hair down (just use less product if your hair is on the finer side; thick-haired folks, go nuts). It’s loaded with nourishing, botanically derived oils, hair-strengthening proteins, and moisture-attracting humectants — and like all OUAI products, it smells absolutely divine. There are even those key polymers in here, which Peralta recommended, to offer up a bit of definition and hold. Relevant review: “I have lots of fine wavy hair that gets really knotty even after using a rinse out conditioner after washing my hair. This leave in conditioner smells wonderful, easily detangles my washed hair, and leaves natural looking shiny waves without any frizz. It may be on the expensive side but it really works with positive results!” 10 Best Heat Protectant Spray For Wavy Hair
Truly, this is a great
heat protectant for any hair type — curly, straight, wavy, and everything else in between. While some of the other products on this list offer some heat protection, that’s this spray’s main purpose. The hydrolyzed silk and keratin in the formula will leave your waves feeling silky soft; and since this spray is so lightweight, you can use it in conjunction with other styling products. Relevant review: “Love this product. I originally bought it to protect my hair from straightening and curling but have since found that spraying it on my naturally fine wavy hair eliminates frizz without weighing it down and helps me pull off the beachy look with no effort.” 11 Best Shampoo For Waves
The way your hair looks, and feels, all starts in the shower. There are a lot of great
shampoos for curls and waves out there, but this one, from Sun Bum, checks off Peralta’s most important boxes in that it contains polymers for hold, and nourishing oils (like kukui nut and monoi coconut) for hydration. It’s also very reasonably priced and deliciously scented; you can buy the matching conditioner, here. Relevant review: “I have both my barber & cosmetology licenses & have used many of the professional brands. I honestly have to say that this is by far one of my favorite shampoos on the market. It is one of the only shampoos made for wavy/curly hair that I don't have to put a bunch of product in my hair to smooth the fuzzies, in fact I only have to use the shampoo & conditioner most days. I use quite a few of the Sunbum products & can't sing their praise enough. [...]” 12 You May Also Like: A Microfiber Hair Towel To Dry Your Waves Faster Microfiber hair towels are great for curls and waves for a few reasons. One, they help dry your hair a lot faster, because microfiber is a much more absorbent and quicker-drying fabric than cotton. Second, the super-gentle material helps cut back on frizz — something that’s very common among curly and wavy hair types. These are also super handy for after the shower, as they tie up in the back with a button, so you don’t have to worry about them slipping off your head if you have chores to do around the house, and they also won’t weigh your head down, unlike their heavy, bath-towel counterparts. Relevant review: “This is a game changer! I have wavy hair, which meant it used to end up as a frizzy poof when I wrapped my wet hair in a regular towel. NOT ANYMORE! This product has cut down on so much of the frizz AND now I have perfect waves without changing any other part of my post-shower routine. I am shocked! Amazing.” Expert: Paula Peralta, salon owner and John Paul Mitchell Systems brand ambassador
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This article was originally published on
Oct. 25, 2019