beachy waves with a flat iron
September 25, 2022 7:57 PM   Subscribe

help me make my hair look the way it did at the barber shop

Last time I got a haircut, the stylist did this beachy wave thing with the flat iron. She assured me that this was very easy and made sure to give me step-by-step instructions. I have been unable to replicate this at home; any attempt just looks like a mess. What am I doing wrong?

The stylist showed me a picture of the look she was trying to achieve, it's here - and she did a pretty good job.
The instructions she gave were more or less as follows:

0. (optional step) spray with sea salt spray, scrunch, allow to dry
1. section hair into small vertical chunks
2. apply flat iron, twist one turn away from the face ("like you're revving a motorcycle"), pull out

I suspect I'm doing the sectioning wrong, or maybe going too slow, or too fast, or...something?

If it helps my hair left to its own devices is more or less a pretty frizzy wavy 2b. Previously I've been flat-ironing it straight simply because that's the quickest way to look presentable. I kind of liked this idea of more texture though, especially since the stylist made it look like not much more effort than my previous routine.

I've tried looking up some video tutorials but (1) I am the sort of person who absorbs info much better through text, although I understand where video probably helps here, and (2) hairstyling tutorials seem to be mostly made for people who have a general interest in hairstyling, where I am a rank beginner who just wants to know how to do one specific thing.

If you can assume I am very, very stupid about this and point me at some extremely specific step-by-step instructions here I'd be in your debt.
posted by waffleriot to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (10 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
Do you know how to curl curling ribbon with a pair of scissors? I think of it as the same motion, turning the flat iron at an angle and pulling against the hair.
posted by music for skeletons at 9:28 PM on September 25, 2022 [2 favorites]

If your hair is as short as the picture, the flat iron is probably the best way to do it, but if it's longer, you can also accomplish about the same with a LARGE curling iron, sort of loosely applied and then finger-combed to break it up/ stretch it out.

My daughter used to use that tactic on her (mid-to-long) hair to get the loose waves, until she realized that, at least for her, big chunk braids or twists overnight gets her approximately the same result with a lot less work.
posted by stormyteal at 10:11 PM on September 25, 2022 [1 favorite]

YouTube is stuffed with tutorials for just this style. Here is one for hair your length with a flat iron.
posted by DarlingBri at 1:24 AM on September 26, 2022

I have a 2-in-1 flat/curling iron and somehow it helped my brain figure out the flat iron trick and now I can do it with just a regular flat iron. But I really like the 2-in-1! I got it when my hair was that length and it worked well.
posted by misskaz at 4:43 AM on September 26, 2022

Are you using the salt spray? IMO that's the least optional step.
posted by coldbabyshrimp at 7:21 AM on September 26, 2022 [2 favorites]

The motorcycle thing is hilariously unhelpful.

For me, this technique feels like clamping the piece of hair in the flat iron, twisting your wrist in one smooth motion, and pulling down (at an angle, not straight down). For the most part you want to twist away from your face, though a few pieces done the opposite way can be nice. I also got MUCH better at this when I learned to use both hands; trying to use my dominant hand on both sides always led to one side looking super messed up, and it was actually easier to just train my non-dominant hand to do the correct motion.

Re: texture, you might trying setting the finished style with a SMALL amount of dry texture spray. Oribe is the super-fancy one, but the Kristen Ess version that's sold at Target is totally decent (if kinda stinky).

If you ever end up with longer hair, I find a curling wand (not curling iron) so much easier to use, as a person who only started remotely figuring out my hair in my 30s. But for hair as short as that picture, I do think the flat iron is the way to go.
posted by catoclock at 8:32 AM on September 26, 2022

It may also be your flat iron, I used to use a cheap drugstore one, getting a fancier one made this kind of work so much easier (I have a GHD and have had it for 14 years and it's still perfect, highly recommend if you do need an upgrade). Maybe see if a friend has a really good one you can experiment with to see if the issue is the flat iron, not your technique.
posted by Sweetchrysanthemum at 8:35 AM on September 26, 2022 [1 favorite]

What is actually going wrong? Like, it's just not curling, or your curls look a bit weird?

I agree that quality of straightener matters. You want a smooth run, which is actually also why I don't put product on my hair until after I've styled it because I find it makes it kinda crunchy and harder to work with but that could be a me problem? Exceptions are heat-protectants and products that are specifically designed to be heat-activated or used with heat styling tools (though I will be honest that I do not use these myself because I heat style so infrequently that it wouldn't be worth the cost.)

I find slower is better, but I have thick and dry hair that needs encouragement in all things, always.

Sections need to be quite small, and held quite taut. I hold the straightener in one hand, then hold the end of the hair piece in the other. As another mefite mentioned, pulling away from the head instead of down toward the shoulders helps a lot with this.

At risk of veering away from the question too much, it's kind of a pain in the butt to do your hair like this unless it's really short; it requires upper arm strength/endurance that I never bothered to develop. I just scrunch gel into my wet ringlets straight from the shower these days or sleep with my hair in lightly damp braids to get the same effect.
posted by BeeJiddy at 5:48 PM on September 26, 2022

Response by poster: What is actually going wrong? Like, it's just not curling, or your curls look a bit weird?

Usually it doesn't really curl, at best just sort of bends in a slightly wonky way near the end. Sometimes I can get a single lock of hair to curl dramatically but it's not clear what I did right and attempting to replicate it doesn't work, so I'm just left with one curl out of place.

I'm using a cheap-ish flat iron, so trying a better one might help.

How should I be picking out sections?
posted by waffleriot at 6:03 PM on September 26, 2022

You might be ironing sections of hair that are too large. Set aside a weekend day and experiment with different sized pieces to see how the result changes. My guess is you’re aiming for one inch sections but are actually selecting sections that are 1” and like the whole vertical section of that part of your scalp. Generally, the smaller the section the curlier the result — so it’ll curl most at the ends because that’s where your hair is thinnest.

When I was learning, it helped to clip back the top sections of my hair (like above the ears) and do the lower layer first, then repeat with the upper layer of hair. Curling small sections of hair can sometimes end with a VERY curled end, but you can fix that easily by flat ironing the ends (hold flat iron parallel to floor and pull straight down to make the ends flat). That way you get a wave in the middle and tousled-but-straight ends.
posted by lilac girl at 7:04 PM on September 26, 2022 [1 favorite]

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