How to Get the Perfect Modern Finger Waves—No Fingers Required

And by that, I mean we'll be using a curling iron or wand to create the waves, not your fingers. Having fingers does help with holding the the iron.
Publish date:
June 15, 2015
How-To, curling irons, heat styling, finger waves, tutorial, curling wands

Maybe it’s a typical case of "the grass is always greener," but I have always, always loved and preferred myself with wavy hair. When I was a child, one of my aunts would dress me up like a living doll and put my hair up in big rollers on every birthday or special occasion. I remember loving how voluminous my waves felt when I ran my fingers through them, and feeling oh-so-mature.

When I had the opportunity to try finger waves to go along with my Old Hollywood Glam look for my prom story a few weeks ago, I thought, “Why not?” and busted out my curling iron to do some experimenting. The result: soft, elegant waves that actually weren’t too difficult to do.

As requested by a commenter, I’m showing you how I got the look.

You'll need:

  • A curling iron that is the same width all around (1-inch barrel is a safe bet, but anything bigger will produce waves that might get loose too quickly)
  • A brush
  • Optional: clips, heat protectant, hair spray or a serum

Start off with clean, brushed hair.

Applying a heat protectant is a good idea. I didn’t use one, and I have a feeling I’m going to regret it.

Divide your hair into at least three sections by using clips or hair ties.

You’ll want to create one section on each side of your face plus at least one section in the back, depending on how much hair you have. I have a lot of long hair, so I had to divide the back into four sections. You should also create your part during this time.

Using a curling iron that’s heated up, begin wrapping 1-inch sections of hair from the back.

To do this, hold the curling iron horizontally and parallel to the side of your face, and start wrapping your hair inward. The section you’re working with should be going around the outside of the curling iron/wand and under. Leave your hair wrapped around it for a few seconds before releasing the wave.

Make sure the top of the section you’re holding onto goes around the curling iron first to prevent any accidents (since my hair is crazy long, I had to start at the middle). Continue winding your hair around the wand until you only have a small section of the ends to hold onto because you want your ends to curl last and for the shortest amount of time.

For tighter waves, use smaller sections, but be careful not to leave your hair wrapped around the curling iron too long.

Continue curling each section of hair in the SAME INWARD DIRECTION for each of the other sections.

To prevent your curls from getting weighed down while you style the other sections, carefully wrap the curls in a flat circle shape while they’re still hot and clip them to the side of your head.

When you’re done curling your hair, undo the sections you clipped and let down the curls.

If you followed the steps correctly, all your hair should be spiraling in the same direction.

Lastly, gently brush out the curls to create soft waves that blend together.

If necessary, add a serum to minimize frizz and a spritz of hairspray to keep the style in place.

As you can see, the waves I did this time ended up looser than the ones in my prom story—probably because I only heated each section for a shorter period of time. If you’re looking for more defined waves, however, definitely work with smaller sections.

  • What hairstyle makes you feel the most glam?
  • Are you more of a clamp or clipless curling iron user?
  • Does anyone still use foam rollers?