Ahh, the elusive beach wave. It seems like an easy enough summer style, but in my personal experience, creating that perfect, easy going texture has proved tougher than I imagined. Especially if you have curls—regular sea salt sprays can definitely dry your hair out and end up looking limp instead of back-from-the-beach wavy. Never fear, though. I turned to celebrity hairstylist and overall legend, Kristin Ess herself, to spill the beans on this particular style. She shared some easy and unexpected hacks on how all hair types can easily achieve this look below. Keep scrolling.
For those with naturally straight or lightly wavy hair, the first hack involves properly prepping your strands for extra body and texture. Ess recommends starting your styling in the shower. “Generally speaking, I like to wash and condition with products that are specifically designed for building texture like Bumble and bumble’s Surf Shampoo ($29) and Creme Rinse Conditioner ($29),” says Ess. After shampooing and conditioning your hair, Ess also recommends following with some kind of air-dry styling foam to help condition the hair and create subtle waves before even using a hot tool. “Personally, I like to add a little Kristin Ess HairSea Salt Air Dry Mousse ($15) and rough-dry before curling,” explains Ess. “This creates subtle, soft grit for styling beach waves.”
While there are many different methods you can use to get the beach waves of your dreams, Ess likes using a curling iron or flat iron. If heat styling, you’ll want to spritz on a heat protectant beforehand to avoid excess flat iron or curling iron damage. For straight and wavy hair types, try one that smooths, conditions, protects, and adds shine. When using a curling or flat iron, you can either curl them lightly or create more shape with your strands and brush them out slightly. This will give the hair a laid-back and lived-in beachy vibe.
Ess’s first hack for curly and coily hair types is to focus on hydration. “I like to play up texture, but focus on keeping the hair moisturized,” she says. “Most ‘beach wave’ products are going to intentionally dry out the hair to create gritty, oceanic texture which is almost never a good idea for curly hair. Instead, I like to focus on creating a summer feel using hydration. Something I’m super into right now for adding moisture to curly hair is Bread Beauty Supply’s Hair Oil Every Day Gloss ($24).”
If you have curly or coily hair, you can give your strands that relaxed, effortless texture by air drying or heat styling. Ess also has a little air drying hack that won’t require you to dry delicate curls out. “You can create your beach waves by air drying if you lean heavily on my little Kristin Ess Hair Setting Clips ($10). They help create a perfect face frame whether you’re air drying or heat styling! Plus, they’re [even] cute enough to wear out of the house.” For curly and coily hair types, Ess usually likes using a 1-inch curling iron but will mix it up and use a flat iron occasionally to create beach waves, too. To finish off the look, she uses her Kristin Ess Hair Beach Wave Spray ($15) to give it the right texture.
Ess also says it’s all about definition. “As we know, curly and coily hair types already thrive when it comes to texture. So to me, it’s all about focusing on definition and creating more ropey, defined sections. This leads us to our next hack: Using another low-key method to create the perfect beach waves on curls. “I love using the L.O.C. method which is using a leave-in, followed by an oil, and finishing with a cream. I’d layer the Kristin Ess Hair Ultra Hydrating Curl Leave-In Cream ($11), then add some drops of the Bread Hair Oil, and finish with the Kristin Ess Hair Curl Defining Cream ($15). For the last step, I like to brush-twist or comb-twist each section one by one and then air dry or diffuse depending on the curl type. Doing a twist out using a brush or comb creates these big, gorgeous chunky coils that are just *chef’s kiss.*”
Ess loves using both a flat iron and curling iron to create beach waves, but she also recommends choosing the right tool for you based on your hair type. “The flat iron is great if you really want that subtle, effortless wave or bend,” she shares. “I prefer using it for medium to thick hair with straight or wavy textures. I also love it for those who want less volume because I can create waves and lessen volume simultaneously. However, I almost always use a 1” curling iron when I’m working with thinner, finer hair types because it helps create beachy texture and boost volume at the same time. For curly and coily hair types, it depends on texture, too! My go-to is a 1″ curling iron [usually], but I do mix it up and use a flat iron sometimes, too.”
Any of these methods can be used on hair types of all length, Ess doesn’t discriminate. Which leads us to the final hack—vary your shapes and textures a bit using different tools. “I don’t have any particular tips based on length,” says Ess. “But I will say, keep your waves irregular! Don’t try to make them so uniform. The thing about real beach waves is that they’re imperfect and that’s why they look so organic and lived in. Try using multiple tools! A little curling iron wave here, a little flat iron wave there. That helps to get variation in your waves.”