Can we please take a minute to discuss the lie known as “beach waves”?

“Wavy” hair is a funny, nebulous thing.  What’s even funnier to me is the all-too-inaccurate idea of “beach waves”.  When I peruse the dark, anxiety-inducing caverns of Pinterest these days, I often happen upon a pin that will say, with all the confidence in the world, “HOW TO GET BEACHY WAVES!”  It’ll probably suggest something like Bumble&bumble’s Surf Spray, and the oh-so-simple routine of just twirling your hair up in a neat little bun (so simple!) while it’s still damp and a couple hours later … voila!  Beach waves!  On anyone!  Right?  Right?!  And of course, by “beach waves”, we all mean something like this …


OR we mean something like this …



Oh come on.  COME.  ON.  Given the ridiculously generalized and deceptively simple instructions women almost always encounter for achieving the so-called beachy look, you’d think we would’ve figured out by now that getting the kind of results pictured above is nowhere near as simple as some overpriced texture spray and a twist of the hair.  Now, for a very small percentage of the population, this routine can work.  I will confess that it can be mildly successful on my own hair at times, but it’s often hit-or-complete-and-disastrous-miss.  More on that later.

However, let me address something else about this issue that bothers me first:  the misnomer of “beach waves”.  When I hear about girls desiring beach waves for their hair, it turns out that they don’t really want the authentic, salty texture that takes over your strands after an actual day on the shore.  You know- that crusty, gritty feeling it gets from all the sand and grime that it’s picked up from the ocean that you pretty much want to wash out as soon as you get home (even though, as a SoCal resident, I personally love the feeling and the smell but I realize it’s just far too impractical and nasty to sleep on)?  Yeah, I didn’t think that’s what you wanted.  While the images I’ve featured above tend to be slightly more accurate when it comes to authentic beach hair, this tends to be what most girls have in mind when they claim they want beachy waves:

2008 MTV Video Music Awards - Arrivals

This.  This is what most girls have on their mind when they say they want beach waves.  Now, you may not be able to distinguish the difference between this picture of Bar Rafaeli and the pictures above, but Bar’s waves are much more polished than the others (or at least more than Kate’s).  Bar’s waves aren’t gritty; they’re shiny.  And while they certainly look pretty, I don’t think you could say they look natural (as in you could achieve the look without any styling or work).  While many picture this as the type of “beachy” look that they desire, I don’t think you could accurately call this “beachy” at all.  Honestly, there is barely a soul that comes off the shore with hair like this.  I prefer to call these kinds of waves “Hollywood waves”, or “Victoria’s Secret waves”.  This kind of style nearly always needs some kind of help from a curling iron (unless you’re Gisele, who is a hair alien, meaning her hair is not human and so it is alien hair).  Bar’s hair pictured here has most definitely been styled with a curling iron, and by no means was simply twisted up into a bun and left to dry for a couple hours.  So take a deep breath- most beach waves are, in fact, man-made.  And you know what that means?!  You can man-make them yourself!


Here’s my routine:  I start with freshly-washed hair, and I gently comb it through with a wide-tooth comb (and this is basically what I always do after a wash).  After applying whatever treatment I’m using at the time, I’ll either spray on some sea salt mist (which could be either actual salt water that I’ve bottled or John Master’s Organics Sea Mist) or I’ll run through a little texture paste with my hands.  If you so desire, you can run through a smoothing cream instead (but that ain’t beachy, folks).  I then let it air-dry, completely.  Sometimes this does, in fact, mean twisting it up into a bun with a scrunchy and letting it down in the morning (though it typically still isn’t dry by that point because the inner layers have been all twisted up and haven’t gotten enough air).  After it’s entirely dry, I’ll pick out whatever sections I feel could use a little help from my curling iron.  Sometimes it’s just the outer layers that need curling, and other times I seriously curl all of it.  I then just twirl one-inch sections around the rod (without using the clamp) and then sort of shake it all out for separation after I’m finished.  I sometimes like to finish it off with more sea salt spray to give it extra texture.  The results tend to be something along the lines of Bar’s look, or what I would classify as Victoria’s Secret waves.

Now, this works for me because my hair dries somewhat wavy on it’s own.  My natural texture tends to lend itself well to the overall affect.  This routine should also work for anyone else who’s hair dries straight (and it’ll just need more curling, and probably some spray with stronger hold).  However, for those of you who have hair that dries very, very curly- Not a chance.  If you were to start the whole process by twisting your hair up in a bun and letting it air dry, I’m not even sure what that would look like to begin with.  You tell me.  The only routine I could suggest to you for beachy waves would be blowing it out smooth after washing it, and then carrying on with curling from there.  But how cumbersome and time-consuming is all that?  My arms hurt just thinking about it. But hey, if you’re into it, knock yourself out.  But this is one of the things that irritates me about simple “how to” tips for styles like beach waves: If you don’t have decently wavy texture to begin with, it basically just means a lot of curling and heat styling.  And that takes work.

Welp, there it is.  If you’ve got any questions, let me know.  Most people tend to figure out their own way of achieving the glamorous wavy look, but as for the authentic beach look, and that oh-so-simple routine of wash, twist, and go (with perhaps a little sea mist), here’s what I get:

beach waves

Yep.  You can practically see the electric current pulsing through my veins.  But hey, this is beachy, no?  It’s grittier, it’s frizzier, it’s shine-less, and it’s got a little more of that zapped-by-lightning effect.  But hey!  It’s real!  This is strictly water, sea salt spray, and a couple hours of air drying.  And if I’m going for anything remotely close to beach waves without actually baptizing myself in the Pacific first, this is about as close as it gets.  Cheersies!  xo, MR

P.S. Oh, and might I add that most “beach waves” or “Victoria’s Secret waves” that we see on celebrities involve extensions?  Seriously, the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show involves enough hair extensions to make a rope for Rapunzel down the Burj Khalifa in Dubai, should Mother Gothel generously choose to keep her there.  So next time you’re feeling sad because you don’t have mermaid hair like Alessandra, relax- Neither does she.

2 thoughts on “Can we please take a minute to discuss the lie known as “beach waves”?

  1. Do you know if you can get this product in the UK? (I should probably google this myself, apologies) However, I just want to add that Drew Barrymore actually looks like she could have woken up with hair like that. I have naturally wavy voluminous hair and the only thing I miss is the difference in texture. Great post, just found your blog, love it!

    • Hi! Thanks for reading! Now, I really don’t know if you can find either John Masters or Arrojo in the UK on shelves, but a site I’ve found called features John Masters, ships worldwide, and lists prices in pounds. 🙂 So, I’m thinking that may work! Yay! It doesn’t look like Arrojo ships to the UK at all, though. However, Bumble&bumble’s Texture paste is extremely comparable and I believe you can find them internationally. This product is just a little more expensive, though. Cheers!

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