As with any hairstyle you create on curly textures, there are certain steps you need to follow for success. That means having patience and using the right hairstyling products to do the job properly. When it comes to nailing the finger waves trend like a real pro, it’s only right that we get the lay of the land from a professional hairstylist.
We sat down with Cataanda James, stylist and educator for Carol’s Daughter Style Squad, to find out everything you need to know about finger wave hairstyles, including tips and tricks to nail the look every time. Now, let’s make some waves!
WHAT ARE FINGER WAVES?Finger waves are a style that involves using hair-styling tools and holding products to create a sea of waves in your mane. James shares that the style is created using hair gel or mousse, a fine-tooth comb, and your fingers to create S-shape waves close to the scalp. The goal is to create a set pattern with a wet, uniform, wavy look.
If you’re familiar with this wavy style, you may be wondering how much hair you need for finger waves. The best part is, finger waves on short hair are very easy to achieve. However, James shares that thick, coarse textures should deviate from the traditional technique, instead opting for a wet look that emulates the style.
“When you’re fighting with different textures or a pattern that’s already curly or wavy, it’s hard to go against the grain,” James explains. “So, there are ways to achieve a finger wave look without following the full-on technique.”
For those with longer strands, you may have asked yourself if you can do finger waves on long hair—and it’s definitely doable. You’ll just need to switch up your approach to nail the finger waves long hair look. “There is a way to do finger waves [on long hair]. We call them soft waves on longer hair,” James shares. She explains that they’re also referred to as Old Hollywood glam waves.
As with any hairstyle, you have to set the tone with your natural hair-care routine before styling. It’s the only way for your waves to last. Follow Cataanda’s tips below on how to do finger wave hairstyles correctly.
WHAT PRODUCTS DO YOU USE FOR FINGER WAVES?Successfully pulling off perfect finger waves requires a lineup of the right products and tools. The good news is that you may already have several of the items in your hair product stash. Something to keep in mind as you assemble your wave-making essentials is that you’ll need to be careful about how you’re layering certain products. The goal is to not only create finger waves with ease, but also keep the style crisp and glossy for the duration of wear.
You’ll want to thoroughly remove any existing product from your hair without leaving your strands looking or feeling dry, so use a clarifying sulfate-free shampoo like the Wash Day Delight Sulfate Free Shampoo with Rosewater. The micellar technology breaks down build-up, and the rosewater helps to replenish moisture without interfering with your hair’s natural oils.
Properly detangling your strands is crucial for smooth and flowing waves, so have conditioner or combing creme on hand to help remove any knots before you style. The follow up with a lightweight leave-in like hair milk or Black Vanilla Moisture & Shine Leave-In Conditioner primer. Once you get to your styling step, gather up these additional finger wave products:
1. A rattail comb
2. Strong-hold hair gel
3. Metal Duckbill or wave clips
4. Silk scarf
5. Hooded dryer
HOW TO DO FINGER WAVESStep 1: Wash your hair.
A good washing session is the foundation that sets the tone for how your mane will look once styled. Cleanse your strands with a sulfate-free shampoo, such as the Monoi Repairing Sulfate-Free Shampoo. It’s formulated with coconut oil and monoi oil that gently cleanse hair, leaving it strong and healthy. Follow up with the Monoi Repairing Conditioner to help restore damaged hair while preventing future breaks and snaps. Allow it to sit on your strands for three to five minutes before rinsing out.
Step 2: Apply a leave-in treatment.
For this style, leave-in conditioners are needed to provide your strands with extra TLC. They also help to boost hair with shine. Incorporate the Monoi (Repair + Protect) Multi-styling Milk to bring shining definition, long-lasting moisture, and bounce to your strands.
Step 3: Add an extra layer of moisture with a detangler.
When styling finger waves, it’s important to ensure that your hair is free of tangles and knots. One of the easiest ways to give your mane a smooth finish is to use a detangler. The Hair Milk 4-in-1 Combing Crème helps to detangle, moisturize, define, and control frizz. It’s also ideal for those who prefer lightweight formulas.
If you’re looking for even more moisture, try the Sacred Tiare 4-in-1 Combing Crème. It deeply moisturizes, enhances natural shine, and preps your tresses for smooth styling.
Step 4: Part your hair and style your finger waves.
Now it’s time to make some finger waves. If you have short or long hair, you’ll have to take a different approach to achieve the style.
4a. How to make finger waves on short hair.
For those with short hair, lay the groundwork by first creating definition. Create a defined part wherever you desire at either the middle or side of your mane.
“Take your comb and your index finger to smooth your hair into a C-shape,” James explains. “Place your index finger down and use another finger to hold the hair in place to sculpt the ridge.” Then, use the comb to create a C-shape in the opposite direction to form an S-shape. Repeat the technique from the front to the back of your mane until you have a full set of waves.
If you’re working with coarse, shorter hair, it’s best to create a wet look that emulates the appearance of finger waves. That means using hair gel on damp hair and working the product into your strands to create a set of waves. You should apply as much hair gel as needed to tame the hair so that it’s neatly shaped and lays close to the scalp, James explains. “The Pracaxi Nectar Style & Control Gel does a great job of providing your mane with a soft and touchable hold.”
Comb through your hair to build a wavy texture.
4b. How to make finger waves in long hair.
Remember, soft waves (a.k.a. Old Hollywood glam waves) are your end goal. So, you’ll need to switch things up with your styling method.
“Create waves with a roller set, brush your strands out, and spritz your hair with holding spray,” James says. “Finish up by creating a C-shape with your comb. Place duckbill clips at the top to hold the ridge and base of the S-shape in place.” These clips also come in handy to help set your tresses for a wavy look once you remove them.
Step 5: Let your hair dry.
Once your style is complete, you need to allow your strands to set for a picture-perfect look. James recommends using a silk scarf to hold your hair down to prevent a puffy look, then air-drying your mane. Depending on the thickness of your hair, it can take up to a few hours for your tresses to dry completely. You can also speed up the drying process with a hooded dryer.
HOW CAN I STYLE MY HAIR WITH FINGER WAVES?In search of some finger wave hairstyle inspiration? Below are some of our favorite hairstyles for finger waves.
Finger Wave Pixie
The most traditional of the finger wave styles is a short, close to the scalp swirling pixie. For this look, your hair should be no longer than five to eight inches long, or else it will make it more difficult to get your waves to lay flat. If your hair is tapered or shorter at the back of your head near the nape of your neck, it will be even easier to get your edges to look slick.
Finger Wave Bob
This look is exactly as it sounds and very true to the origin of this roaring ‘20 hairstyle. For a traditional finger wave bob, the waves lay flat around the front and crown of the head and then cascade from the nape into classic Old Hollywood glam waves.
Faux Finger Wave Bob
If you want to pull off this look with longer hair, create finger waves, and then tuck your longer hair underneath just below your ears to create a faux bob.
Long Finger Waves
A hybrid of the Old Hollywood glam waves and the traditional pixie waves, this style can be created on hair that’s lob length and longer. To make the style feel more seamless, skip gelling the waves down onto your scalp and instead create the looser waves from root to ends.
Finger Wave Updo
Once your waves are set, another styling option that you can try is an updo. Leaving the front-of-head portion of the look in place, gather up the free-flowing back section and loosely pin the ends into a low chignon or higher up on the head into a beehive.
How Do You Maintain Finger Waves?We can’t talk about finger wave hairstyles without discussing how to keep your look intact. Luckily, maintaining this elegant style is similar to many protective styles that you’re probably familiar with.
How to maintain finger waves on short hair “This style is designed to lay close to your head,” James shares. “The closer it lays to your head, the longer the protective style will last.” Keep your style in place by protecting your hair at night with a silk scarf or bonnet. James reveals that some people prefer to use both, as a scarf can slip off as you sleep. After all, extra security never hurts.
How to maintain finger waves on long hair.
If you opt for soft waves, your maintenance will be a bit different. Place the duckbill clips in your hair to secure the S-shapes once again. Then, secure the length of your locks in a low ponytail. Since your waves are on the looser side, this will help to maintain the shape to prevent stretching and manipulating the wavy pattern. This way, you’ll be able to keep your tresses close to your head along with using your scarf or bonnet.
No matter which technique you choose, James recommends spritzing your mane with the Black Vanilla Moisture & Shine Hair Sheen every two to three days for a moisture boost. If you have short, coarse hair, you can brush through the waves and mist your strands when needed to extend the style.
If you think finger wave hairstyles are the only protective style to try, there are plenty more that will rock your world. Check out Your Guide to Protective Hairstyles for Natural Hair.