How to Create Those Mermaid Waves You're Seeing All Over TikTok

Just follow these four easy steps.

How to Use a Mermaid Wave Hair Styling Tool
Photo: Getty Images

Mermaid waves are the modern-day version of the 2000s crimped hairstyle. And like all things Y2K, it's become a huge trend as of late.

But what makes mermaid waves so special? Well, aside from the nostalgia, it piqued people's interest because it doesn't use a traditional curling iron to achieve those uniform curls. Recreating the look of mermaid waves requires a curling wand that has three-pronged barrels.

You might have seen the tool on TikTok already, as it's gone viral multiple times (of course) and now offers nearly nine million views when you search for #mermaidwaves. And we're here for this wavy hairstyle, which can be done on all hair lengths and customized to your preferences — whether you like that tight crimped look or prefer a softer take. Whichever style you like, learn exactly how to recreate mermaid waves and how to use the unique curling iron with the help of experts.

Step 1: Choose a Waver

You're going to want to choose a hair waver tool depending on your hair length and the type of wave you want. Jordynn Wynn, the co-founder of the brand Insert Name Here, created their Deep Wave Iron ($72, inhhair.com) with smaller barrels to work with long and shorter hair lengths.

However, Tara Simich, founder of Mermade Hair, says that you can use different-sized irons on short hair. The only difference will be how spread apart the waves are. So if you want a looser wave, you can opt for a larger barrel, like the Mermade Hair Pro Waver in 32mm ($69, mermadehair.com), and a tighter wave go with a smaller barrel, like the Pro Waver Mini in 25 mm ($69, mermadehair.com).

"Remember that the hair doesn't have to fit into all three barrels," says Simich. "Even if it fits across one or two barrels, it will still create a wave."

Step 2: Prep the Hair

Waving your hair with a waver tool works best on clean, dry hair, says Wynn. After washing your hair, liberally apply your favorite heat protectant all over your hair, and then wait until it's fully dry before using your tool. "If your hair is not 100% dry, the waves will not hold its mermaid shape," she says.

Simich says you can also do waves on day two hair to mask any greasiness. Just make sure you aren't forgetting about applying heat protectant spray.

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Step 3: Create Your Wave Pattern

Now, it's time for the fun part. Kathleen Riley, a Mane Addicts professional hairstylist, says the easiest way to use the waver is to section the hair before applying heat. Then, take each section and clamp the hair between the barrels. "Where the lowest barrel waved, use that as the start of the next wave as you work down the hair," she says.

"Remember, the more intense you want the waves to be, the longer you should hold the barrels down on the hair," suggests Emma Willis, another Mane Addicts professional hairstylist. She also explains that the smaller section of hair you use, the more intense and tighter the wave. "For those with short hair, take larger sections and hold down for less time to get a softly touched mermaid wave as opposed to more of a set-looking bend."

Riley says she loves the fact that you have the option to curl the wave in large sections, unlike traditional curling irons. "The sections can be large, which is one of the great things about this tool because it's easy to do your hair in such a short time."

To make the hair look more modern, Riley recommends starting the waves around the eyes. "Going up any higher can make it look too voluminous and crimpy," she says. If you're noticing the hair appears too crimped, she recommends breaking up the wave with your fingers and with a texturizing spray.

If you want a wave pattern that isn't so uniform, Willis recommends alternating how you wave the hair. "Alternate sections slightly by not only the amount of hair you curl but the angle in which you hold the barrel," she says. Willis says that sometimes, she switches between holding the waver horizontally and tilting it upwards and downwards. She also recommends leaving the ends straighter instead of waving the hair to the ends for a more modern look.

Step 4: Make It Last

"This type of iron is great because the waves stay without a ton of product," says Riley. However, for even more hold, she recommends spraying each section of hair with a strong-hold hairspray after waving it.

Another tip to making the hair last? Don't touch it while it's hot. "Once you've held the barrel down and then released each section, leave those sections," says Willis. "Don't brush or finger through until every section that you want to be waved is done as this will allow all the hair to cool and set."

Once your waves are done, you can add a bit of hair serum or oil to reduce frizz and increase shine. You can also comb through the hair with a wide-tooth comb for a more effortless, undone look.

Lastly, to make your waves last overnight, Simich recommends sleeping on a silk or satin pillowcase to reduce frizz while you sleep.

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