How To Create Red Carpet-Worthy Finger Waves

They're much easier to achieve than they look.

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Zendaya with finger waves
Photo: Getty Images

Finger waves are a visually impressive — yet totally DIY-able — hairdo that deserves your attention. The "wet-look" style is created by using nothing more than your fingers and the right hair products to form C-shaped hair waves that sit close to the scalp and alternate horizontally throughout the hair. Since they look like a masterpiece once created, you might think that they take hours to style, right? Wrong. Fortunately for us, you don't need professional hair skills to achieve this 'do. We tapped Anthony Cole, Sebastian Professional hairstylist, who let us in on how to recreate finger waves at home.

Keep scrolling for our expert-approved guide to creating finger waves yourself.

What Are Finger Waves?

"Finger waves became popular in the 1920s as an easy way to style pixie cuts and short bobs," says Cole. "Nowadays, this chic style is especially popular amongst my clients who have textured hair and are going more natural. It's also great if you have bleached or damaged hair and don't want to apply heat when styling."

The beauty of finger waves is that they can be achieved on hair of any length. "There's not much difference in how the style is created, except that on shorter hair, you may need to apply more gel for increased pliability and hold," explains Cole.

How to Create Finger Waves

Step 1

Cole starts by washing and conditioning the hair using Sebastian Professional Drench Hydrating Shampoo and Conditioner. "When the hair is hydrated, it tends to have more flexibility and elasticity, which is ideal for finger waves," says the stylist. After the hair has been washed, gently towel dry and create a dramatic side part.

Step 2

Apply a quarter-size amount of Sebastian Professional Gel Forte throughout the hair and comb through well. "Next, mix Sebastian Professional Dark Oil with more Gel Forte, emulsify well in hands, and apply throughout the hair," says Cole. "Mixing the oil with the gel gives the hair more flexibility and prevents the gel from flaking."

Step 3

Comb the hair straight down on both sides of the part. "I love using the YS Park 339 Fine Cutting Comb," says the stylist. "To create finger waves, hold the comb horizontally against the head so the teeth are touching the scalp, place one finger on the hair part, and drag the comb downwards and toward the forehead to begin to see a ridge form."

Step 4

Slide your finger below the new hair ridge and move the comb the opposite way to form a ridge in the other direction. Keep following that pattern all the way down and around the hair to form a finger wave.

Step 5

Dry the hair lightly with a blow dryer and diffuser to keep the style from blowing out of shape. "The Ghd Helios Hairdryer is great for this," says Cole.

Step 6

To finish, mist the hair with Sebastian Professional Dark Oil Fragrant Spray, for a light shine and silky finish.

VIDEO: How to Curl Your Hair Without Using Heat

How Long Do Finger Waves Last?

Finger waves can last up to four to five days. The secret to making finger waves last is to gently spray the style with a workable hairspray. "I use Sebastian Professional Zero Gravity Hairspray," says Cole. "When you wake up, press each wave in between your fingers as you spray the hairspray, this helps keep the C-shape wave in place."

How Do You Maintain Finger Waves?

Hairspray will help to maintain your finger waves, but Cole says it's also important to wrap your hair at night with a silk hair wrap, this helps to maintain the style, lock in moisture and prevent frizz.

How Do You Remove Finger Waves?

The best way to remove finger waves and prevent damage is to shampoo and condition your hair, this ensures all product is completely washed out. If you're bored of your finger waves but still want a look with a bit of texture, Cole says after wearing your finger waves for three or four days, take a Mason Pearson Natural Boar Bristle Brush and gently brush the waves out to create a soft, beach wave look.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What products do I need to create finger waves?

    You'll need gel, hair oil, a fine-tooth comb, a blowdryer, and hairspray to create the waves. Plus, a silk scarf to protect your style when you're sleeping.

  • What type and texture of hair works best for finger waves?

    Finger waves work on all hair types and for those with straight or relaxed hair textures. If you have thick, coarse hair, consider opting for a wet look variation of the traditional style.

  • What length should your hair be to try out finger waves?

    The beauty of finger waves is that they can be achieved on hair of any length. "There's not much difference in how the style is created, except that on shorter hair, you may need to apply more gel for increased pliability and hold," explains Cole.

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