5 Best Products For Finger Waves Hairstyles At Home

Finding a hairstyle that works for just about any occasion can be a challenge. No matter if your hair is short or long, curly or straight – there are a few styles that are versatile enough to transition between times of day and events.

Finger waves are just such a style. Considered one of the more retro hairstyles, this look is ideal for any hair type and works for both short and long locks.

Understanding how to create these sultry waves at home is essential since you will pay more than necessary to achieve this simple style in a salon.

With a few hair products, essential tools, and some styling know-how, you can create a finger waves style at home to spice up your look for any occasion.

Retro Hair: The History Of Finger Waves And Traditional Vintage Styles

This hairstyle was popularized in the 1920s, during the age of the flapper. Women were cutting their hair in record numbers during this time, and this hairstyle offered a way to add glamor to newly sheared locks.

While women were cutting their hair in rebellion in the 1920s and 1930s, they still wanted options for styling, particularly for formal events. The style offered a soft, more feminine appeal to short hair.

Thus, this hairdo was quickly picked up by popular actresses of the early part of the century, including sirens like Bette Davis. It resurfaced as a popular ‘do in the 1990s as a commonly used African-American hairstyle.

Finger waves vs. other styles

It is important to note the distinction between finger waves and other similar styles.

For instance, the “Marcel Wave” was also a popular retro style that implemented a wave in the hair characterized by long locks that fell over one eye. The difference between finger waves and the “Marcel Wave” is that the latter is more permanent as heat is used to achieve the style.

One thing that makes this style stand out is that it is one of the few applicable to various cultures.

Many hairstyles work for one texture or another; few have crossed cultural boundaries like finger waves, which may be part of the reason it has persevered as a “go-to” style.

Modern Finger Waves For Long And Short Hair

Long and short hair looks good with these types of waves. Even those with naturally wavy or curly hair benefit from the more defined look. To achieve this style, start with damp hair. The combination of slight wetness and hair products will help keep hair in place.

Choose the place in your hair where you want the waves to begin and clamp it in place. Push your hair in that area towards the clamp to create a wave. Then, using a bobby pin or even another clamp, hold the wave in place.

Repeat this process until you have as many waves as you desire in your hair. Use lotion or gel to keep the hair in place.

Products specifically for creating waves are available, but any kind of holding gel will work. You can also use hairspray to keep hair in the proper shape.

For best results, hold the hair with your fingers until the product in question dries and the “S” shape of the hair holds in place.

While people opt to use heat (in the form of a curling iron, for example) to get the desired shape, traditional forms of the style do not call for heat to achieve the “S” pattern. There are ways to style short and long hair using the waved look of this style, without adhering to the traditional form.

Stiff or loose

From this point, some people leave their hair in the stiffer waves for a more defined look. This is common among African-American iterations of the hairstyle.

However, you may also opt to comb out the waves for a softer look that allows the hair to move. The versatility and individuality of the style – depending on hair length and type – is what makes it so appealing.

The options are plenty regarding how you can play with this style to make it your own. For example, jazz up a simple down ‘do by adding waves to it. Curl 1 to 1.5-inch strands of hair and create a dramatic side part once the hair has been completely curled.

Once you’ve finished, comb out the curls, allowing them to linger along the tips of the hair. Then, use a comb and hairspray to create an “S” shape along the front part of the hair, allowing it to drape over one eye in a very dramatic fashion. This is a modern twist on this vintage hairstyle.

An up-do is also a great way to show off creative waves. Clip up the back portion of the hair into a chignon shape. Then, part a section of hair in the front and begin the waving process alternating clamps and product to achieve a defined wave.

Pin up the piece of waved hair at the base of the chignon with a bobby pin, and you have an attractive and sophisticated finger wave style perfect for a formal occasion.

5 Best Products For Finger Wave Hairstyles At Home

Given the popularity of the style for a retro look, there are must-have products available that can create an authentic finger waves effect.

These products make it easier to tame hair into the style as it can be challenging particularly for first-timers to achieve a clean and smooth look to the waves.

While people can – and do – create their waves without products, it is much harder to get the definition that characterizes this specific waved look.

Sculpting Gel

Salon System Profile Gellux UV/ LED Hard Gel White Builder 15ml
  • Salon System Profile Gellux UV/ LED Hard Gel White Builder 15ml
  • White

While any gel product may help to achieve the defined result of finger waves, sculpting gel is ideal because it holds hair in place while also ensuring a soft texture without the flaking of other gels.

Use a formula that helps to keep the moisture in the hair as some products can dry hair out significantly.

Pomade or wax products can be used to the same effect but may be more likely to flake as the waves dry. These products won’t allow for movability if you incorporate waves into a down style.

This comb – with its long, thin end – is perfect for creating waves of all sizes. The size of the comb makes it easy to use just about any part to coax the hair in the desired direction. While you can use other combs, they aren’t as effective because of their thickness.

Rat Tail Comb

HYOUJIN 608 Rattail Comb Pintail Comb Carbon Comb Teasing Comb Metal...
  • Create any style you like with the HYOUJIN Tail Comb. For sectioning & styling. This Tail Comb is the perfect tool for...
  • Extra-long stainless steel pintail. Incredibly lightweight. Comfortable handle to hold. A good combination of all hair...
  • Hyoujin 608 Pintail comb made of carbon offers a variety of benefits-they're lightweight and can withstand extreme heat,...

Hair Clips/Clamps

Rosette Large Chic Styling Hair Claw Clip Organic Glass Hair Clips...
  • Large bending Clips have a sideal for easy hairdos
  • Use to hold bangs or small pieces of hair back from your face
  • Interlocking teeth hold hair in place

Hair clips are necessary to keep the waves into the right pattern until the hair product dries them in place.

While you can use bobby pins, hair clamps are easier to remove once the hair is dry and the waves have set. Bobby pins pull at the hair, and you may pull a wave out of place or even mess up the entire hairstyle if you use pins instead of hair clamps.

The plastic hair clamps used to part hair when coloring or perming it are the best option because they release strands easily.


Enovvia All-Natural Hairspray, Fragrance Free Holding Spray (8 Ounces)
  • ALL-NATURAL HAIRSPRAY: Unscented hair spray that contains simple, natural and effective ingredients
  • SIMPLE & CHEMICAL-FREE: No copolymers, acrylates, PVPs, petroleum derivatives or fragrances
  • HOLDING SPRAY: Effectively holds your hair style in place; For both men and women

The sculpting gel holds defined waves in place, but the hairspray is an added layer of protection for the style.

This product is important for people with hair types that are notoriously challenging to style, such as people with curly hair that may frizz up at the slightest hint of humidity.

When choosing hairspray to keep waves in place, try to find one that matches your hair type. For instance, if you have dry, broken hair, then choose a hairspray product that won’t further contribute to damage.

Curling Iron

Anjou Curling Iron 1.25 inch with Tourmaline Ceramic Coating, Hair...
  • FOR ALL HAIRSTYLES & TYPES: Benefit from a finely-proportionate build that measures 8.27 in in length and 1.25 in in...
  • FAST HEATING PTC & CERAMIC COATING: Heats up to 410 ℉ in only 60 seconds for fast curling; Ceramic construction allows...
  • EASY TO USE & CURL: 360 Degree rotatable power cord stretches up to 2.5 m - 40% longer than similar devices; Built-in...

While it is possible to create the wave shape of this style without heat, for bone straight hair or for a more dramatic wave, a curling iron can contribute to a more defined look.

If you opt for a curling iron to help create waves, remember to use a heat protectant as well since the frequent use of heat styling products can damage hair.


Few hairstyles transition as well as this one between day and night, long and short hair, curly and straight. This is one of the best ways to jazz up short hair or do something different for longer locks.

Understanding how to best achieve it depending on hair style, length and texture are essential. What works on a curly hair texture, for example, won’t be as effective on straight hair.

This is why using products to achieve a waved look is so important because the products can guide you through creating crisp waves no matter what your hair texture.

While this is a traditional “retro” style, its resurgence in the modern era – particularly among communities of color – have piqued interest in creating it at home.

Going to a salon for a complex style is not always an option. This is a style possible to create at home and transcends all hair types and lengths with the knowledge of the right products and tools.

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Last update on 2021-05-06 at 22:12 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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