For so long, hair tools have offered us more or less two standard results: sleek and straight or bouncy and curly. And sure, they're great at what they do within those limits, however, trying to achieve any sort of style between the two requires the hands of an expert.
One of the hairstyles that an average straightener or curling tong struggles to achieve is laid-back, effortless waves. Trying to nail the perfect balance between undone curl and frizzy mess is a challenging task, even when using the most impressive of hair tools. That's why when we first discovered that an array of tools that specifically cater to those on the neverending quest for the perfect waves exist, we jumped at the chance to give them all go.
Whether you want blow-dry–esque volume or a perfectly sculpted crimp, there's a waving wand for everyone. Keep scrolling to see what happened when we tested out the very best hair wavers out there.
Best for Beach Waves
"I think it's probably safe to say that I didn't prep my hair as well as I could have in order to get the most out of this tool. I think maybe if I had washed my hair before using it, the results might have been more obvious and the waves would have set a little better. I haven't used anything like this before and crimped waves are definitely out of my hair comfort zone. I found the tool itself difficult to get to grips with at first, but I got there eventually, and actually, after a little bit of styling, it wasn't so bad in the end. The shallow barrel definitely gives a more subtle wave, so it's ideal for those that like an effortless look." — Davina Coleridge, senior business and insights manager
Best for Short Hair
"As someone who doesn't take naturally to hairstyling, it has taken me many many years to perfect the famous effortless waves—something that became even more pressing after I had my hair chopped off two years ago. Usually a straightener user, I was somewhat terrified when I saw the contraption that Who What Wear's beauty editor handed to me, which promised 'luxurious deep waves.' It was actually quite easy to use, although it took longer than my usual routine as you have to wave each section of the hair from top to bottom. I just did the top section of the hair for the sake of speed and the outcome was unexpectantly pretty: gentle waves with a beachy texture. I think the finish would be even better if I had waved the bottom layers of my hair too, but I would definitely use this for my summer hols." — Joy Montgomery, shopping editor
Best for Undone Curls
"Paradoxx's Supernova 3-in-1 curler in an interesting concept. Within the one hair tool, you have the ability to straighten, wave and curl your hair. Testing the wave function, I was pleasantly surprised how easy the Supernova was to use and how well the wave held in my (usually lifeless) hair. The only thing I will note, though, is that despite the fact the curler is cordless, it takes approximately three hours to charge and only offers 20 minutes of use per charge. Overall, the wand offered up beautifully undone curls. Plus, the cordless function makes it perfect for travelling (providing you're quick about it). — Zoe Anastasiou, fashion editor
Best for Crimped Waves
When I found out that my beauty idol Kate Jane Hughes swears by this contraption for next-level mermaid waves, I knew I had to get my hands on it. When I first saw it, I was a little intimidated by just how big it is. Put lightly, if you were to drop it on your toe, it would do damage. Because it's so large (and I'm incredibly clumsy), I was a bit concerned about burns. However, in practice, the High Tide couldn't be more perfect. I have extremely long hair and actually the size of the barrels meant that it only ended up taking about 20 minutes to do my entire head.
The finish was nineties-style crimped waves that gave serious volume. And while I loved the retro results, I fell most in love around an hour afterwards when the tight waves began to drop ever so slightly. I'm not a fan of any sort of hair tool (I'm a "roll out of bed and go" sort of person), but this one is coming home with me.
Best for Volume
"I am a textbook straight hair, don't care kind of gal. My hair is extremely thick, so I usually blow dry it post-wash and run a straightener (GHD) through it. I found this tool gave me great volume and a real blow-dry look, however, that's not to say it was easy getting there. The large barrel does require some level of skill to get results, and I'm not sure I have the time to commit to that level of styling every day. With that being said, I'm really happy with the finished look. Plus, the waver itself looks great on the dressing table." — Mary-Anne Norton, client services manager
Best for Casual Waves
"After recently going for a pretty dramatic hair chop, I wouldn't think to use such a hefty hair tool with my newly short hair. I was pleasantly surprised by the waves it gave, however, and it only took a short time to get an all-over effect. The exaggerated waves also resulted in lots of volume that I won't ever say no to." — Emily Dawes, freelance branded content editor
Shannon Lawlor is a renowned beauty journalist and has contributed to Who What Wear’s beauty content since 2020. As a leading beauty editor, expert and brand consultant, she has over eight years of experience working for some of the industry’s most esteemed titles, including Who What Wear (of course), Glamour UK, Stylist, Refinery29 and Fabulous.
Having also worked behind the scenes with some of the industry’s biggest brands and retailers, Shannon has a unique insight into what people really want from their beauty routines. Understanding that beauty lovers seek honest, open and responsible advice, she has it made her mission to demystify the intimidating world of beauty, taking a no-frills approach to the most relatable topics.
While Shannon is the first to admit she doesn’t hold the answer to every beauty question out there, she is dedicated to sharing her expert insights in a bid to help. As a self-proclaimed lazy girl, Shannon has an affinity for easy-to-use, foolproof beauty products and has made it her mission to scope out the best of the best.
When she’s not working, Shannon is likely soaking in the bath or giving no-holds-barred beauty reviews on Instagram from her bathroom floor.
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