I Always Get Compliments on My Hair—Here's How I Do My Signature Waves

So here's the tea: I may be a beauty editor, but I suck at hair. French braids? Can't do them. Fishtail braids? Impossible. I can't do updos. I can't do cool vintagey styles. I can't even make a chic chignon work. I only know how to do one thing with my hair and one thing only: flat iron waves.

Call it a signature hairstyle, call it the only hairstyle I actually know how to do… However we want to frame it, my relaxed, bendy waves seem to work pretty well for me. They're effortless and versatile; they take very few materials and very little time. Sometimes I add a hair clip or a headband, but that's about as fancy as it gets. And yet, they earn me at least one compliment per day. 


(Image credit: Amanda Montell)

Learn this absurdly simple styling technique (which I've nailed down thanks to years of advice from stylists as well as my own personal trial and error), and I hope you'll find it as useful as I have. Keep scrolling for how to create the perfect waves with a hair straightener in 10 minutes or less!

The materials:

A 1-inch thick hair straightener with adjustable heat settings

A heat protectant

A hair tie

Some texture spray (optional)

A hair accessory (optional)

Related: These Are the Worst Things You Can Do to Your Hair, According to a Celeb Stylist

The instructions:

This technique will work best on anyone with hair lengths from a chin-length bob to just past the collar bone. (I have naturally straight hair, but I know it works on wavy textures, too.) All you need to do are the following seven steps.

1. Plug in your hair straightener and set it to no more than 150 degrees. This is to protect your hair from burning to a crisp.

2. Spritz your hair protectant all throughout your hair. 

3. Gather all the hair above your ears into a loose half ponytail on top of your head to get it out of the way for now. Secure it up there temporarily with your hair tie. 


(Image credit: Amanda Montell )

4. When you create waves in your hair, you're going to use two alternating motions. This is what gives the final result a more natural, tousled look. For both motions, you'll take a 1-inch thick section of hair and place it between the hair straightener plates. The first motion goes in an M-shape: with the inch-thick section of hair between the plates, you'll guide the hair straightener in toward your face, then out, then back in at the ends. The other motion is simply to twist the hair straightener (with hair between the plates) away from your face and hold it in that twisted position for about five seconds. Make sure to leave the ends out of the hair straightener so they stay flat. Also, be sure not to brush the wave out while it's still hot, not even with your fingers, or you'll lose the shape.

When I'm waving this bottom layer of hair below my ears, I'm not super perfectionistic about it, because no one will really to see it when the look is all done. For some strands (like the hard-to-reach ones in the back), all I do is curve the ends inward. This allows you not to heat sections of hair that don't really need it. 

5. Once you're finished with the bottom layer of hair, let down the top. Part it where you like. Then repeat step four, with more attention to detail this time, all around your head. For the two strands of hair directly on either side of my face, I choose to use the wave motion that goes away from my face, to create a flattering curtain effect.


(Image credit: Amanda Montell )

6. For a messier bed-head look, spray a dry texturiser throughout your hair. Kristen Ess makes a great one that smells lovely and tousles your hair without leaving it crunchy. I also love Amika's beautifully packaged volumizing formula and Sam McKnight's Cool Girl Barely There Texture Mist, whose name says it all. Then Oribe makes what in, in my opinion, the best-smelling texture spray on the market.

7. Add a whimsical hair clip, elegant headband or just let your waves flow free. Once you get this routine down pat, it should only take about five or six minutes. 

There we have it! The only hairstyle I know how to do. At least it's a good one.


(Image credit: Amanda Montell )

Related: We Try Before You Buy: 10 of the Prettiest Clips and Headbands

Amanda Montell
Features Editor
Who's your beauty icon?

Tie among Linda Rodin, Hari Nef, and David Bowie.

Who are your 5 favorite people to follow on Instagram?

@petracollins @katiejanehughes @alwaysjudging @bonnyrebecca @hotdudesreading

What's the beauty essential you can’t live without?

If I have some brow gel and Sisley's Phyto-Lip Twist, I'm good to go forever.

What's your desert island album?

Death Cab for Cutie's Transatlanticism

What's your favorite Byrdie.com story?

Game of Thrones's Nathalie Emmanuel looks so achingly beautiful in our feature with her that I think it's gonna have to be that!