How to Get the “Water Waves” Look, the Low-Key Hairstyle That’s All Over Red Carpets

Kim credits a hair straightener as his favorite water wave-making tool. “Start by sectioning off a strand of your hair, clamp the straighter from the top of the strand, maneuver the straighter up and over for one to two inches to create volume at the roots,” he explains. “Then twist the straightener in the opposite direction and pull down one to two inches.” Kim says to “repeat this movement all the way down the strand and for the remainder of your hair.” 

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He prefers using a straightener from the brand GHD, and to be honest, so do we. We’re particularly partial to the brand’s Best of Beauty Award-winning Platinum+ Styler – 1″ Flatiron. The other technique that Kim recommends is using a curling wand. He likes Bondi Boost’s three-barreled Wave Wand. “They [curling wands] are fast and get the job done,” Kim says of the hair tool. 

But before you reach for that hair straightener, Los Angeles-based hairstylist Andrew Fitzsimons emphasizes using a heat protectant and hair oil first. “This will prime the hair and protect it against damage, as this look depends heavily on heat to achieve sleek, graceful waves,” he explains. Try Tresemmé’s Thermal Creations Heat Tamer Leave-In-Spray, which keeps hair feeling soft and silky while protecting it from the heat. 

If you’d rather not expose your hair to heat, then you’re in luck. Hairstylist Kim Kimble, who was responsible for creating the look in Zendaya’s Valentino campaign, and hairstylist Chris Appleton, the stylist behind JLo’s waves, tell Allure that you can also get the look by twisting your hair into braids  — no heat needed.