How To Master Sleek, Retro-Glam Waves

As much as we live for beachy waves during the summer, they lack the air of elegance and sophistication that we crave, come fall. Enter, sleek waves. These cascading, silky strands have a retro-glam appeal that pairs perfectly with fall’s more structured and refined styles. 

“Sleek waves are the grown-up wave — classic and timeless,” says Kelly Finneran, a stylist at NYC’sButterfly Studio. “The level of shine and lack of texture are what make this more sophisticated than the beachy wave. Consistency with your curl and using the right products for your hair texture are key for this look.”

Here, we’ll show you how — in an easy-to-follow, step-by-step tutorial, natch — how to recreate this sexpot ‘do at home. Now, go ahead and unleash your inner pin-up, but don’t blame us if catcalls follow you everywhere you go.

Step 1

Start with dry hair. Prep your strands with product — girls with straight hair should choose a gel like Shu Uemura Art of Hair Fiber Lift Gel, while girls with natural curl should use a mousse likeKérastase Mousse Substantive.

According to Finneran, the trick to getting a perfect curl is layering. Apply a small amount of product to strands, blow out hair, then apply another dollop of product and blow hair out again. If your hair doesn’t hold a curl, you may need to add two to three layers of product. “Hair is stubborn and adding product is the best way to get it to do what you want. By drying the hair between layers, you ensure the product dries and is absorbed into the hair shaft.” The exception to this rule is super-curly haired girls — Finneran says you should just apply a shine serum and blow dry hair once to smooth your strands and lock out frizz.

Once your hair is prepped, create a deep side-part.

Step 2

Take a one-inch section of hair and wrap it around a medium-barrel curling iron. You’re going to start curling on the side opposite your part and direct the curl inward, toward your face.

Step 3

As you move around the head, keep curling your hair in the same direction that you started with. This means that by the time you get to the opposite side of your head, you will be directing the curl awayfrom the face, instead of toward it. This is what guarantees that consistency that separates the beachy wave from the sleek wave.

Step 4

Take a flat bristle brush and run it through your hair, brushing out the curl so it becomes softer and less defined.

Step 5

Pull back the hair on the side of your head where the part is focused and twist it loosely, then use a pin to secure the hair down behind your ear.

Step 6

You can leave the waves as they are for a glossy, retro feel, or tease the bottom of your hair to add texture and make it a bit more modern. Be sure to avoid the roots — Finneran says you want those to remain sleek in order to create a visual juxtaposition with your poufy ends. Use your fingers to comb through the hair and tone down the volume once you’re done teasing. Spray with hairspray for hold.


So gorgeous and feminine, yet still strong and sophisticated. Pair this style with a berry stain, long lashes, and a bold brow for a fierce fall look that willreally turn heads.

Photographed by by 

Model Angela Pham

Click HERE to read more from Refinery29.

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