Just like the “no-makeup-makeup look,” “effortless waves” is merely a figment of some cosmetics conglomerate marketing team’s imagination. As you know from owning your own head of wavy hair, getting those waves to look good, effortlessly so, requires some well-chosen products — and if you’re not in the mood to wield a blow dryer or other hot tool, reach for any of the best air-dry products for wavy hair featured here. Almost always enriched with hydrating ingredients, they range from creams and sprays to mousses and shampoos, but finding the right one for you will depend on your hair type and texture. To speak more on this, Elite Daily got in touch with celebrity hair stylist Harry Josh, who shares his insights below.
“There are typically three different customers," Josh says. "One with fine hair, one with thick hair, and the other with frizzy hair." In general, people with fine hair do well with sprays, those with thick waves can handle a slightly heavier styling cream or mousse, and people with dry, frizzy hair should look for products that contain moisturizing and smoothing ingredients, like argan oil, coconut oil, or vitamin B5. And as previously mentioned, all good air-dry products contain hydrating ingredients to encourage body, movement, and softness.
And for the most body/movement/softness, application is key. “You never want to apply product too heavy on your roots,” Josh says. “I always divide the hair into quadrants for equal distribution, so rather than one huge dollop on one spot of your head, you're using four, for much better distribution. Concentrate on the midshaft to ends and keep away from the roots, as they tend to be not so frizzy,” he adds.
No matter your hair texture, budget, or intended aesthetic, scroll on to shop nine of the best products for wavy hair. No heat, or even that much effort, required.
We only recommend products we love and that we think you will, too. We may receive a portion of sales from products purchased from this article, which was written by our Commerce team.
1. Best For Fine Hair
Fine waves respond well to lightweight, flexible leave-in sprays, like this styling spray from John Frieda that defines curls and waves without weighing them down. In here, magnesium enhances your waves’ bounce and lift, while conditioning ingredients encourage smoothness and softness. Spritz it on your wet or damp hair to create beautifully molded waves when your hair dries; and since it’s so weightless, you can reapply it to your dry hair whenever your waves are looking a little limp or shapeless.
2. Pro Pick: Best For Thick Hair
Josh likes this Goldwell moisturizing cream for thick, heavy waves, which he says can easily get dehydrated. In this styling cream, “the extra moisture will help your hair become silky and smooth, and help you regain those natural curls,” he says. Amazon reviewers love how lush, soft, and bouncy it makes their hair look and feel, and others report that it helps their hair hold a curl much longer than other products. Even though it’s marketed as a curl cream, wavy hair on the thicker side can definitely stand up to it. Just use a smaller amount, and remember to focus the product on the mid-shaft and ends of your hair.
3. Best For Dry, Frizzy Hair
This R+Co styling cream isn’t designed specifically for waves, but my frizz-prone waves and I couldn't live without it. As the name literally says, this styling cream/treatment provides dry, frizzy hair with the two things it's (not literally) screaming out for: moisture and shine, thanks to nourishing ingredients like sunflower oil, vitamin E, and provitamin B5. Just a dime-sized amount is enough to achieve a glossy, super soft finish when my hair dries naturally — the stuff of my pinup-hair dreams, minus the heat. My waves stay smooth and defined right up until my next wash a few days later.
4. Best Texturizing Spray
On the opposite end of the texture spectrum, go for this Oribe Apres Beach Wave And Shine Spray if you’re after piece-y, bedhead waves. It performs similarly to a salt spray, but it doesn’t contain actual salt, which can make your hair feel stiff and crunchy. Rather, ingredients like safflower seed oil, calendula extract, edelweiss extract, and panthenol help nourish and strengthen your hair, but you’ll still get the grit and hold of a traditional salt spray. It also boasts Oribe’s signature scent — an exquisite blend of jasmine, tuberose, citrus, vetiver, and sandalwood.
5. Best Mousse
Speaking of exquisite, signature scents: This Moroccanoil Beach Wave Mousse is an equally viable way to achieve beachy waves, depending on your product/scent preferences (this fragrance is a blend of spicy amber and sweet florals). This cloud-soft mousse works on just about every type of wavy hair, too — you wouldn’t think to reach for a mousse if you have thin-textured hair, but the mousse emulsifies into an ultra fine lather that “works wonders for my fine hair,” according to one Amazon reviewer. The brand recommends running a golf ball-sized amount through your damp hair, but even less will do the trick. Be sure to comb it evenly through your hair to avoid clumping.
6. Best Budget Buy
At just under $4 on Amazon, this Garnier Fructis spray is one of the cheapest things you can buy for your wavy or curly hair, but it is arguably doing the most. There’s basically no wrong way to use it: Spritz it on your damp, just-washed hair for bouncy, shapely waves later on; on next-day hair to refresh and revitalize your waves; or “to maintain moisture and softness between washes,” as one Amazon reviewer does. Dry hair especially will drink up this hydrating cocktail of argan oil, murumuru seed butter, and coconut oil.
7. Pro Pick: Best Shampoo & Conditioner
Josh curates all the products he uses “based on what I want my end results to be.” So if you’re air-drying your wavy hair, that includes choosing a shampoo and conditioner designed specifically to encourage your smoothest, most defined waves, whether you choose to add more product or heat-style it or not. For his own wavy-haired clients, Josh likes this hydrating Goldwell conditioner and its accompanying shampoo. “It’s perfect for defining curls while eliminating frizz,” he says. “These products give hair great shine, and also provide moisture and smoothness to improve texture and achieve that perfect bounce.”
8. Best Drugstore Shampoo & Conditioner
For something a little more budget-friendly, try this shampoo and conditioner duo from L'Oreal's EverCurl line, which is formulated for waves and curls. Both products are free of sulfates, salts, and surfactants that can strip curls of their natural body (or your color, if you dye your hair), while coconut oil makes your hair feel silky-soft and smooth. You’d be hard-pressed to find another shampoo and conditioner this effective/beloved (see: its 1,500+ five-star ratings), for this little money.
9. Best Natural Shampoo & Conditioner
Acure is one of my favorite “clean,” budget-friendly brands, so I was excited to find that they make a shampoo and conditioner for wavy, color-treated hair that contains certified organic ingredients — all the highly specific things I want/need in a shampoo and conditioner. The formula is almost entirely plant-derived, and includes high-performing ingredients like certified-organic argan oil and borage seed oil to encourage fuller, thicker hair; sunflower seed extract to protect color from fading; and blue tansy for its cleansing properties.