7ac803fee3084a9e1620 finger waves

Long before beach waves and the modern “bend” arrived on the scene, there was another styling technique that reigned supreme: finger waves. But don’t write this style off as “old news.” The iconic technique will forever remain a salon mainstay, whether it’s for a wedding, a special occasion or even a Great Gatsby-themed party. If you’re anything like us, you remember the countless hours spent creating these waves in Cosmetology school. It seemed relatively monotonous, kind of like geometry. But there are certain situations where it is important to know that A+B = C, and also the best way to create a finger wave. Keep reading to get the lowdown on how to finger wave and learn why the glamorous look isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. 

The Origin Of Finger Waves: 

So how did the decade-defining style originate? According to Smithsonianmag.com, finger waves gained momentum in the 1920s soon after the debut of the controversial bob. Women used water and their fingers (the top styling tools at the time) to create a delicate wave to add texture, softness and femininity to the more masculine cut.

The Technique

Wet Set:

To achieve the iconic look in a traditional fashion the look is performed on wet hair.

  • Start by applying a gel-like lotion to wet hair and combing through. Mixing label.m Gel and Souffle is a great combo to get the consistency you're looking for!
  • Using the comb drag the hair forward and back creating an S-shape and then press the fingers and the back of a rat tail comb to push hair into place.
  • Starting at the front of the hairline and working back toward the crown and then down to the chin/nape, shape with a comb and exaggerate the shape between the fingers.
  • For longer hair, be sure to clip it into place while the hair dries to help keep its form or keep reading to see how to use hot tools instead.

The secret to achieving the perfect wave? Wet the hair with water and a gel or hairspray to maximize holding power. It’s also important to allow the hair to dry completely in order for the wave to set—otherwise, the shape will fall. 

Check out this stellar set, you'll want to watch it over and over again!


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Hot Tools:

As seen in recent performances (ahem Lady Gaga) or fashion shows, thank you, Mansur Gavriel, finger waves have made their way back into mainstream styling. In the latest season, finger wave extraordinaire Laurent Philippon created his very own rendition on extra long locks that we can’t help but fall in love with this season.


The look @mansurgavriel beautiful presentation #hairbylaurentphilippon @bumbleandbumble

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To achieve this look you can use with a curling iron – we LOVE the Sam Villa Artist Series 2-in-1 Marcel Curling Iron & Wand 1" or ever better the new Sam Villa Professional Pro-Results Double-Waver. After hair has been smoothed dry, place the barrel above and below each section, using a comb to create the dragging motion on the barrel. Watch his technique below! 



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The Evolution Of Finger Waves: 

While the look was made famous by Old Hollywood icons Bette Davis, Claudette Colbert and Marlene Dietrich, the style has appeared on the red carpet and Fashion Week runways for years. Some famous ladies that have sported the vintage ‘do? Madonna, Missy Elliot, Rihanna, Heidi Klum and Kate Bosworth, to name a few! The style promises to continue to make headway this season, from brides opting for the Old Hollywood look in place of effortless beach waves to the edgy finger waves spotted all over the 2020 runway shows. So grab your duckbill clips and your spray bottle and give the iconic look a try for your next event!