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How to Wave Your Hair: Heat-Free Techniques for Bouncy Waves

Try braids, pipe cleaners, or curlers to put a wave in your hair without heat or harsh chemicals.

Try braids, pipe cleaners, or curlers to put a wave in your hair without heat or harsh chemicals.

I've always had stick-straight hair, so I've had to learn a few tricks to style it into bouncy waves. For some reason, it seems that those of us with straight hair want waves, and those of us with waves want straight hair. My mother-in-law has beautiful, naturally wavy hair, and she's told me stories about how she used to iron her hair straight with a clothes iron when she was a teenager. For me, that's hard to imagine.

My hair measures about 4 1/2 feet in length, so I have to find hair care choices that will keep it from breaking and splitting. Although heat is one way to wave hair (such as with waving irons, hot rollers, etc.), I try to stay away from heat to protect my hair from split ends. I will share just a few ways that you can wave and curl your hair without the harmful styling products on the market today.

Put your slightly damp hair into one or more braids to get a wavy look when it dries.

Put your slightly damp hair into one or more braids to get a wavy look when it dries.

1. Braid Your Hair

This method of waving hair is the easiest, the healthiest, and the one that I use most often. Depending on how much wave I want, I may put as many as 6 braids in my hair.

How to Do It

  1. Take freshly washed and slightly damp hair and divide it into even sections.
  2. Braid your hair loosely for soft waves, or braid it tightly for tight waves.
  3. When you get near the bottom, roll the remaining two inches of hair on a strip of cloth or a plastic straw. Tie and secure.

Tip: Braiding your hair every night with at least one braid keeps you from pulling and stretching it during the night. This reduces breakage and helps you keep your hair healthy.

2. Use Floral Wire or Pipe Cleaners

For perm-like waves, floral wire and/or pipe cleaners (the ones found in the craft department) may be used. Do not sleep on the floral wire as laying on the wire would break your hair—not to mention, it would be very uncomfortable.

How to Do It

  1. Take strips of floral wire or long pipe cleaners that are the length of your hair. Fold these in half.
  2. Take a section of your hair (preferably freshly washed and slightly damp) and stick it through the bent wire right next to the bend, which should be right next to your scalp.
  3. Gently twist your hair into the bend to secure.
  4. Now, take the hair and weave it in and out in a criss-cross pattern. When you near the bottom, take the last two inches of hair and wind it around just one side of the wire.
  5. Secure the ends by twisting the wire closed.
  6. Take care when removing the wire. Brush your hair out with your fingers.
Use large rollers to get waves in your hair.

Use large rollers to get waves in your hair.

3. Use Curlers

This is an obvious one, but curlers may also be used to wave hair.

How to Do It

  • To obtain curly hair, roll tightly on small rollers.
  • For wavy hair, use large rollers.

Try to stay away from hot rollers. Not only do these break your hair, but they also dry it out. Hair needs moisture to curl properly. Here are a few curler types to try:

  • sponge rollers
  • cloth rollers
  • rubber rollers (without heat)
  • perm rods (for really tight curls)
  • plastic straws (for really tight curls)

Always Use Conditioner!

One last tip that may help your hair to wave better, no matter which technique you're trying: Use LOTS of conditioner! Make sure it's the right kind, though. A heavy conditioner will just weigh down your hair and defeat the purpose.

My favorite conditioner is Dove. It has weightless moisturizers that give your hair the moisture it craves without weighing it down. (No, I don't work for or advertise for Dove. This is just purely my preference).

What About a Professional Wave?

There's also the option of having your hair professionally waved, but as you've probably guessed, I wouldn't recommend this for the health of your hair. The chemicals used by professionals are often harsh and damaging. Personally, I don't know anyone that would care to tackle 4 1/2 feet of hair, anyway!

I hope you've enjoyed this article, and happy waving!

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.


Temita on October 11, 2017:

Wow, looks perfect!

Do you use any ingredients before foiling your hair?

Sarah!!!!!! on July 29, 2016:

This is awesome!!! But my hair is really thin so I'm hoping it will still work, another thing I do is I'll soak my hair then, put it in about 7-8 messy buns overnight and it give the best curls when I take them out!!! But like I said before my hair is really thin so it dries quicker while in asleep

llllhhhvghv on April 01, 2016:

how long do you iron it

mirjeta on October 18, 2015:

very good

Katelyn Davis on April 03, 2015:

I've used hot sticks and curlers and everything beyond the sun to have my hair curly and beautiful for a best friends wedding this month I think this might work for me. Any ideas

RJ on December 12, 2014:

You and your hair are awesome. Please never think that you are "too old" to wear it. So many women have gorgeous hair that falls victim to this propaganda.

Krista on October 05, 2014:

How long do you leave that hot iron on the foil for?

Carisa Gourley (author) from Oklahoma City Metro, Oklahoma on February 24, 2014:

You should leave the iron on the foil pieces on only a matter of seconds. Trial and error would be the best way to know since everyone's hair is different and the hair type will affect how quickly or slowly the hair holds curl. Also, the temperature of the iron. Start with 10 - 15 seconds and increase the time if your hair doesn't curl. Make sure to use a heat protecting spray for best results.

Angie on February 01, 2014:

How long do you leave the iron the foil pieces????? Please get back soon.

Tracie on January 19, 2014:

How long do you leave the iron on the foil pieces?

Mignon on February 18, 2013:

Love this, very cleaver & the results are great. :)

Carisa Gourley (author) from Oklahoma City Metro, Oklahoma on February 06, 2013:

Janie, the young lady in the picture above is taking sections of hair and curling them around her finger. After she makes a curl, she wraps it in aluminum foil. She does this all over her head. After her curls are wrapped she takes an electric flat iron that is usually for straightening hair, and presses the aluminum foil curls. When the foil is removed, she has bouncy curls!

Janie on February 06, 2013:

I had brain surgery and the part where the hair was cut won't grow . I think I will try this. But please xplain in writing .i am 77years old. And. Can't. Understand the pic .please help . Thanks

Nancy on November 03, 2012:

Girls, I've been a hairdresser for over 50 years....before curlers we used pincurls, much like the wrapping the hair around your fingers....people used to use the wire ties from coffee bags, like your pipe we actually invented these alternative ways to curl hair,,,everything eventually comes back around.....

Kathie on October 23, 2012:

I have very thick and long hair, was wondering how long do you leave the strightner on each one?

Carisa Gourley (author) from Oklahoma City Metro, Oklahoma on October 11, 2012:

Jessica, yes, actually it's aluminum foil.

Jessica on October 07, 2012:

In the last pictures is that Tin foil?

K on July 06, 2012:

That was awesome!

Amanda on February 25, 2012:

Do you know what her YouTube video is called? I'd like to see more tips from her

loulou on February 22, 2012:

thanx u i wish i could have ur hair!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Kattie(: on January 05, 2012:

I love this!!It acually works!

Paigeyyxx on December 06, 2011:

Wow it actually really wOrks my hair looks amazing xx thanks bab xx

Cara_2344 on November 05, 2011:

Oh my gosh! thank you so much for this tip! lol my hair hates to stay cureled but this worked for mee!!!! Haa Okay we thanks :D

Anna_88 from UK on January 20, 2011:

Thankyou, this was very helpful, i always try and find ways to wave my hair naturally, as i don't like the damage heat products make:-) great information!

Bloop on November 25, 2010:

Aww man I wish I had long hair but I don't so I can't do that style ))): I have like hair that comes to my armpits in layers (lol armpits) and so I'll just have to wait like a year or so till I can do that :((((((

kitty on November 18, 2010:

wow thx !! i try i later :)

juile on June 02, 2010:

i love it

Sarah on May 31, 2010:

thank you so much fro the info! it works sooooo well! you realy put a lot of effort into this video and it really helps!!!! thanks again.

Adila on May 12, 2010:

Thank you so much for the tips :)

carla on April 29, 2010:

love the tips tho my hairs short just below my shoulers.

cant wait to it grows lol..


amy on March 08, 2010:

really good info, cant wait to try my hair is soooo straight and long and im stupid when it comes to curlers etc!! seems pretty foolproof and u showed each stage thanks xx

Onica on February 16, 2010:

I am shocked to find another person as passionate about avoiding heat products as myself! I also have long hair... I have donated 3 times to "Locks of Love" and now keep it about mid to low back length. I wish everyone would read your tips on avoiding heat... also I recommend protecting hair from cold weather! I live in the Midwest and so many people allow the bitter cold wind to blow and damage their hair, causing uncontrolable static and breakage. I always keep it in my coat or up under my hat. Happy Braiding and Waving, and if you have the chance, donate to help kids with cancer.

A on January 20, 2010:

Wow this really helped. Since I have Asian hair, it's really hard to do anything with it since it's always so dry. These tips really helped me. All my friends have noticed and they say I look better with wavy hair than with straight so THANKS A LOT!!!

Laura on December 17, 2009:

i like this :)

im going to give it a try 2night

thanks x

Carisa Gourley (author) from Oklahoma City Metro, Oklahoma on November 30, 2009:

Like I've mentioned before, the young lady on the video is not me. This is a video borrowed from YouTube. I'm sure that she'd appreciate you forwarding this comment to her YouTube site.

Sandie on November 25, 2009:

Excellent wave tips. You are natural in front of the camera i hope you are pursuing a media career. Thanks again for the tips.

Carisa Gourley (author) from Oklahoma City Metro, Oklahoma on July 29, 2009:

Adele: The young lady in the video isn't me. Her hair does look good though!

Adele on July 28, 2009:

iv always wanted to have wavy hair, and your hair looked great and i cant wait to try this out :) thanks for your help! XX

Sam on March 10, 2009:

Oh my gosh, i love u lol! Thanks for the great tips...keep them coming! x

Elizabeth W. on February 12, 2009:

i have been dyiiing to wave my hair for the longest time.. i haven't tried your tip yet but obviously it works! i will definetly try it out! thanks so much for the tip girl and u really are helpful.. ps.. u don't have big arms.. they are normal. thanks again for the tips god bless ya girl!

JoBroLuva831 (sarah:) on February 07, 2009:

I tried it one time and it really worked for my hair! now i use it probably every day! Thanks for the tips! (Don't worry i chew gum in the morning too!)


Omg! on February 05, 2009:

omg that is amazing my hair actually stayed like that all day! thanks for the tips

bethany riggs on November 06, 2008:

im going to try this.ill let you kno if it works thanks!!!:]]

sarah on September 07, 2008:

thanks this helped a lot cause ir eally hate my straight hair!!! =]

Isaebelle on June 14, 2008:

Thanks for the tips!

anonymous on May 20, 2008:

how could you live with hair that long? when its that long its not even a style it just takes away from you...

good advice though.


danielle on April 26, 2008:

You have the best hair tips

nikh on February 25, 2008:

would love to see ur hair fixed as u write here and let us see it!!!! i sounds beautiful and now we want to see it manifested.. lol

Carisa Gourley (author) from Oklahoma City Metro, Oklahoma on January 04, 2008:

Thanks for the comment Gabriella and for stopping by!

G-Ma:  Long hair is not nearly as burdensome as many believe.  As long as your consisitent with proper care, it's not really that much different.  Thanks for the comment!

Sis:  Thanks for adding some extra tips!  Since your hair hangs even longer than mine (over 5 feet), you're definitely the expert!  You need to let me get a picture of it fixed that way and post it on here :)

Candace Green from OKLAHOMA on January 04, 2008:

Great info!!! Also if you use mousse with your hair damp then braid it makes the waves tight. Braiding your hair for wave seems to make it shine. Braiding gives you a perm look for a day without all the damage. I have seen so many perms look like fried noodles and I've seen some nice ones. My hair is so long for the curly look, I curl my hair at the top around my face, then I put it in two tight braids (freshly washed) and roll the ends. The top curly part mixes in the braidy part, everyone thinks it took me hours, but it don't and it looks nice. LONG HAIR RULES!!!!!!

Merle Ann Johnson from NW in the land of the Free on December 12, 2007:

well sweetie I am so glad my hair is not that long..I just can't imagine what that feels like..Heck I color mine so the gray doesn't show now adays...Helps me feel younger...:O) I know we can be so vane...but oh well...he left me for a younger woman...Good information..keep it up..G-Ma :O)

gabriella05 from Oldham on December 12, 2007:

Great information

Thank you