It's not curly; it's not straight. With the right cut, tips and tools, stylists say wavy hair can be the best of both worlds, playing it straight one day, and riding your waves the next.

Kate Hudson
Joss Stone
Katie Holmes

“There is a return to waves because of the retro glamour trend,” says Rodney Cutler of New York’s Cutler Salons, “But the resurgence of glam doesn’t mean they have to be big, full curls.”

The first step is finding the right cut to maximize the type of waves you have.

“When you see your stylist, don’t come with a ponytail in your hair or after it has been blown out or flat-ironed, " says Amie Zimmerman of Dirty Little Secret Salon & Spa in Portland, Ore. "They have to get a good grasp on the S-shaped pattern waves as they tumble down. You want to make sure they’re cutting for the curl, which means they should be cutting the hair dry.”

Layers will help your waves show up. But stylists warn against going too short.

“For people with wavy hair, the front can have a lot of cowlicks,” says Dana Kaplan of M Salon in Cambridge, Mass. “I like to keep the front of the hair long, in one length or a long angle, because if you cut it too short, the cowlicks kind of go crazy.”

“Long side bangs work really well because you have enough wave in your hair to keep it pushed to the side,” adds Ethan Shaw of Anne Kelso Salon in Austin, Texas, “but it’s not so curly that it will curl up into short bangs.”

Stylists say the key is to work your waves, don’t let them work you. After you’ve applied a styling product, Cutler suggests this easy tip: Take 3-inch sections of hair and wrap the end of each section around two fingers. Then, push the ends inside, slide your fingers out, secure the sections with a pin and allow them to dry before releasing them.

“It will keep the waves you have, but give a bit more finish to it,” Cutler explains.

To twist it up another notch, Shaw suggests creating rope curls.

“If you have longer hair, apply product while it’s wet and divide your hair into three parts on each side, so your crown's basically going to look like a basketball,” Shaw says. “Twist each section away from your face and just let it dry. It’s meant to direct the movement of the hair. Then use your fingers to tousle it for a loose curl, or just leave it like that and it’s really cute.”

For shorter styles, apply product and comb your wet waves in the direction you want them to go. Then use your fingers to style them.

“When it dries, you’re going to see the curls come out,” Shaw says. “The rules to remember are if you want it more curly, use a diffuser. If you have finer hair, mousse is definitely the way to go. And before you diffuse the ends, you need to diffuse the roots to loosen the curls at the top of your scalp.”

“The curl pattern shows up much better if you get it all the way dry,” adds Zimmerman.

And for the laziest waves, you can find creative control with a few tweaks from a curling iron.

“If your waves look nice in the front but the back is a bit weak, or vice versa, you can use a curling iron” says JoAnne Dicken, owner of The Fringe Hair Co. in Calgary, Alberta, and Artistic Team Leader for AG Hair Cosmetics. "But you want to avoid a contrived look."

Simply separate the limpest locks and twist them in one-inch sections around the outside of the barrel of your curling iron for chunky curls.

“If you don’t curl the root or the ends but focus on the mid-shaft of the section, it will provide a nice texture to wavy hair,” Dicken explains. “You want it to look natural.”

For wavies who opt for a straighter look, stylists stress that they use products to protect their hair from heat styling. And make sure to use high-quality flat irons and blowdryers to reduce damage.

Some Stylist Picks for Waves

Rodney Cutler:

For thick, wavy hair: Try Redken Ringlet 07 Curl Perfector (for thick hair that has natural curl memory) or Redken Crystal Curls 06 Defining Shine Gel (to help soften really thick hair).

For fine, wavy hair: Try Redken Fresh Curls Curl Boost scrunching spray gel. “Curl Boost is great for hair that struggles to get bounce and needs curl activation.”

JoAnne Dicken:

For thick, wavy hair: Try AG’s Re:coil and AG Fast Food leave on conditioner. “They’re fantastic to cocktail together in equal parts, if you want a softer hold. Fast Food conditions and helps to keep the moisture in the hair so the wave is activated.”

Finish your style with AG’s Infrastructure. “When your hair is completely dry, use just a little bit in the palms of your hands, squeezing it in from the ends to about mid-shaft. It’s wonderful for giving that lived-in texture and support for wavy hair.”

For fine, wavy hair: Try AG’s Spray Body soft hold volumizer, followed by AG Re:coil . “Spray Body has a wheat protein and is good for encouraging curl and giving fullness to the root area.”

Dana Kaplan:

For thick, wavy hair: Try Vicious flexible hold defining gel from Sebastian’s Evokativ line or Bumble & Bumble Straight (even though it’s designed to straighten hair). “I like the Straight product because it calms the frizz, yet still allows the waves to show up.”

For fine, wavy hair: Try Lustful Curvaceous Volumizing Mousse from Sebastian’s Evokativ line or Bumble & Bumble Leave-in Conditioner, followed by Bumble & Bumble Styling Crème.

“Start with a dime’s worth of each, then add on by dime’s worth, as needed.”

Ethan Shaw:

For thick, wavy hair: Try AG Re:coil or Bumble & Bumble Grooming Creme (a natural hold, just enough to hold curls without weighing them down).

For fine, wavy hair: Try Sebastian Bohemian Organic Shaping Creme (a bit more sticky consistency for stronger hold and volume). “Bohemian is a good product to bring your curls and waves out and still have control.”

Amie Zimmerman:

For thick, wavy hair: Try C-System Styling Conditioner and C-Curl Defining Cream by MOP (Modern Organic Products), especially for color-treated hair. Also, DevaCurl Set it Free finishing mist.

For fine, wavy hair: Try DevaCurl B’Leave-In Conditioner (provides moisture without weighing hair down), DevaCare Arc Angell and DevaCurl Mist-er Right Herbal Cleansing Tonic.

“With finer hair, I usually go for products that are clear in form and gel, rather than creme.”

Many lovely actresses are sporting waves these days, including Kate Hudson, Joss Stone and Katie Holmes.

Other Picks for Rocking the Waves

AG Mousse Gel

AG Details Defining Cream

Curl Junkie Curl Boost Curl Enhancing Spray

CurlFriends Rejuvenate Texturizing Mist

Curly Hair Solutions Curl Keeper

Curlisto Bio-Gel Mousse

Curlisto Curl Replay

Cutler Curling Cream

DevaCurl Set it Free

DevaCurl Angell

Innersense Quiet Calm Curl Control

Jessicurl Rockin' Ringlets Styling Potion

Jessicurl Confident Coils Styling Solution Jessicurl Gelebration Spray

John Masters Organics Sweet Orange & Silk Protein Styling Gel

John Masters Organics Sea Mist

Long Lovely Locks Curls De Light

Mop Top Anti-Frizz Gel

Ojon Conditioning Volumizing Foam

Wen Almond Mint Texture Balm

Product Picks for Playing it Straight

AG Insulate

AG Varnish Smoothing Polish

Blended Beauty Straight Pearl

Blended Beauty Straightening Glaze

CurlFriends Tame Smoothing Serum

Curlisto Straight Time Glaze

Cutler Straightening Cream

Cutler Specialist Protectant Treatment Spray

Elucence Silk Hydrating Elixer