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Many of us across the world live our lives between two extremes: good and evil, north and south, fast and slow, hot and cold. One of the most complex in-betweens some of us are lucky enough to be born with is somewhere between curly and straight—hair, that is.
Like all things in-between, wavy hair comes in a variety of shapes and textures—from almost curly to nearly straight. Some people develop wavy hair along with hormonal changes during their awkward teen years, or even as adults. Many of us aren’t even aware of our hair’s wavy tendencies until we come across the right hair products.
It’s easy to assume that your hair is just “unruly” or frizzy when you insist on raking a bristly brush through it every day or attacking it with various heat styling tools. If you feel like your hair has a mind of its own and never seems to do what you want it to do, maybe you just need to approach it from a different angle. Your hair could be trying to tell you something—it’s been wavy all along.
How do I know if my hair is wavy?
Do one or more of your immediate family members have curly hair? Did you always feel cursed, jealous of your friends with naturally straight, sleek hair while yours always took so much work to coax into the same styles? If you braid your hair or curl it with a curling iron, does it tend to hold the kinks and curls much longer than your straight-haired friends? Congratulations! You probably have wavy hair.
If you suspect you might have wavy or curly hair, use this test to find out for sure. The next time you take a shower or wash your hair, don’t wrap it up tightly in a towel right away. Instead, take an absorbent microfiber towel and gently squeeze the excess water from it, focusing on the ends. Comb through any tangles gently with a wide comb while it’s wet. Then leave it alone for 20–30 minutes.
As your hair dries naturally, it will start to return to its natural shape. If you see obvious ringlets or curls forming, you probably have curly hair. But if you see some or all of your locks pulling into gentle s-shapes, you most likely have wavy hair.
How to care for wavy hair
Once you’ve determined that you have wavy hair, the next step is finding the right products that will work best for your particular wave type. Part of the reason that you’ve had trouble with your hair is that you may have been using products meant for a completely different type of hair.
Much like its curlier cousins, wavy hair needs a bit of finesse, a lot of trial-and-error, and some patience as you figure out how to bring its best locks forward. The process of taking care of wavy hair might be different than your usual routine, but it won’t be difficult to learn. In fact, it might even be easier than your usual method.
Instead of tackling it with a hair dryer or curling iron, which can amplify any problems you may have with dryness or breakage, nurture your natural waves with a lot of hydration, minimal chemicals, and a bit of TLC. Wavy hair works best when you use products without sulfates and harsh cleansers that can strip the natural oils from your hair and scalp.
Many products designed for curly hair can also work on wavy hair, but if your hair is very fine, you should avoid products for coarse, coily, or textured hair. These might flatten your waves or add too much moisture, making your hair appear greasy or oily. Look for hair products targeted for waves or fine curls instead.
Coaxing your waves into shape can take some practice, but the effort will be worth it. After washing and conditioning your hair, squeeze the excess water out of it gently, then let it dry naturally about halfway before applying a curl-promoting gel creme or mouse. Start with a small amount of product and apply it throughout the hair by scrunching small sections with your fingers.
The product options for wavy hair can seem overwhelming, but the most important one to start with is your shampoo. Any other products you add later to encourage and shape your waves into their natural state will be useless if you’re not using the right shampoo.
What’s the best shampoo for wavy hair?
You’ll notice that, as wavy hair isn’t a common texture, few shampoos are designed specifically for wavy hair. Some curly-hair shampoos work well with waves, but we need to choose carefully. Products designed for thick or coily curls tend to be too heavy and weigh down your waves. And shampoos for regular hair often include harmful ingredients like sulfates that can strip moisture from the hair, leaving it dry and frizzy.
We’ve searched far and wide to gather this list of the 14 best shampoos for wavy hair. Remember, everyone’s hair is different, so these products might not all work for you—but you only need one. Soon enough, you’ll be able to reintroduce your bouncy, beachy, wavy hair to the world.
Many people don’t realize that the key to healthy hair begins with a healthy and nourished scalp. Blu Atlas Shampoo tops our list because it contains so many naturally derived ingredients that soothe the scalp while hydrating and strengthening the hair. In fact, 98% of its ingredients come from natural origins like plants, fruits, and minerals.
Wavy hair can often dry out and become too frizzy to manage. This shampoo’s formula helps to prevent that with natural moisturizers, jojoba oil, and aloe leaf extract. Jojoba oil brings vitamins A, D, E, and essential fatty acids that nourish the hair and scalp. Aloe also contains antioxidants, like vitamins A, C, and E, that make hair shiny and soft.
Saw palmetto is another powerful ingredient in Blu Atlas Shampoo, helping to increase the hair’s volume and protect against hair loss. Meanwhile, vegan biotin has been added to fortify the hair fibers against chemical and environmental damage while adding more hydration and volume. Made without moisture-stripping sulfates or other unnecessary additives, this shampoo allows your wavy hair to flow freely, as nature intended.
The right shampoo allows your hair to do what it does naturally, and that’s the exact result you’ll get when you try Be Curly Shampoo. Aveda uses a blend of wheat protein and organic aloe in this formula to hydrate and define your waves as it cleans. This unique mix is designed to expand on wet hair, coating and hydrating each strand, and then to retract and dissipate as the hair dries—leaving your hair bouncy, weightless, and frizz-free.
The citrus “pure-fume” scent, made with organic lemon, bergamot, orange, and the essences of other plants and flowers, is refreshing but not overpowering. Be curly shampoo is cruelty-free, vegan, and made from 90% naturally-derived ingredients, making it safe for color-treated hair or sensitive scalps. The packaging is also made from 100% recycled materials, so this shampoo is good for the environment as well as your hair.
This shampoo was designed for a range of curl types from wavy to coily, but the key ingredients have the same effect on all of them–enhancing and hydrating curls while reducing or preventing frizz. Briogeo included several naturally derived ingredients that work together to bring out the charisma in your wavy hair.
Shea butter and vitamin E moisturize and soften the hair, infusing it with essential nutrients and antioxidants to keep it healthy and prevent breakage. Meanwhile, rice amino acids and tomato fruit ferment seal the hair’s cuticles, helping to protect it against environmental moisture like humidity and pollution. Your hair becomes nourished and the curls (or waves) hold their shape without any heavy residue left behind to weigh it down. It’s no surprise that Curl Charisma earned its spot on our list of bests shampoo for wavy hair.
Ouidad calls themselves “the curl experts” for a reason. Their products are each carefully crafted with specific curl types in mind, and their Curl Shaper Good As New Moisture Restoring Shampoo is ideal for waves and loose curls. The sulfate-free formula is made with botanical extracts that infuse the hair with weightless moisture without stripping nutrients from it.
Potent hydraters include safflower, meadowfoam, and rice bran oil that help protect the hair’s natural barrier and restore the shape of your curls. Pro-vitamin B5 is also included to repair and strengthen the hair, making it shiny and soft. This product is also cruelty-free and free from parabens, gluten, mineral oil, and phthalates. It’s safe for color-treated hair and mild enough to use every day if you wish. Go ahead—shape those waves with this shampoo today!
Don’t let the name fool you on this one—John Frieda’s Frizz Ease Dream Curls Shampoo also works very well to enhance and define those waves. This creamy, sulfate-free shampoo helps to detangle your hair and reduce frizz as it cleans all the excess oils and product residue from your scalp.
At a lower price point for the budget-conscious, Dream Curls Shampoo delivers exactly what it says on the bottle: it hydrates your hair enough to tame that frizz but is also light enough that it won’t interfere with the shape and texture of your waves. Your hair will be easier to manage, and you can enjoy its natural bounce and shine without needing too many additional styling products. For best results, follow up with Frizz Ease Dream Curls Conditioner.
Another brand that’s famous for its curly-hair focus, DevaCurl designed Low-Poo Delight Shampoo specifically for fine curls and waves. This lightweight cleanser provides just a hint of lather that adds and preserves moisture within the hair, leaving you with soft, shiny, effortless waves.
Low-Poo Delight is free from sulfates, silicones, parabens, gluten, and phthalates, so it won’t dry out or damage the hair. It was developed with dermatologists to be gentle and safe to use for all skin types as well. The Green Oasis scent combines green tea leaf, nashi pear, crisp apple, and waterlily with an earthy finish of creamy woods—every shampoo will feel like a walk in the park.
Bondi Boost presents another low-lather option with its Curl Boss Shampoo. The key ingredients include powerful natural moisturizers of argan oil, shea butter, coconut oil, and macadamia oil. The added hydration from these oils reduce frizz significantly and leave your hair shiny and healthy-looking.
Saw palmetto is another plant-based ingredient that helps strengthen the hair and protect it from breaking and thinning. Your waves will feel lighter and more defined from the first wash with this vegan-friendly and cruelty-free shampoo. It’s safe for chemically-treated and color-treated hair, and Bondi Boost even offers a 30-day money back guarantee. If you’re on the fence, you have no reason not to try Curl Boss Shampoo for your wavy hair.
If your hair is endlessly dry and seems hopelessly damaged, Amika has the solution for you. Their Hydro Rush Intense Moisture Shampoo not only adds three times more hydration than other brands but it also continues to boost the moisture in your hair for 72 hours after you wash. The best part is that the product does all this with natural ingredients like squalane, hyaluronic acid, bio-fermented coconut water, and blue algae.
This shampoo adds hydration deep into the hair shaft without weighing it down. So your waves flow free and easy, and they’re healthier and easier to maintain. Amika Hydro Rush has also been clinically proven to reduce breakage by 50%, so your hair grows stronger and faster with continuous use. It’s safe and gentle enough to use on color-treated or keratin-treated hair, and Amika left out harmful additives like sulfates, parabens, petrolatum, and artificial colors. Wash your waves with Hydro Rush Intense Moisture Shampoo, and you’ll see and feel the difference.
For thicker hair types, perhaps on the edge between wavy and curly, this creamy shampoo has the primary mission of adding hydrating and enhancing definition for any and all curl types. As you gently wash your hair and scalp, Curl Manifesto Shampoo removes dirt, product buildup, and other impurities while leaving your hair soft, smooth, and full of body.
Kérastase uses manuka honey, a potent natural moisturizer that also contains minerals and nutrients to nourish and strengthen the hair. It also includes a patented ceramide, which softens the hair and fortifies it to protect from future damage. With a sweet and luxurious fragrance of tuberoses and frangipani flowers, this shampoo makes you feel like you just took a stroll through a palace garden.
This sulfate-free shampoo does much more than just calm your wayward frizzies. SheaMoisture created this unique formula with natural elements like their signature Fair Trade shea butter for a lasting hydration boost, vitamin C powerhouse papaya extract, elderflower to calm and smooth your stressed tresses, and aloe leaf juice for even more moisture.
Neroli orange flower extract infuses your hair with the antioxidants it needs to thrive while providing a fresh citrus scent that awakens your senses with every wash. As with all SheaMoisture products, Papaya and Neroli All Day Frizz Control Shampoo contains no added parabens, phthalates, or any other damaging ingredients. Use it on your wavy or curly hair and say goodbye to your frizz and flyaways forever.
If you have fine hair and your waves tend to flatten out with some of the more rich curly-hair shampoos, OGX created a solution with their Lightweight + Coconut Fine Curls Shampoo. This light formula helps volumize your fine hair while smoothing out the frizz and adding curl definition.
Along with their signature base of gentle coconut cleansers and coconut water, this sulfate-free shampoo uses flaxseed and linseed oils for light but lasting hydration. It also includes lemon peel oil and orange extracts, which add brightness and shine to your hair along with a refreshing citrus aroma. For best results, follow up with the corresponding Lightweight + Coconut Fine Curls Conditioner and your hair will go from being fine to fabulous.
Among the few shampoos out there targeted specifically for wavy hair, Aussie Miracle Waves Shampoo has definitely earned its spot on our list of best shampoos for wavy hair. This light, creamy cleanser hydrates your hair and battles the frizz with naturally derived ingredients like Australian hemp seed extract and Kakadu plum.
Your hair soaks in the moisture and nutrients from these extracts, but the product rinses away without leaving any residue that may prevent your waves from waving. You’ll love the soft texture and volume of your hair after using Miracle Waves Shampoo. The fragrance is a fruity but pleasant combination of bergamot, apple, and plum. And this product is certified PETA cruelty-free, paraben-free, and silicone-free, so you can rest easy knowing it won’t harm any animals or damage your hair.
Maui Moisture is a trusted brand that offers specific products targeted to various curl types. Their Castor and Neem oil Shampoo is perfect for those who may have spent years trying to “tame” their hair with heat styling tools or even chemical treatments. Those treatments can all lead to lasting damage, dryness, or breakage. Maui Moisture created this formula to help repair that damage and allow your natural waves to bounce back into shape.
This sulfate-free, silicone-free, vegan shampoo uses castor and neem oils to restore and strengthen your hair while adding essential hydration to protect it from further damage. Peppermint oil soothes the scalp and adds a natural, refreshing scent to the product. Aloe is also included for moisture and brings essential antioxidants to help repair your hair to its natural state. With its quality ingredients at an affordable price point, we can’t see any reason not to try Maui Moisture Castor and Neem Oil Shampoo.
Are you wondering what a conditioning wash is? You may have seen 2-in-1 shampoo and conditioner products on the market, which are usually mostly made up of shampoo with a bit of conditioning ingredients. A conditioning wash (or co-wash) is the opposite—it’s mostly conditioner with a small amount of cleansing ingredients mixed in.
Why would you want that? Well, for curly and wavy hair, conditioner is even more important than shampoo. These hair types tend to dry out and become frizzy, so it’s important to keep the hair hydrated and prevent the natural oils and moisture from being stripped away from the scalp, which can occur if you use shampoo too often.
Curl Quenching Conditioning Wash by Curl Smith is ideal for keeping your wavy hair soft and moisturized. It’s gentle enough for all textures, especially for dry and damaged hair. It includes natural ingredients like avocado, sunflower, and coconut oils; shea butter; and resurrection flower, without any drying elements like sulfates, parabens, silicones, or mineral oils. If you’re a product minimalist, this co-wash is one to look out for.
Frequently asked questions
Is wavy hair difficult to manage?
Wavy hair can be tricky at first—learning how to care for it can take some trial and error. But once you learn which products work best for your hair and how often it likes to be washed, it won’t take too long to develop a simple and effective hair care routine.
The important thing to remember is that wavy hair wants to be wavy. Many people make the mistake of thinking that they have straight hair, or just frizzy hair that doesn’t want to behave. But usually you just need to find the right products or the right method to bring out the natural curl in your hair.
Can I use a blow dryer on my wavy hair?
Yes, you can blow-dry wavy hair, but if you want to keep it wavy, you’ll need to modify the traditional blow-out method. The good news is blow-drying wavy hair is much easier and less damaging for the hair.
First, step away from the round brush. You won’t need it at all. Make sure to comb your hair out while it’s still wet, then allow it to air dry about 60%. Then use your fingertips to gently scrunch in whichever products you normally use—a creme gel, light mousse, or a combination of these. As you scrunch your hair from the ends, you should see your waves already beginning to form.
Now it’s time to start the blow-drying. You can use any standard hair dryer, but you must attach a diffuser to it. The diffuser distributes the heat more evenly and prevents wavy or curly hair from frizzing. This attachment is also completely plastic, so you can actually plop a whole section of hair into it, then scrunch it up gently and let the hot air do its work.
Continue this process around your head until your wavy hair is at least 90% dry. It’s okay to let it dry naturally the rest of the way. Finish your style with a light hairspray, sea salt spray, or your favorite curl-targeted finishing spritz.
Which ingredients should I avoid in a shampoo for wavy hair?
As we’ve mentioned abundantly, wavy and curly hair needs plenty of hydration to look its best. When you’re looking for a shampoo and conditioner, you’ll want to avoid any that contain harsh, moisture-stripping cleansers like sulfates. The most common sulfate ingredients are sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS) or sodium laureth sulfate (SLES). Not only do these cleansers strip your natural oils and other moisture from the hair, they can also strip any hair colors that you’ve used, causing the color to fade faster—which can mean more trips to the salon than you’d otherwise need.
Other potentially damaging ingredients to look out for include parabens, phthalates, mineral oils, and silicones. If your skin tends to be sensitive or easily irritated, you should also avoid artificial fragrances and colors in your hair products as these could irritate the skin of your scalp or cause allergic reactions.
Which ingredients work best for my wavy hair?
Everyone’s hair has different needs, even if you may have the same curl type. But you usually can’t go wrong by choosing products that contain mostly naturally derived ingredients from plant, mineral, fruit, and vegetable sources.
Many natural cleansers and moisturizers contain essential fats that nourish the hair and antioxidants that keep it strong and healthy. Some examples of good hydrating ingredients are jojoba oil, shea butter, coconut oil, aloe vera, and ceramides. Growth-promoting vitamins like biotin, vitamin E, vitamin A, and vitamin C can also help keep your wavy hair shiny, soft, and full of volume.
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