How to Use Waveformers to Get Voluminous Heatless Waves

Byrdie editor Bella Cacciatore with waveformers in her hair and with resulting waves

Dee Mills for Byrdie

From an adolescence of flat ironing to bleach damage while testing out bright colors and even a white blonde moment in lockdown, there’s no way to put it lightly: My hair has been through the wringer. I recently went back to my natural color and have limited my heat exposure, and while my strands are in much better shape than they were, my natural texture, thickness, and wave pattern have yet to return. 

But then I got hooked on watching TikTok after TikTok showing off voluminous, structured waves and curls by way of waveformers. I’m nothing if not easily persuaded by targeted videos, so I decided to look into them myself and give them a shot. Below, you’ll find everything you need to know about waveformers and how to use them, plus my own results.

What Are Waveformers?

Waveformers are a tool for curling your hair without using any heat. They have grips at both ends that snap to hold hair in place, while the body is made of a soft mesh that allows for ventilation. Think of your damp hair as malleable material like clay, and waveformers as a mold. The idea is that when your hair dries, it will hold the exact shape of the waveformers. 

I picked up an affordable set from Amazon for basic ripple waves, but you’ll also see spiral-shaped options, and both come in various sizes depending on how tight you want your wave or curl to be. Brands like HairFlair have a wide range of styles depending on what type of curl or wave you want. 

Measure your hair before buying your waveformers to ensure that you buy the right size. If your hair is layered, measure it at its longest.

Benefits of Waveformers

When it comes to heatless styling, waveformers provide a distinct experience from other methods. If you're considering trying them, the below are a few reasons why this option stands out.

  • Heat-free: First and foremost, if you’re someone who likes to create curls or waves with heat, you’ll save yourself from a lot of damage by switching to waveformers. 
  • Suitable for any hair type: Waveformers can work on all lengths, hair types, and textures, whether your hair is pin-straight or tightly coiled. You can also use them on wigs and weaves. 
  • Quick process: Once I got the hang of it, it only took about 15 minutes to complete the process and secure all of my hair into the waveformers.
  • Can be worn to sleep: Depending on your comfort level and how much you move in your sleep, you can wear them to sleep, which will save you some time.

Drawbacks of Waveformers

While waveformers are a great styling option if they fit your preferences, no solution is perfect, and there are a few ways some may find them inconvenient. It's up to you whether the result is worth the caveats or if you prefer another method.

  • Scalp tension: The tugging motion of the hook can be a bit harsh on a sensitive scalp. For some, this can also make them difficult to sleep in. 
  • Potential for frizz: The friction will inevitably cause some frizz to happen, so make sure you’re using the right kind of smoothing product for your hair.
  • Long wait time: Unless your hair dries lightning-fast (or you’re a really early riser—couldn’t be me), this is not the kind of styling technique you can do in the morning before you head out for the day, unlike pressing your hair in a three-barrel wave wand.

How to Use Waveformers

Prep Your Hair

Byrdie editor Bella Cacciatore with slightly wet hair before using waveformers

Dee Mills for Byrdie

Start with damp hair (not dripping wet, or the waves won't dry—I preferred using a spray bottle). Then, using a wide-tooth comb, gently detangle your hair and apply your styling products of choice, such as a leave-in conditioner to fight frizz and a lightweight mousse or gel for hold. 

Push the Hook Through the Waveformer

Close-up of waveformer with hook on hair of Byrdie editor Bella Cacciatore

Dee Mills for Byrdie

All waveformer hooks will come in two pieces that you need to connect. Pinch one end of the waveformer and insert the hook side, threading it all the way through with enough space to maintain your grip on the handle. Pinch the end of the waveformer to widen the opening before you pull your hair through to ensure that it slides in smoothly. This will help minimize any scalp tension and breakage.

Loop Your Hair into the Waveformer

Byrdie editor Bella Cacciatore pulling a section of her hair through a waveformer with a hook

Dee Mills for Byrdie

Divide your hair into sections, leaving the bottom layer down. Start by taking one-inch sections and twisting slightly at the root, placing the twist into the hook. Pinch the end of the waveformer to widen the opening, then use the hook to pull hair through the waveformer until it springs back into shape with the hair inside. Once your hair is in the hook, turn it upwards to keep the hair from falling out. From there, I pulled my hair up through the waveformers, but if that feels uncomfortable, you can turn the hook back down once your hair is inside. Be gentle when you pull to prevent damage, and continue layer by layer until all of your hair is secured. 

Let Hair Air Dry

Side profile of Byrdie editor Bella Cacciatore's hair with waveformers installled

Dee Mills for Byrdie

Air drying is the most straightforward method to letting your waves set, as it’ll be hard to distribute heat evenly if you try to speed up the process with a blow dryer unless you use a dryer hood attachment. You can also wear the waveformers overnight.

Remove the Waveformers

Byrdie editor Bella Cacciatore gently removes an orange waveformer from her hair

Dee Mills for Byrdie

Starting with the bottom layer, remove the waveformers by pinching the end closest to your root and stretching it out, then sliding it off of your hair. Continue until all of the waveformers are out, then style your hair as usual.

Experiment with placing the waveformers at different distances from the root for a more undone look.

The Results

Byrdie editor Bella Cacciatore with wavy hair as a result of using waveformers

Dee Mills for Byrdie

The waveformers worked as promised, giving me bouncy, rippling waves with big volume. While they stayed in good shape throughout the night, I hoped that sleeping on my fresh waves would make for a more tousled look. The waves frizzed up a bit and lost some of their structure, but overall, I found the slept-in waves to be a lot more wearable.

The Final Takeaway

Waveformers are easy to use, with little to no breakage or damage, and the most time-consuming step will be waiting for hair to dry. For that reason, the optimal time to use them would be in the hours before an event, so you can let them sit as you get dressed and finish the rest of your beauty routine. Ultimately, waveformers will give you a fun look for a night out, but don’t expect a perfect hold that will last for days on end.

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