What Curling Iron is Best for Beach Waves?

Last Updated on December 18, 2022 by Andrea Haynes


For years beach waves have been the go-to trend for that “lived-in” hairstyle. It’s an effortless look that fits everyone and can transcend a myriad of clothing choices.

But is “easy” the name of the game with this look?

Women often ask, “how can I create beach waves with a curling iron?” Or “What tool should I use to get beach waves?” There are many YouTube tutorials on the subject and even though “effortless” is the look, the physical mechanics prove to be more difficult.

So how do you get great beach waves? Getting this look perfected comes down to a few things: 1) Tool type, 2) Heat Setting, and 3) Practice with your favorite hot tool.

Read the following tips, tricks, and how-to’s to make sure you curl your hair successfully and get that effortless beach wave look every time.

Gorgeous young brunette woman with beach waves

Best Size Curling Irons and Curling Methods for Beach Waves

Depending on the type and size of the hot tool, there’s this degree of curl that takes you from a tight ringlet to the tousled, irregular waves you naturally get from salty sea water. Most people want something in the middle. Here’s a list of tools that accomplish the range:

  1. The 1” Curling Iron. This size is standard and can provide beautiful, tighter beachy curls. People often ask if they should get the 1”, 1 and ¼ ”, or 1 and ½” barrel size. If your hair texture doesn’t naturally hold a curl well or is very straight, a 1” is your best option. It can wine the waves more tightly while still giving it that relaxed feel. Just don’t curl the ends and it will look great. The brand Olivia Garden has a beautiful 1” curler that works magic on your hair.
  2. The 1 and ½ and the 1 and ¼ inch curling irons. These are also standard sizes but work better for hair that has its own natural curl, is thicker and more weighted, or holds a curl almost too easily. They are great for loose curls with a relaxed feel.
  3. Flat Iron. Not just any flat iron does the trick. The best option for getting natural-looking beach waves is to get a curved-edge flat iron with ceramic or titanium plates. For thicker textures that don’t curl as easily, titanium plates are best. For finer textures, ceramic plates work well.
  4. The Triple Barrel. Anyone who doesn’t love the twist-and-pull method used with curling irons will love the triple barrel. It’s created in a way that makes getting beach waves easy. You simply open the clamp, insert about ½-1” section of hair, then clamp down. Hold, then remove. It works, in the same way, the crimpers of old operated, except due to larger barrel sizes, it gives it a modern feel. 
  5. S-pattern Technique with a Flat Iron. For this, you’ll need a standard-shaped flat iron vs. a curved plate. If a curved plate is all you have, don’t worry, it works too. Taking a ½” thick section of hair, you’re going to bend it just below the root into a “c” shape and press the “c” between the flat iron plates. The next section down you’re going to bend into a “c” shape, but in the opposite direction. Do this all the way down the section of hair you’re holding for beautiful, classy waves.
  6. The Twist and Clamp Method with a Triple Barrel. This method gives your hair the beachiest, wildest, most natural-looking waves. By pinching sections about the size of your finger, you can twist them then lightly clamp your triple barrel down the length of the hair then release. Alternate between this and normal clamping patterns and the hair is stunning. This technique is used by Lo Wheeler Davis for “luxury beach waves.”
  7. The Beach Waver. It’s the most user-friendly iron on the market. There’s no need to twist the curling iron at all as this is a self-turning curling iron. It gently grips the hair toward the bottom and winds it up toward the root.
  8. Curling Wands. This style of the hot tool makes things really fun. There are so many different shapes of wands, and they all create a slightly different type of curl. There are ones that are tapered at one end, others that have a more “square” barreled curve, and more with undulating “bubbles” to create horizontal volume. If you aren’t looking for horizontal volume, which makes the waves fuller going left and right from your face, then stick to a regular cylindrical wand for best results.
Dreamy brunette beauty with beach waves

Heat Setting and Heat Distribution Make a Difference

Heat settings on your hot tools can make a difference with your beach waves.

Have you ever curled your hair in a certain heat setting and your beach waves were limp and didn’t hold the shape well? Your heat setting might need to be adjusted.

  • For finer textures or highlighted hair, the heat setting can be kept low, 280-310.
  • For medium, straighter textures the heat setting can be set around 310-380.
  • But for the coarse, thick texture the heat can be set from 380-410.

TIP 1: While a low heat setting can help prevent damage, there are a couple of things to keep in mind. The first is you should always use a cream-based heat protectant. Sprays work well too, but cream heat protectants coat more heavily, preventing more damage when you’re waving your hair.

TIP 2: The second thing is it’s better to use a higher heat setting and remove the curling iron quickly from the hair vs. a low heat setting and let it sit on the hair for a long period of time. Likewise, with a flat iron, it’s better to have higher heat but fewer passes over the hair. Hot and quick is the way to go for the best beach waves. 

Friendly pensive brunette beauty with beachy hair

What’s the Difference Between a Good Curling Iron and a Low-quality One?

The difference between a quality iron vs. a low-quality iron comes down to a few things. Make sure to look at:

  1. The grip. The clamp of a curling iron or the flat iron should be just right. If it closes too tightly and grips too hard, it will pull the hair and damage it. If it doesn’t close over the hair enough, the shape won’t take well. Good tools have just the right grip.
  2. The type of material it’s made of. For thicker or courser hair, use a titanium iron. ceramic tends to be good for finer hair as it’s gentler in the process.
  3. Heat Settings. What’s important here is not just the heat settings and how hot the tool gets, but how many passes over the hair it takes to get it to either curl or straighten. If your tool is set at 400, there’s no reason it should take more than 1-2 passes over the hair to achieve the desired effect on most textures. If it does, it’s time to upgrade.
  4. How easily it glides. Chances are if you have used a curling iron or flat iron that was the low quality you felt the snag. It’s uncomfortable and makes you wonder, how could something get stuck while I’m siding it down when there’s nothing in the way? If you’ve experienced this, a sort of stuttered motion as you pull your flat iron downward, then it’s time for a change. The same goes for the curling motion. If it’s not smooth, it’s not “it.”
  5. Even heat distribution. Quality hot tools distribute their heat evenly across whatever hair they contact. Tools that do not do this, tend to overheat one spot of your hair. The effects can sometimes look like very limp hair that won’t hold its shape well. Or with flat irons, this can look like fried hair, especially on the ends.

Important Tips and Brands for Perfect Beach Waves

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Here’s a little cheat sheet of tips for getting the perfect beach waves:

  1. Use a cream-based heat protectant. The Brand I recommend for this is Kerastase. My favorite cream heat protectant is the Resistance in the teal bottle and it’s meant to be used every time you blow dry, curl, or flat iron. Plus, the smell is amazing.
  2. The fewest “passes” over the hair will keep it in the best condition. If you need to increase the heat, but do fewer passes over the hair and leave it for less amount of time on the hair, your results will be better and less damaging.
  3. Invest in something good to create beautiful, loose beach waves. Check out the Beachwaver, the Dyson Airwrap, the NuMe Octowand, Olivia Garden 1” Curling Iron, the Lo_Wheeler Davis Triple Barrel Iron, and the Triple Barrel Beach Waver   
  4. Gloss more regularly. That’s right! Instead of getting your gloss every 8-10 weeks, gloss every 4-7 weeks. It keeps the shine, helps seal your cuticle down, and keeps color fresher while you practice getting those loose, big beach waves.
Expressive young brunette woman with beachy waves
Tanned brunette beauty with beachy hair

About the author

Andrea Haynes, writer
Andrea Haynes
Hairdresser, Creative Writer

Andrea Haynes lives in BerwynUnited States. She isHairdresser, Small Business Owner, Creative Freelance Writer, and Blogger Assistant. Instagram.

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