Tools Used for Finger Waves

Updated April 17, 2017

Finger waves, recognisable by perfect S-shaped waves featuring sharp, crisp ridges and softly curved valleys, have shown up on fashion runways since the 1920s. Unlike other styles, finger waves have changed little throughout the decades. Special thermal waving irons make forming waves more expedient, but most finger waves are still made the old-fashioned way: with fingers, a good setting lotion and a comb.

Setting Lotion

Wet sets require a good setting lotion. With all the talk of gels, mousses and waxes, setting lotion may not be a term you are familiar with. Setting lotion, also known as styling glaze, dramatically differs from these three styling aids. It is thick and liquid in texture. It does not flake when dry, and holds and forms wet hair into shapes and curls as it dries. The formula lends itself perfectly to the drying and comb-out process associated with wet sets. Gels crack and flake under the pressure. Mousses have a hard time holding wet sets in place. Waxes and sprays are intended for dry hair only. If you want waves, you need a good setting lotion.


A classic black comb, the kind with coarse teeth on one side and fine teeth on the other, is the only hair tool you need to create finger waves. The teeth of the comb carve into the hair and allow you to part, shape and wave with ease. Not any comb will do, and brushes do not work at all. The inexpensive black styling comb works best.


Finger waves get their name from the process used to create them. The waves are literally formed and held in place around fingers. The first two fingers of your left hand, or right hand if you are left-handed, are the two most important tools you need to create finger waves.

Thermal Option

Some modern thermal irons press hair into shapes similar to that of finger waves. The irons are quicker and can be used on dry hair, but they cannot create the sharp ridges and shine associated with wet-set finger waves. The irons possess two to three barrels and press hair instead of twirling it.

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About the Author

Kathy Mayse began her writing career as a reporter for "The Jackson-County Times Journal" in 2001. She was promoted to assistant editor shortly after. Since 2005, she has been busy as a successful freelancer specializing in Web content. Mayse is a licensed cosmetologist with more than 17 years of salon experience; most of her writing projects reflect this experience.