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How To Get 180 Waves

If you’re a Black guy, you probably already have those eye-catching curls, but do you know how to get 180 waves? It’s that hairstyle with beachy vibes, rippling across your head. And it’s damn cool.

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What Are 180 Waves?

180 Waves really do look like beach waves running from the crown of your head to your forehead.

Black guys with curls that are 3c or tighter have the most success creating the look. It takes a combination of a good hair care routine and frequent forward-brushing with a bristle brush to cultivate 180 waves.

If 180 waves don’t sound quite like what you’re looking for, you might be thinking of:

360 Waves

360 waves make looping circles around your head – hence, 360. Sometimes they look like they’re spiraling from your crown to your hairline. Really, the only visual difference between 360 waves and 180 is that guys with a bald fade haircut have 180 degree waves by default, since they don’t have hair on the sides and back of their head to connect the waves.

720 Waves

720 waves curve vertically around your head. They kind of follow a Maypole pattern with the way the waves all converge near the center of your head. This hairstyle is rare – you’ve probably only seen examples of 720 waves on celebrities because of how intense the maintenance is, and how funky the brushing pattern can be.

How To Get 180 Waves

Unfortunately, 180 waves are not an overnight transformation. You’ll need to shake up your hair washing and styling routine to shape the waves over time. Most guys see noticeable, defined results in a week or two. But the longer you maintain your waves, the better they’ll look.

  1. Start with a haircut that works for waves

Waves show up best on shorter haircuts. For 180 degree waves in particular, you’ll need to talk to your barber about getting a taper fade haircut that will work with your head shape and styling preferences. Let him know that you’re trying to create waves, and he’ll hook you up.

  1. Stick to a regular washing routine

When you have short hair and want waves, you should wash your hair with shampoo 2-3 times a week, and use conditioner on a daily basis. 

Try to wash your hair in the morning rather than the evening. If you wash at night then sleep on it, your wet hair has a higher chance of forming funky waves that don’t follow the pattern you brushed.

  1. Use a hair moisturizer to start shaping your waves

Apply a water-based or buttery moisturizer to your hair while it’s wet. This is where the real legwork starts! For 180 waves, you’ll cover your hands with the product, then slick your hands forward from the crown of your head to your forehead. 

You can go straight forward, or follow a slight diagonal while you’re stroking your hair. Go with what feels right on your head, and what seems to follow your hair growth.

Some guys do up to 100 strokes like this. The warmth from your hands and the strength of the hair product will all prep your hair so that you can brush it into waves.

  1. Get in there with a bristle brush

Follow the same forward-stroke pattern to brush out your waves with a bristle brush. This is the real keystone to getting 180 waves. Do another 100 strokes or so, and brush again throughout the day when you have breaks.

Here’s the rule of thumb for choosing the right bristle brush: the thicker, coarser, or longer your hair, the thicker you want your bristle brush. If you’re still unsure where you fall on that scale, start with a medium brush and see how it goes. If you feel like the bristle brush is hurting your scalp, use a softer one.

You shouldn’t use a brush or comb with wide teeth for this step. It won’t create that nice uniform wave pattern. The bristle brush is non-negotiable.

  1. Cover your head

By the time you’re done with the hair product and brush strokes, your hair will probably be dryer than it was straight out of the shower, but still damp. While it’s drying, use a durag or wave cap to keep your head covered. This helps protect the moisture in your hair and keep your waves in place. A wave cap will go a step further and enhance your waves. 

If you’d like a more visual demonstration of these steps, GQ has a great YouTube Video where expert stylist Marcus Harvey walks you through the perfect after-shower routine for your waves.

How To Get 180 Waves With Coarse Hair

You can follow the same steps for 180 waves with coarse hair. Just keep in mind that you may need a thicker bristle brush or a shorter haircut for the waves to show. You may also need to brush more than the average guy.

If you’re struggling to get waves, it’s something I recommend talking to your barber about – he’ll have the best insight into what’s keeping your hair from waving. He knows your hair almost as well as you do.

Can You Get 180 Waves On Straight Hair?

Now, 180 waves are more popular and successful on Black hair, but some white guys with straight hair do manage to pull it off.

You’ll probably need to use a product to add volume to your hair, wash your hair more often, and brush until your hands are sore for it to work. YouTuber Josh Johnson, who specializes in waves, has photographic evidence in his “How to get 180 waves for straight hair” video that it’s possible. One of his Snapchat followers managed it.

Another option is to get a perm. It will give you curls instead of waves, but you can get your 80’s vibes on by brushing out the curls and getting crazy, voluminous waves.

How Do You Get 180 Waves Without A Durag

A wave cap is a good substitute for a durag. It’ll enhance your waves, with all the same hair-protecting and moisturizing benefits. But the reason most guys prefer durags is because they’re much more secure. Wave caps are notorious for falling off.

If the reason you’re looking for a substitute is because you don’t like the “durag line” in your forehead, make sure that you lay the ties flat when you’re securing them so that they don’t bunch up. And try wearing your durag inside out so that the seam doesn’t mess up your hair.

How Do You Shower With 180 Waves?

You probably have two different bathroom routines, depending on whether you’re doing a full shower and hair wash or just rinsing off. You can accommodate 180 waves for both.

To Protect Your 180 Waves From Water

The easiest way to protect your 180 waves in the shower is to wear a durag with a shower cap on top. This helps you avoid moisture and heat damage from hot water.  

To Wash Your 180 Waves

Brush while you wash! Lather up the shampoo and conditioner like you normally would, but brush in between while the suds are sitting in your hair. You’ll probably want a separate “shower bristle brush” and “regular bristle brush.”

How Often Do I Shampoo My Hair For Waves?

You can safely shampoo waves up to 2-3 times a week, especially since it’s a hairstyle that works best on short hair. If you have longer hair, you might only want to shampoo 1-2 times a week.

You’ll know if you’re going too long between washes if your scalp feels oily or dirty. Shampoo helps dissolve oil, and it bonds to debris so that you can rinse out bacteria with the shampoo.

You’ll know that you’re washing too frequently if your hair feels brittle or dry. Use more moisturizing products, and use less shampoo.

How Long Will It Take To Get 180 Waves?

180 waves are a hairstyle that takes patience. Most guys see noticeable results in 1-2 weeks, but the longer you keep up with a wave hairstyling routine, the better your waves will get.

It’s rewarding to see how crisp and sleek your waves will look after you’ve been brushing religiously for months.

Frank Edwards is a men's grooming & style expert who is "internet famous" for being able to simplify complicated grooming routines into easy, yet effective rituals any man can do. As a professional analyst, he has spent years researching the biggest brands, products, experts, best practices, and breaking news in the space. He takes this analysis, tests it out on himself, and then documents everything in his writing. As a result, his experience-based articles are considered by some to be the gold standard in men's grooming and men's style.