There’s something alluring about hair styled in effortless-looking beach waves. There’s a catch, though: The style may look simple enough to pull off, but it’s actually a relatively hard one to master unless you have the right tool. Hair wavers are composed of three equally sized curling iron-like barrels that open like a crimper to press strands into the signature S-shape of beach waves.
To help you find the best hair waver, we tested the highest-rated products out there. During our extensive testing process, we found two clear front-runners: Hot Tools Pro Artist 24K Gold 3 Barrel Hair Waver(available at Ulta), which earned our Best Overall spot for its perfect scores across the board, and the Bed Head Wave Affair 3 Barrel Digital Jumbo Hair Waver (available on Amazon), which earned the title Best Value because it does nearly as much as pricier picks without sacrificing on performance.
These are the best hair wavers we tested ranked, in order:
Hot Tools Pro Artist 24K Gold 3 Barrel Hair Waver
Bed Head Wave Affair 3 Barrel Digital Jumbo Hair Waver
The Hot Tools Pro Artist 24K Gold 3 Barrel Hair Waver earned perfect scores in every category—build and durability, usability, and performance. From start to finish (and beyond), my experience with this hair waver was overwhelmingly positive.
For starters, the hair waver has a digital screen that allows you to see the exact temperature setting, so you can choose the right setting for your hair type between 200°F and 450°F and see when the iron reaches the temperature and is ready to use. The instructions provide clear guidance on the most suitable temperature ranges for different hair types. I chose to wave my medium-textured hair that falls about two inches past my shoulders on 350°F—a temp that was at the lower end of the recommended range for this hair type.
Like the vast majority of hair wavers, the tool is bulky and tricky to maneuver on my non-dominant side, but the button placement—the side on this particular model—makes things as intuitive as possible. It even has a lock—a dial you simply press down—so that you don’t accidentally adjust the settings while you’re using it.
When it comes to results—arguably the most important aspect of a quality hair waver—this one outperforms the rest. A single clamp of a 3- to 4-inch section of hair held for less than 5 seconds delivered instant S-shaped waves that held steady all day long, even after a lengthy and brisk walk around the neighborhood—no hairspray needed! I repeated that action two to three times down each section of hair and all over my head, which took about 15 minutes.
If there’s any downside, it’s that this hair waver doesn’t have a traditional kickstand, which means it sits relatively low to the counter when not in use—a potential concern if you have a vanity made of wood or another heat-sensitive material.
If you want to try the wavy hair trend without splurging on a waver, the Bed Head Wave Affair 3 Barrel Digital Jumbo Hair Waver is a great budget-friendly alternative.
Despite being less than half the price of our Best Overall pick, this hair waver scored impressively in the vast majority of tests. Like the more expensive pick, it has an easy-to-read digital screen that allows you to adjust the temperature to suit your needs up to 410°F. What it doesn’t have: a guide to help you settle on the right number for your hair type. This was the first hair waver I tested, so I chose 410°F because I find that higher temperatures usually provide the sleekest look for my hair.
This waver also takes longer than a few of the other picks on the list, particularly the Best Overall pick, to heat up, but once it reaches temperature, it delivers effortless beach waves in a flash. The resulting look is very attractive and holds up well, but I needed to use a bit of a softer hand, as the clamp creased hair more than I would have liked when I let the clamp fully close down on my strands. This could be attributed to the fact that this hair waver feels heavier all around.
This model has some nice safety features our overall winner lacked—most notably a kickstand and the inclusion of a glove to protect your fingers if you desire.
I'm Brigitt Earley, a lifestyle writer, and editor with nearly 12 years of experience testing all different types of beauty products. I have thick, slightly wavy brown hair that sits just below my collarbone. I love the look of beach waves, but I often default to straightening my hair because I’ve never been able to master the technique with the hot tools I had at my disposal, i.e. a traditional curling iron and a straightener. When presented with the opportunity to test a slew of products that all promised to deliver the results I’ve sought, I jumped at it. Was there something out there that could help me achieve the style I had always coveted?
I checked out best-seller lists across retailers and other editorial lists to find the top hair wavers on the market. Then, I put each one to the test, pitting the top-rated brands against one another to find the best of the best.
The testing process was straightforward: I evaluated the build and functionality of each hair waver. Then, I powered each one up and used it to style my hair before going about my normal daily activities to see how the look held up. When I finished testing all of the hair wavers, I teamed up with Reviewed’s in-house experts to score and weigh the results on a scientifically-calibrated rubric.
During the process, I considered a few attributes:
- Build and Durability: Does the hair waver feel sturdy and like it’s made to last?
- Usability: Is it light enough to hold comfortably? Does it have a digital screen or an alert to let you know it has reached temperature? Are the buttons placed conveniently? Are they intuitive?
- Performance: Does it get hot enough? Does it produce beach waves without much effort? Does the style hold up?
What You Should Know About Buying Hair Wavers
When it comes to hair wavers, there are a few things you should know that may influence your purchasing decision:
Design: There are two types of hair wavers out there: round triple-barrel wavers and deep V wavers. For consistency sake, we decided to only test triple-barrel wavers—the more popular type right now—as they deliver the tousled, S-shaped style of beach waves as opposed to crimped, zig-zag ones.
Hair Type: After testing all eight hair wavers, I’ve come to the conclusion that these styling tools work best on straight hair. If your natural hair skews wavy or curly (like mine), you’ll see the sleekest results if you run a straightener through your hair or blow dry it at least semi-straight rather than allowing it to air-dry prior to use. Admittedly, either of these extra steps adds to the styling time required, which is a bit ironic because the style itself is meant to look so effortless.
Cost: As is the case with many beauty products, costs vary tremendously throughout the field. The most expensive hair waver we tested was more than 10 times the price of the least expensive one we tested. But price doesn’t necessarily dictate value. Our tests show that the least expensive hair wavers were generally the poorest performers, but, for the most part, middle-of-the-road options were just as desirable as the most expensive wavers.
Other Hair Wavers We Tested
Amika High Tide Deep Waver
The sleek, black Amika High Tide Deep Wave Hair Crimper has a very easy-to-read digital display that shows you exactly what temperature you’re working with up to 390°F—a lower maximum temperature than most of the other devices I tested. That said, I tested my hair with that temperature because this was one of the first hair wavers I tested and there wasn’t any guidance available. At this temperature, the hair waver gave me a substantial wavy look that remained in place throughout my entire 9-hour-long day. The iron alerts you when it’s fully heated, and you won’t be waiting long, as this waver heats up fast—ideal for anyone who is often in a time crunch.
The waver also has some enviable safety features other devices didn’t—most notably an auto-shutoff feature, a high metal stand, and an included glove to protect your fingers from the heat. It also comes with a one-year warranty, so you can feel good about your purchase, even if it was the most expensive product we tested.
Though the Bondi Boost Waver Wand is a wildly popular product, it earned a spot in the middle of the pack because of its equal pros and drawbacks.
I won’t deny that it’s a highly effective hair waver that delivered the smoothest waves of any of the tools that lasted me through the rigors of my standard day—including light exercise. Its barrels are also very large, which allowed me to capture more hair at a time, decreasing styling time. The problem: The barrels make the styling tool much heavier and more difficult to maneuver than other models I tested.
Like our winning hair wavers, the Bondi Boost has intuitive buttons and a digital screen that’s legible. The problem: The temperature is displayed in Celsius. After reading the instructions, there doesn’t appear to be any way to convert it to Fahrenheit, which can lead to some confusion.
If you can get past those minor negatives, you’ll appreciate the overall performance and some of the added features, like the fact that you can lock the tool to a certain temperature and you can count on it putting itself to sleep after one hour—a great safety feature. For me, the amazing results this gave my hair weren’t worth the styling struggles that weren’t present with other models that also provided great results.
Though the aesthetic of a hair waver certainly isn’t the most important attribute, there’s no denying that the look of the Insert Name Here hair waver will lure you in. It’s slimmer and longer than other wavers and comes in the cutest pink and white color palette.
More importantly, this hair waver will give you the beach waves you’re looking for—even if you have straight hair that resists curls. That’s because this waver heats up to 450 degrees. And even on the highest setting, which I chose because my personal preference is to use a hotter temperature and the instructions didn’t provide guidance, I didn't feel like it was singeing my hair. I attribute that last part to the ceramic-glazed plates feeling smooth against my strands.
Where this device loses out is in the usability and durability categories. Though it has a great, easy-to-read digital screen and intuitive buttons, said buttons don’t lock and are placed directly at the base of the clamp, so it’s easy to accidentally press them during the styling process.
Also, the first Insert Waves Here waver I received was a lemon—it wouldn’t turn on, even after following the instructions to a T and trying multiple outlets. Though the replacement I got worked just fine, this gives me pause in regards to overall quality and longevity.
Slim and lightweight design
Heats up very quickly
Buttons don’t lock and are easy to accidentally adjust while styling
The Alure Three Barrel Curling Iron Wand is very comparable to the Insert Name Here hair waver that’s more than double the price. It’s long and slender, making it feel lightweight. Plus has a pink and black color scheme that’s easy on the eyes.
This hair waver also has a digital screen that’s easy to read, even though it is on the smaller side. The buttons are very intuitive, too, albeit in a position that makes them a little too easy to hit while styling your hair.
When it comes to overall performance, this waver lacks because it’s slow to heat up. And even when it got to my chosen temperature of 410°F—which I chose based on personal preference in the absence of guidance—it didn’t create waves as defined as those I got when using our Best Value pick at the same temperature. As a result, I noticed the S-shaped waves fell flatter by the end of the day.
The Conair Double Ceramic Triple Barrel Curl Styling Waver is the most budget-friendly hair waver we tested, but the value wasn’t quite there. It’s a decent hair waver, as it ultimately delivers an attractive style without much effort, but it’s lacking in some of the more user-friendly elements.
For starters, this hair waver is one of the only ones without a digital display. Instead it has three switches: “high,” “low,” and “on/off.” This means it's impossible to choose the most suitable temperature for your hair and it's difficult to know when the waver is fully heated and ready to use.
Beyond that, the hair waver doesn’t feel nearly as durable as some of the other options we tested. The buttons are also in an area that’s easy to accidentally toggle while styling your hair. Overall, it’s worth spending more to get better functionality..
The Revlon 3 Barrel Jumbo Hair Waver scored poorly in nearly every aspect of testing. It’s a very flimsy hair waver with an unusual clamp that makes it very difficult to maneuver through hair— I couldn’t even get a great grip on it.
What’s more, the hair waver has a very outdated set of controls that don’t quite make sense. Rather than a screen, there’s a big red "on/off" switch and a dial that goes from 0 to 30 in increments of 5. It’s not at all intuitive. Although the instructions offer some guidance on the temperature range to use based on your hair type, those numbers don’t match the increments on the dial.
The device also lacks any sort of safety features, including the most basic that every other waver included: a stand to prop the waver up on your counter between passes through your hair.
Brigitt Earley is a freelance writer and editor based in NJ. Her work has appeared in a number of lifestyle publications, including Real Simple and Apartment Therapy. She’s a new mom, runs an Instagram account full of the most delicious food she can find, and loves to hate a good barre class.
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