The sleek look is still prevalent in the moneyed precincts of Manhattan, but for a certain segment of the population, what has come to be known as “beach hair” (tousled, tawny, done to look undone) reigns supreme after Memorial Day. Even if one is nowhere near an actual beach.
Among its enthusiasts are Brett Heyman, 33, founder of the luxury accessories line Edie Parker, named for her daughter, Edie. Both Edies came into the world about three years ago, and that is when Heyman, with “definitely a lot going on in my life,” met Chris Lospalluto, a hair stylist at Sharon Dorram Color in Sally Hershberger’s Upper East Side location, who has since given her the unfussy, low-maintenance wave she seeks.
“I have messy hair to begin with, and it’s just a better version with Chris,” Heyman said, noting that Lospalluto works fast. “It’s not ‘Real Housewife’-y – that’s always the fear – and he always gets my references: the whole ‘I was surfing in Costa Rica for a month’ look.”
Heyman has since recommended Lospalluto to many friends, including Eleanor Ylvisaker, a founder of the clothing line Earnest Sewn, and Rebekah McCabe, who works in public relations at Chanel. Both now skip pristine blowouts in favor of wavy styling.
Lospalluto said he became the “beach hair guy” by accident, but he found “it resonated as an everyday style that was natural and was better than boring, straight hair.” And though his fee starts at $85 for a process that uses varying curling irons and heat settings, there is a certain lack of ostentation to the results.
“When they’re done, they don’t look like they went to a salon,” he said.
The beach wave, once a shrugging result of summer weather and activities, has taken on a certain artfulness: stretching year-round, coast to coast, and with surprising staying power. Indeed Oribe, the hair guru based in Miami Beach, tracks the laid-back style back more than a decade. “It came from Gisele,” he said, referring to the Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen. “But she has that hair naturally. It just dries like that.”
If you lack Gisele’s genetics, there is a cornucopia of sprays, mousses and creams aiming to tousle, tumble and clump. Perhaps the best known, Bumble and bumble Surf Spray, is a salty solution introduced in 2001 that the company said has become its No. 1 seller. It is expanding, with the addition of a Surf shampoo and conditioner arriving on shelves this month.
For effective beach waves, said Jordan M, an editorial stylist at Bumble and bumble, women must “own their texture” and resist the urge to overpreen. “I see a lot of girls trying to do beach hair, but it ends up ‘Barbie doll,’” he said, perhaps because the long-running trend has taken on polish over the years. This season’s waves, he said, are a balance between Alexa Chung’s (“It’s a little chicer than your typical beach hair”) and that hardy-perennial summer reference: 1960s Brigitte Bardot frolicking in the South of France. (“It has that dry texture but still has a full wave to it.”)
Jordan M uses both the Surf Spray and thickening spray, and a curling iron to create volume and roughness. “I’ll use a 1-inch iron and use it really loosely: I take big sections and I don’t do the ends,” he said. “It should take about five minutes; if it’s taking longer, sometimes you’ll get into trouble.”
The success of Surf Spray has since spawned other sodium-filled concoctions, such as Organix Moroccan Surf Paste ($7.99), L’Oreal EverStyle Texture Series Beach Spray ($6.99) and Sachajuan Ocean Mist ($28). That last one is favored by Erin Anderson, a founder of Woodley & Bunny, a salon and apothecary with locations in Brooklyn and Los Angeles, because “salt holds up with heat styling,” she said. Particularly in Los Angeles, Anderson noticed that the glossy “Khloe Kardashian wave” is in, which seems less Venice Beach than Hollywood Hills pool. “You see it a lot on the red carpet,” she said.
Many online commenters, meanwhile, mourn the discontinuation of John Frieda Beach Blonde Ocean Waves spray, a drugstore item that now trades on eBay for upward of $50 a bottle.
But perhaps such outlays aren’t necessary. When on beachside shoots for Sports Illustrated’s 2012 swimsuit issue or recently for Vogue Spain, Ward Stegerhoek, a founder of the hair-care line Living Proof, said he filled a spray bottle with actual seawater. “It almost acts like a form of dry shampoo,” he said. “The salt crystallizes and gives both texture and volume, and it’s softer than the products out there.” (Nowhere near an ocean? Lospalluto recommends mixing your own with kosher salt and water, using 1 to 2 teaspoons of salt per liter of warm water.)
Stegerhoek avoids curling irons (they make waves that are “too glamorous and unreal looking,” he said) and instead uses his Root Lifting spray for volume, before twisting hair up in sections and blow-drying gently.
He also imagines real beach waves as a product of the elements: wind, finger-combing in the product for a similar effect, and suntan lotion, which he emulates with a spritz of his Restore spray, to increase shine and fight dryness.
Parched hair is exactly the issue for Oribe, the Miami Beach hair guru. “Salt spray is drying and harming,” he said, adding that it can make the scalp itch, so it’s not an ingredient he uses in his styling line. “When I’m at the beach, the moment I get out of the water, I want to take a shower,” he said dismissively.
And so his sprays, like the Apres Beach Wave and Shine with a brilliant finish and Dry Texturizing with a matte, wispy effect, and a new clumping mousse called Surfcomber Tousled Texture, available in June for $37, are intended to enhance texture that is already there. “It’s much cooler to see a variety than to see the same wave on 20 women in a restaurant,” Oribe said.
Lospalluto uses sprays with and without salt, depending on hair density and texture. Come summer, he’ll give ends some weight by rubbing in Serge Normant’s dry oil spray or Shu Uemura’s new Touch of Gloss wax. He also cautioned against going too tousled.
“Then it becomes bedhead and it doesn’t translate to everyday life,” Lospalluto said. “Everybody likes the idea of a look that came off the runway, but for going to a meeting? Looking like you’ve just had a romp in the restroom is not appropriate.”