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Finger waves are an easy way to add curls to short hair, especially if your strands are too short to easily wrap around a curling iron. The finger wave is a vintage look that originated with the flappers in the '20s and stayed popular throughout the '30s. You don't have to be a mobster's moll to appreciate the beauty and simplicity of finger waves, though the technique requires some practice to perfect.
Start with damp hair, parted as you prefer, and thoroughly combed. Apply a dollop of finger wave lotion to no more than half your hair. Finger wave lotion dries quickly, and you don't want to have to reapply it to the side of your head that you didn't start with, since too much can cause white flakes when it dries. You don't want to look like you're the "before" model for a dandruff shampoo commercial.
Separate a section of hair about 1.5 inches wide and comb it again, trying to make the hair as straight as possible. Place your middle finger as close as possible the crown of your head and place the comb approximately 1 inch farther down. Holding the comb sideways to your fingers, comb back and upward, rather than straight down, bringing the 1-inch section up to your middle finger. Use your index finger to hold that ridge between your fingers.
To create the next wave in the curl, move the comb down another inch--without removing the implement from your hair--holding the comb vertically this time and combing in the opposite direction from the first wave. This creates the signature C-wave of finger wave curls.
Continue creating waves, alternating the comb horizontally or vertically and combing each section in opposite directions. Curl the ends of each section under before removing the comb from your hair. Repeat with subsequent sections until you have created finger waves all around your head.
Tuck hair into a hairnet and blow dry. Remove the net and either run your fingers through your hair or comb out the curls gently to create soft waves. Alternately, you can leave the hair as-is if you want a crisp wave. Set your preferred style with hairspray, if you choose, and enjoy the compliments.
If you have very short hair, create the curves in 1/2-inch instead of 1-inch increments.
At the halfway point, you might have to dampen your hair again before applying finger wave lotion to that side.
Finger wave lotion might also be called setting lotion.
If you don't have finger wave lotion, you can use mousse or gel. You will definitely need hairspray to hold the style if you aren't using the finger wave lotion.