A finger wave is a method of setting hair into waves (curls) that was popular in the 1920s and 1930s and in the late 1990s in North America and Europe.
The process involves pinching the hair between the fingers and combing the hair in alternating directions to make a wave shape. A lotion was applied to the hair to help it retain its shape.
This style was eventually superseded by hair rollers.
However finger waving is still used as an effective way of teaching control of the hair in hair design. Most beauty schools still teach and test on finger waving because it teaches the student how to mold and direct the hair. Generally, pinching the hair is off limits because that creates unwanted sharp ridges. The technique of fingerwaving involves using the wide tooth side of a regular ruler comb, placing it into the front part line of the hair, holding the hair still with one finger and moving the comb over approximately one inch. Continuing this pattern around the head completes the design. A common finishing step is to place pin curls at the nape for added curl. The lotion commonly used to hold the finger wave in place is called wave set and is a suspension. It should be mixed properly and well shaken before use. To apply the wave set, use a wave set bottle and place the nozzle at the scalp for complete saturation. Continue making lines down the scalp in one inch increments until thoroughly saturated. Failure to completely saturate the hair in wave set may result in waves not staying where they are supposed to be or "holes" (gaps) in the design.