How To Do A Perfect Messy Bun On Any Length Hair

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How To Get A Perfect Messy Bun In 12 Steps

28 August 2017
woman with low messy bun

Emily Arata

Senior Editor,

As an employee of L’Oréal, Emily works with celebrity stylists to make finding the right cut, color, or style easier than ever before. She's previously written for Allure, Elite Daily, and First We Feast.

Messy isn’t always a bad thing, particularly if you’re a girl on the go. In recent years, we’ve seen the increasing popularity of “cool girl” hair—basically, just hair that looks slept in as opposed to straight from the salon. Instead of the perfect blowout, every lady we know wants a messy bun.

We love the undone trend for a few reasons, the least of which is that it enables us to sleep in a few minutes longer. Instead of hopping in the shower to shampoo and condition, we can spend those precious extra minutes snoring into our pillows.

All of this is to say that the chic messy bun is undoubtedly the best weapon in your hair arsenal, especially if you’ve mastered the art of voluminous, day two hair. Lucky for you, we’re here to teach you everything we know about the art form.

Set tomorrow’s alarm twenty minutes late, because this style takes no time at all.

What is a messy bun?

The answer may be obvious, given the name, but the messy bun is a delightfully tousled take on your everyday topknot. Instead of tightly wound hair, wearers opt for volume and bounce.

Step 1: Collect your supplies

We usually find that even the messiest looks require a little effort and at least a few supplies. In this case, you’ll want to gather a loose hair band or elastic, a handful of bobby pins, a dry shampoo or texturizing spray, a bottle of hairspray, and a teasing comb.

Step 2: Prep your hair

For this style, hair that’s not freshly washed is your best option. You’re looking for anything to give your hair more texture, so air-dried locks are optimal (as is a little natural oiliness at the roots). Avoid anything that might make your hair smaller, so we recommend you fight the urge to brush it before starting in on your style.

Step 3: Add product

If you’re looking for a messy bun that stays in all day, you’ll need some product to hold it in place. Spritz either a dry shampoo or a texturizing spray throughout your mane, particularly focusing on the roots.

Rather than attempting to smooth the hair down, gently fluff it with your hands. Think of this as laying down the foundation for your hairstyle.

Step 4: Volume, volume, volume

The main difference between the way the average person achieves the messy bun style and the way YouTube beauty gurus do it is the volume of the hair involved. These pros know the trick to a truly great messy bun is size—the bigger, the better. Plus, teased hair is more stable than its silkier counterparts.

Starting at the roots, carefully backcomb your hair. Be sure to focus on the hairline and the top of the head, which will be the most easily visible sections of your ‘do. Once again, avoid the urge to smooth or flatten anything. You’ll be grateful for that bedhead soon enough.

Step 5: Make your ponytail

Using one hand to hold your hair and the other to guide it, begin making a very loose high ponytail. We’re talking about a tail that’s lower than a top knot, but significantly higher than a chignon. Focus on smoothing the base of the ponytail without squashing the volume you worked so hard to build.

Step 6: The first loop

Still holding your ponytail loosely in one hand, wrap a hair band around it and twist once.

Step 7: The second loop

Now, you’ll shape the bun. Before making a second loop with your band, fold the length of your ponytail in half. You should see a loop on top of your head, with several more inches of ponytail hanging free. Bring your hair band around this bun and twist. You’re getting closer!

Step 8: The last loop, we promise

With oversize styles like this, the goal is to avoid any gaps between the bun and your head. To do that, we’re going to use our final loop to help disguise your hair band. Take the end of your ponytail that’s hanging free and wrap it around the base. Then, loop the elastic around for the last time, making sure it holds those ends secure.

Step 9: Fluff your bun

By now, you’ll have some semblance of the finished product. It may not be quite artfully messy enough, but we’re getting there. Using your forefingers and thumbs, gently loosen the bun. Think of expanding it outwards, as opposed to trying to tuck it into the hair band.

When your bun looks close to the way you’d like, soften some of the hair around your crown and at the base of your neck. It should look casual and laidback, not like it’s tight or pulling on your scalp in any way.

Step 10: Pin any stray hairs

Look at your bun in the mirror. Are there any places where the band is visible, or where the relaxed donut shape isn’t quite right? If so, grab a bobby pin. Without yanking or tugging at the bun, carefully pin those sections down. Pins should face toward the base of the bun, so they’re not falling out as you go about your day.

Step 11: Make it messier

Thought your bun couldn’t get any more artfully disheveled? You were wrong. A key part of any lived-in hairstyle is pulling out face-framing wisps. We love to pull a piece out on the neck, as well.

Not to indulge too heavily in the early ‘00s nostalgia, but messy buns also look adorable framed by larger chunks from the front of the hair. If you’ve been growing out bangs, now is your moment to let them shine.

Step 12: Finish with hairspray

You’re the proud owner of a voluminous messy bun, one to make even the Instagram models envious. Before venturing out in the world, take a moment to give the whole style a blast of hairspray. Why spend all that time and energy, just to have your hair slip out?

Wait for the spray to dry, then you’re ready to take on your day.

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