Hot take: The messy bun is the real MVP of hairstyles. The perfectly tousled topknot is the ultimate low-key, cool-girl updo—casual enough for yoga class, yet chic enough for a dinner date. Plus, it’s a great hairstyle for when you don’t have time to wash your hair but still want to look put-together, or when you want to keep flyaways and frizz secured if you’re on-the-go. Basically, it’s super versatile.
Of course, most styles that look effortless and just-thrown-together actually require a lot of time, precision, and practice behind the scenes. But not this one. Because we’ve put together an easy, step-by-step guide to creating the perfect, versatile messy bun that doesn’t just look effortless–it actually is!
And don’t worry, you can achieve the perfect messy bun no matter what type of hair you have. Whether you have curly, straight, or wavy hair, we’ve got the best tips and tricks on how to transform every hair texture into an easy messy bun.
Ready to master your own messy hairdo? Here’s the basic, go-to tutorial. These steps are suitable for all hair types that are at least medium-to-shoulder length (if you have short hair, check out these other style options). If you’re looking for more specific guidance, we’ll go into detail on how to form a flawless messy updo for each hair type later on.
No time to shower today? No problem. Not only do most hair stylists recommend that you don’t wash your hair daily (to preserve your hair’s natural oils), but messy buns actually work best on second-day hair because of the added texture. If you’re in need of some added tousle to your stands, however, a dry shampoo or texturizing spray, like ORIBE HAIR CARE Dry Texturizing Spray, will make any messy bun look extra carefree and casual.
The first step to any messy bun is to gather up all your hair away from your face and neck and hold it up at the top of your head. Sometimes it helps to flip your head down and tie your hair that way, so you can secure it as high up as you like. If you'd like, leave a few stray strands out of your ponytail to frame your face. Depending on just how messy a bun you’re aiming for, keep the high ponytail tied loosely and skip the brush—a few bumps will add to the relaxed look.
Here’s the most important part. Once your hair is gathered up in your high ponytail, twist your strands until they're taut. Then, wrap this long twist around the base of your ponytail (where your hair meets the back of your head) to form your high bun. Depending how long your mane is, this may take a few seconds. Feel free to wrap as tight or loose as your heart desires.
To keep your messy bun in place, tie a hair tie or elastic around the bun and use bobby pins around the sides for stray hairs. You can even spice it up by adding a fun scrunchie, a flirty bow, or patterned hair elastic to match your outfit and make it your own. The options are endless!
If you have curly or thick hair, there are a few adjustments you can make to your go-to messy bun method. Before step one, use a leave-in cream, like EVA NYC Satin Dream Leave-in Cream: it’s lightweight and contains argan and avocado oils to calm frizz and flyaways.
Then, since the standard twist-and-wrap trick in step two might not work as well for dense curls, try a structured hair elastic, like a donut sponge, designed for curly hair types. Place the donut around the base of your ponytail on top of your head, and wrap your hair around it for an easy messy bun that looks on-point, but secretly took no effort. Or simply loop your hair through a regular hair elastic once you've collected your hair in a high ponytail. Leave out a few stray curls for an extra-cute take on the messy bun.
If you have straight hair, you might need to add some extra texture to your locks so they stay in place in a messy bun. If your hair is on the flat or fine side, follow our go-to tutorial above, but with a few modifications.
Depending on how thin your hair is, a strong hair spray can be your best friend. Mist one all over as you style your pony and twist. Then, follow with a texturizing spray, which adds a soft textured finish to any look. For a looser messy bun, skip the moldable lacquer and simply finish up with a few pumps of hair spray to finish.
Think you don’t have enough hair to rock a messy bun? Think again. All you need to nail a messy bun with shoulder-length hair is a little dry shampoo, hair spray, and some bobby pins.
The secret to a perfect messy bun for short hair is adding extra volume. Follow our go-to messy bun method, as usual, but before step one, use a volumizing dry shampoo, like LUSETA BEAUTY Volume Reviving Dry Shampoo. Dry shampoo is known for adding a little oomph on dry hair, and this one smells like sweet flowers.
Next, after the twist-and-wrap trick in step one, pin up any stray strands that didn’t make it into the pony or bun with bobby pins, tucking them under your other strands to hide them. Finally, hold it all together with a spritz of hair spray.
The trick with long hair is fitting all your hair inside a messy bun while keeping it from flopping around on top of your head. So, follow our go-to steps, but add a strengthening hair care product for extra support and grip. NOT YOUR MOTHER'S She's a Tease Volumizing Hairspray is a great choice for maximum control: Simply spritz it on your hair as you build your bun for hair that will stay all day.
To keep your topknot from hanging too heavily or moving around, add a fun scrunchie to the mix, like these adorable oversized PINK PEWTER ones. Lastly, to smooth out any extra bumps or stray hairs that break free from your messy bun, use bobby pins for on-the-go touch ups and flyaway fixes.
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