My updo is a downdo
June 19, 2009 7:22 AM   Subscribe

No matter how much I tease my hair, I can’t get enough height in my up-do. I think I just don’t have enough hair. What can I do about this?

I have wavy chin-length hair. It’s not what you’d call “thin” but I definitely don’t have a ton of hair either. I’m going to a wedding tomorrow, and am planning to put it up in a half-updo. I’ve been practicing this week and keep running into a problem. Here’s what I’m doing:

I part my hair at the crown, about 3 inches back from my forehead and pin the front section away. I then take the crown section and add a super-strong hold gel and tease it all around in sections, hairspraying each section. It teases well and stands up pretty straight. I gather that whole section and lightly comb over it to smooth it out till I have a nicely shaped bump. Then I use bobby pins to pin it in the back. My problem is this: the teased portion of my hair flattens out quite a bit. I feel like if I had something behind it (ideally, more hair!), it would stay up better. It feels like there’s not enough support.

I know there are things called Bump-its designed for this purpose, but the wedding is tomorrow and I don’t have time to order them. Does anyone have any other suggestions? I can buy different hair product today if needed...maybe the gel is weighing it down? (I'm not using a ton). hair is naturally wavy and poofy/frizzy, but I blowdry and straighten it each morning. These practice sessions have taken place in the evening, after my hair has been straight all day. Would I be better off 1) not washing it tomorrow (it’s already straightened today) or 2) washing it tomorrow but not smoothing/straightening the part I want to put up?
posted by yawper to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I have fine, wavy, shoulder length hair, and I got an updo for my sister's wedding from a pro. It took about half an hour and involved expertise, a little pain, and lavish amounts of hairspray -- not gel! -- plus whatever my sister paid her, but it looked good all day and into the evening.

You may be able to improvise a bump-it from a soft piece of fabric (e.g. a rolled up nylon) that is close to your hair colour, but is this really the venue where you want to experiment?

How about this: you'll probably get some great answers here and you can try out the techniques today. But just in case, can you check with a salon and see what they'd charge you for an up-do so that you have that option?
posted by maudlin at 7:35 AM on June 19, 2009

This takes practice, but it's cheap enough to try - go to a craft store and get some styrofoam and cut it with and electric knife to the shape you want it, and the curve of your head.

Also, dirty hair holds style MUCH better than clean hair - don't wash it in the morning.
posted by ferociouskitty at 7:36 AM on June 19, 2009

Best answer: Gel is definitely your problem. Hairspray is what you want. Tease the crap out of a section and spray the hell out of it with extra hold hair spray. Works best if you flip your head upside down and go at it from that direction. Plus, you need to REALLY tease it if you want it to stay. I was able to put my shoulder length hair into a beehive sans-extra support this past christmas, and that was because it was teased to within an inch of its life and hardly even needed the bloody hairspray to keep it up. No joke.

and yeah, don't flatten or shower it the day of. That'll help a huge amount. After you have the part you want up up, then you can flatten the rest of it.

also, what some salons use to prop hair up are little stryofoam balls. Super light, super cheap, easy to stick bobby pins in. You can cover it with panyhose so that there won't be obvious white sections peeking through but you may find you won't need one now.
posted by gwenlister at 7:42 AM on June 19, 2009

If you can get yourself to a beauty supply store you should be able to find a foam bun peice that you can use to create volume. You can also just buy some more hair! Also try panty hose (as close to your hair color as possible). And maybe a nice comb barrett to secure it.
posted by mokeydraws at 7:51 AM on June 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

They sell Bumpits at Walgreens, so you could check your local store. Also, try a volumizing spray -- I think most brands (TIGI, etc) make them, so you should be able to find one. One last thing -- try going to a beauty supply store and see if they have a Bumpit knockoff.
posted by bluefly at 7:52 AM on June 19, 2009

I have shoulder-length, fine, mostly straight hair, and when I needed an up-do, my hairdresser teased practically my whole head, but just at the roots of my hair, and then barely combed one layer of hair over the rat's nest. So, maybe you could tease a larger section of your crown and comb less hair over it?

I also use this root lifter instead of gel. It's as light as hairspray, but it's very strong. Also, I never "straighten" my hair with a flatiron, I use velcro rollers to smooth it out and give it height. (All of this advice presumes there's little to no humidity in the air, because if there is, my hair isn't going to do any of this.)
posted by gladly at 7:53 AM on June 19, 2009

Don't just try to brush up - bend forward and, using product (mousse or gel or hairspray or whatever, though hairspray is most effective foe height), brush your hair forward and down right over your forehead. Let it set a bit facing the wrong way, then flip it back up and proceed with the hair prep. Most effective if you have the patience to start with wet hair and gel/mousse and let it dry that way (you can pin it falling forward but it will be in your face).

This gets your hair pointing the wrong way, as it were, so when you start to tease etc. it will be naturally inclined to fall forward, so it has to pass through vertical on its way to pointing backwards. If that makes sense.
posted by Billegible at 7:53 AM on June 19, 2009

Buy a pair of trouser socks (the really thin silky kind) or pantyhose in the approximate colour of your hair. Fill a section of it with one of those fake hair pieces (you can get one at the drug store, but you will need to remove [scissors] whatever kind of clip it's probably attached to). Knot the ends of the stocking, chop off much fill and how big of a section of stocking you should use will be obvious with some experimentation. Use this as a rat (technical term) under your hair.
posted by anaelith at 7:54 AM on June 19, 2009

Most gels I've tried are water-based. For the mohawk look I wanted, a hairdresser gave me an oil-based gel to use instead.

Otherwise, standard gel is too heavy - hairspray is much more sturdy for this application.
posted by Sutekh at 7:59 AM on June 19, 2009

Response by poster: Wow, thanks everyone for these great suggestions. I'll try them out and see what works!
posted by yawper at 8:07 AM on June 19, 2009

I'd definitely suggest using ultra-hold, non-aerosol hairspray only, without the gel. You get more control that way, without weighing down the hair, and because it's non-aerosol, you're not going to accidentally blow part of your 'do flat due to the force of the spray.

Here's how I do it for the front of my hair (you may need to modify this method slightly to use it on the crown, but the same basic principles apply):

Tease clean, wet hair by blow-drying upside-down, combing/brushing the hair away from your head with one hand as you blow-dry with the other, then, once the hair is dry, flip your head upright, pat and lightly comb/brush the teased hair into roughly the shape you want it in (don't stick the bristles into the hair too deep, or you may cause it to fall flat), and lightly spray it, then shape some more with the comb or brush, then spray, then shape, and so on until it stays the way you want it, but isn't too weighed down with hairspray.

Starting with wet hair also has the benefit of helping the rest of the updo come together more smoothly.

I have very fine hair (under a microscope in high-school freshman bio, the strands were revealed to be about a third as thick as my lab partners' were) and I've been teasing the front of my hair every morning since I was about 14 or 15 years old using various methods. I finally figured this method out about four or five years ago, and have been quite pleased with the results ever since!
posted by limeonaire at 9:38 AM on June 19, 2009

You can also try pushing your hair forward to give you more height. After you've teased it and smoothed it down but before you bobby-pin it, push the hair forward and then pin it. It may take a little rearranging to keep the hair smooth, but will give you more height without having more hair underneath.

Agreed with the suggestion of just hairspray, all the gel is doing is weighing your hair down and probably causing it not to tease as well as it could without gel. Rave is really cheap and works better than more expensive options.
posted by kro at 10:14 AM on June 19, 2009

Okay, what you want is somewhat dirty hair with dry shampoo and NO GEL. That dry shampoo works wonders--it will poof your hair up like nothing else. If you have dark hair, just make sure you rub it in at the roots with your fingertips so it doesn't show.
posted by Polychrome at 11:28 AM on June 19, 2009

You are getting some great responses. I totally agree with the rolled up nylon (hair color) and the Bumpits. Great suggestion to buy cheap hairpiece. Drug stores have "pony tail enhancements" that have wads of fake hair. You could cruelly wad up the fake hair into a complete tangled mess and then your own hair over. Whenever hairstyles are really extreme, humans hAve used extra hair. A century ago, women had "hair catchers" on their vanity. When they cleaned their hairbrush or cleaned up loose hairs they would fill up a jar. When the jar was full, they would stuff the hair into a silk stocking. The result was charmingly called a rat. The Gibson Girl hairstyles from the 1900s required a dozen rats. And the Bond Girls and Mods??? All fake hair.
posted by ohshenandoah at 2:28 PM on June 19, 2009

Here is a video I just remembered seeing ages ago, which should help you a lot. Magic keywords "Amy Winehouse" should probably make your hair a bit smaller than that, though. (And hopefully by now you already have supplies for this, but really you should be able to improvise something.)
posted by anaelith at 6:27 PM on June 19, 2009

Response by poster: In case this ever comes up on a search, I'm writing a followup to let you know what I did:

- didn't wash it - this helped a TON. It styled much easier and held the tease better.
- tried a rat made of a trouser sock stuffed with a small scarf -- it added nice height but I couldn't quite get my hair to fall smoothly over it. I ended up not using it but will try it again in the future.
- bought a stronger hairspray and used lots of it. Didn't use gel.
- bought a pretty butterfly clip that matched my outfit and used it to hold my hair in the "pushed up" position.

Turned out very nice! Thanks for all the advice.
posted by yawper at 9:42 AM on July 22, 2009

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