Everyday styles for long, thick hair
August 1, 2010 5:35 PM   Subscribe

Long-haired MeFites, please tell me what I can do with my hair besides put it up in a ponytail or tear it out.

I have had long, thick hair for many years, but for some reason, I have recently grown annoyed by wearing it down all the time. I don't want to cut it short, because I do like having long hair, I just need everyday styles to keep it off of my neck and out of my face.

Typically, I either tie it up in a ponytail (which eventually droops and looks sloppy because my hair's weight drags it down - I am constantly redoing it) or twist it up in a claw clip. Recently, I've been experimenting with twisting it into a bun and sticking chopsticks/paintbrushes/whatever's handy into it. It's okay, but it also tends to fall apart easily.

This is my hair from the back and from the side. You can see its length and the layering. Texture-wise, it's naturally somewhere between straight and wavy, and it's very thick. I think the layering is throwing me off, because styles that involve twisting (buns, chignons) always lets little pieces spring out and dozens of bobby pins need to be deployed.

Help me not tear out my hair, please!
posted by rachaelfaith to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (28 answers total) 102 users marked this as a favorite
I used to wear two French braids a lot (I like that look more than one).
posted by amro at 5:39 PM on August 1, 2010

Best answer: The Sock Bun
posted by Jazz Hands at 5:42 PM on August 1, 2010 [26 favorites]

Response by poster: I did see that question, lalex, but a number of the links were dead. The one link that I did find very helpful was to that hairsticks website- lots of interesting ideas there, although still stuck with the issue of layered ends sticking out all over.
posted by rachaelfaith at 5:44 PM on August 1, 2010

The only solution I've ever found is no more layers, I'm afraid. If you're willing to skip the "off the neck" part (like, in the fall) you can pull just the hair that would normally be in your face into a tiny flat ponytail using tiny clips. In the summer, I stick to braids, buns, and ponytails too.
posted by SMPA at 5:53 PM on August 1, 2010

Definitely pig-tail braids.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:00 PM on August 1, 2010

That sock bun thing is amazing. I had no idea.
posted by fiercecupcake at 6:04 PM on August 1, 2010

I love these hairbands, that keep the hair out of your face and off your neck, but still "down" ... but it looks very different being pulled back off your face.

(I wasn't sure what they were called, that was just the first site I found.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:04 PM on August 1, 2010

Best answer: My daughter has quite long, very thick hair, and she does this "messy bun" when she's wanting to feel all fancy. It does involve bobby pins, but that's party of the base process, and you don't really need all that many to get the right effect. After some practice, she can now put it up like this in about 3 minutes.
posted by drlith at 6:06 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

(Gorgeous hair!)

A quick fix that my long-haired daughter uses sometimes is to make a loose ponytail, and then... how can I explain this... she parts the hair on the head-side of the band and pulls the tail down through the gap created by the part. A little dressier than your average ponytail.

Like this.
posted by malibustacey9999 at 6:08 PM on August 1, 2010

Best answer: I have a similar hair situation, as well as a need to wear it up more often than not due to lifestyle considerations. FWIW, my hair is cut similarly to yours, is a similar texture and length, and I am in my mid-thirties. Keep in mind that with "doing up" long hair, even with a simple style there is a learning curve. Something that seems fussy the first few times could be a go-to as you figure it out and its hacks. Most up styles work a little better if your hair isn't squeaky clean, but if you're like me at all and have all that hair, you're not washing it every day, anyway. I have found that the most useful tools are: the cheap, no-pull, plastic elastics that are meant to be invisible; a large, slick, comb; the kind of bobby pins that come on a card; maybe pretty barrettes. Finally, I tend towards styles that are a bit vintage-y, but not Victoriania.

Plaits: braid your hair in two braids directly over your ears, use a center part. Do not worry to much about little ends that poke out. Cross the right-hand braid so the end goes over to your left ear, secure with a few pins; cross the left-hand braid, right alongside, so the end is over your right ear. Tuck in ends. You are basically making a braided head-band. Google Image "plaits" and you get a general idea of this dairy-maid look that can be done very neatly or in a messy way. Sometimes I fall asleep in them and wear as-is the next day and like it.

Double nape buns: Divide hair either in halves or in two with a side part. Secure with pins in two buns at your nape. Pin in a loop first--secure the top part of the loop with a couple of cross-linked pins to hold the weight, then start winding what you have left around. Looks best a little messy.

Double nape buns with braids: braid the front pieces of your hair starting from the part, pull into your double buns.

Low, pulled-through ponies: Make two low, nape ponies, secure with elastic. Then split your hair in half ABOVE the elastic, and pull the end of your pony towards your nape and through the hole above the elastic you made. You can google image "pull-through pony-tail," but avoid doing it with a single pony (too 8th grade), too neatly, or too high up on your head. Again, embrace the messy.

The pile: secure all of the hair on your head into one pony right in the center of the top of your head. NOT tight, keep things loose below, but don't go all pulling out wispies and curling them, since you are not a cast member on Dynasty. Grab big pieces of the pony on top and secure by pinning each lock about halfway down it's length to the sides of your head, pushing up a bit to form big, loose arches. The result should be a bun with all the ends purposefully showing. Add barrettes or a head band, if you'd like. Something like the blond in the last picture of this post here.

So those are my go-tos. Don't twist, don't pull tight, don't fight your hair's texture, don't get too contrived. If you want very neat, tidy, sleek, styles you're best bet is a salon, anyway. Also, what I like about looser styles is that if they have to be let down (like you ride on a roller coaster or work late or go out and want it down), you haven't pulled it into some precise configuration that will leave tell-tale bumps and lines--it will just come down in normal, loose waves.
posted by rumposinc at 6:17 PM on August 1, 2010 [3 favorites]

I put my hair up in a messy bun most of the time. It's too layered to braid correctly.
posted by sdn at 6:22 PM on August 1, 2010

Best answer: From the site malibustacy linked, I do the "barrette fold" although mine isn't quite so thorough on a day-to-day basis. I kinda tie a knot and then clip it down with a barrette or bobby pin (you can use very little hair, or a whole lot of hair). Easy and looks pretty, whether you take the time to make it all fancy like the site or you just tie and pin like I do. :)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 6:24 PM on August 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

To get my (long enough to sit on) hair out of my way, I roll it into a bun and use a medium claw-clip on either side to hold it in place. I just let the wispies do what they will (front of head as well as off the bun)--or wear a hat, or wear a hairband. A hat with a lot of room in it can hold all of my bun and contain all the wispies, like the soft Greek Fisherman hat I got last week. A baseball hat with an adjustable back can be opened, pulled around a bun or ponytail, and then closed again; this holds them in place pretty well and contains wispies.

I also do something that starts out like a bun at the top/back of my head, but once it's looped around once, I just stick the remainder of the hair through the loop like an overhand knot. Claw clasps or hairsticks, combined with tightly twisting the initial loop, tend to hold it in place pretty well despite weight.
posted by galadriel at 6:25 PM on August 1, 2010

Response by poster: I'm going to go butcher a sock in a few minutes, but wow, great ideas in here. I particularly like the messy bun and hiding the elastic part, as well as rumposinc's 'pile'. I should really get into braids more often- I used to be good at doing French braids and fishtail braids when I was a kid.

I don't own any of those small, clear elastics, though- it seems they're really useful. I should probably get myself to a beauty supply store and get those, and more bobby pins.

Where do bobby pins disappear to? I'm forever buying more and never finding any.
posted by rachaelfaith at 6:26 PM on August 1, 2010

Check out this flickr group for braid inspiration

I'm a fan of the asymmetrical braid, I braid my hair from left to right on a loose diagonal (above ear to below other ear) so that I end up with a plait over my shoulder.

Sometimes I have my hair out, but will braid the fringe (bangs?) so that it's out of my face.

Lately I've also been doing the french messy bun, instructions here. Howzat for Anne of Green Gables?

Oh, the layering. It's hard not to be annoyed by spiky bits, but I found the french messy bun to work quite nicely. Yes you need bobby pins, c'est la vie. I have thick straight Asian hair, so the spiky bits are super annoying.
posted by mooza at 6:33 PM on August 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

Goody Spin Pins are totally awesome. I've been wearing my hair up in buns all summer, and they don't get loose or fall apart. (They come in pairs, but I know people with especially long or thick hair say they work better using three.)
posted by LolaGeek at 6:34 PM on August 1, 2010 [6 favorites]

Use hair bands that are the "sport" type, with a little bit of rubber so they grip your hair. I use two, and sometimes even three, and my hair isn't nearly as long as yours. It made a big difference in keeping my hair up. Sometimes I'll make a ponytail, twist my hair until it curls into a bun, and use another hair band to hold that in place. And french braiding too, it's not that hard, it just takes practice. You've got lovely hair!
posted by lemniskate at 6:42 PM on August 1, 2010

Seconding Spin Pins. For the first time ever, I'm capable of managing a nice-looking bun or twist. Usually I just gather up the hair as if it's a ponytail, double it back on itself so that the ends are against my head, then twist the loopy part twice and fold it up towards the crown. One horizontal pin in the middle and one vertical pin from the top, and it'll stay all day as long as I aim correctly (which is very easy to do). I bought two sets so that I can make more than one bun, and also because freshly washed dry hair needs a little more hold. Very little annoying wisp-slippage, either.
posted by notquitemaryann at 6:42 PM on August 1, 2010

I have past-shoulder length hair but it's not as long as yours, but I'm becoming pretty canny at finding new ways to get my hair off my neck during this godawfully hot summer.

I'm personally opposed to simple single or pigtailed French braids and think they generally make people look dated (so early 90s!) or like they're extras on the set of Big Love. However, I'm a big fan of the new trend on the front braid, which comes in a variety of styles ranging from simple and whimsical to elaborate.
You can find instructions on specific updos, but if you know the basics of French braiding then you're 90% there anyways.

Also, while I adore the sock bun trick, I find the two pigtail version a little juvenile/Princess Lea-y, and aim for a single ponytail-cum-bun like Zooey Descanel's style in 500 Days of Summer. It's very sixties looking, goes great with winged eyeliner.

Also, you have tons of gorgeous hair, so just toy around with it for a spare hour and see what you get. I like to make a braid or two out of inch-thick strands, make a messy pile per rumposinc's link, and bobby pin the braids through the bun. On nights out, I like making a low pile near the nape of my neck after curling the brushing out my hair (so whispy strands are wavy, not corkscrews) and attaching a fake or real flower clip.
posted by zoomorphic at 7:34 PM on August 1, 2010

3rding Spin Pins. I've never been able to make a neat bun with my thick curly hair but these are totally amazing. Good luck finding them, though, I had to break down and order them from the Goody website because they were sold out everywhere.
posted by Fuego at 7:49 PM on August 1, 2010

One of the things I do is a ring sort of thing around my head. With shorter hair this means a vast number of bobby pins but with longer hair it's not so hard. Basically make two pigtails and twist them until they meet in the middle. From there you can keep twisting or put it in a bun or ponytail. It keeps the wispy bits under control.
posted by geek anachronism at 4:30 AM on August 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

The only barrette/clip I've ever found that's strong enough to hold up my waist-length thick hair through a normal day and even an evening of active dancing is one of these. I put it through a twisted bun, or one or two braids folded over like a French twist.
posted by nonane at 5:48 AM on August 2, 2010

Eyebrows McGee - that is the hairband of death! I would not recommend that thing. Maybe it's because my hair is curly but I tried it once and hello tangle city. Maybe it works differently on straight hair.
posted by mokeydraws at 8:30 AM on August 2, 2010

monkeydraws, I have very curly hair and it works great! I actually like it because I can unclip it and remove it without having to pull it THROUGH my hair. Maybe it's a difference of technique, I liked it better than almost any other method for keeping my curls out of my face without damaging my hair.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 9:11 AM on August 2, 2010

I had thick, very long hair that I had to wear in a bun for work everyday. I don't know how you put in your bobby pins, but there is a trick - you only want to grab a small amount of hair from the bun itself and then a small amount of "anchor" hair where you're placing the bun. It's easier to do this with a braid than a twist, but it's far more successful than opening the bobby pin as wide as possible (which often means it pops right back out).

I also recommend Xing 2 bobby pins across each other to hold them in place. I've done a lot of physical labor with my hair up in bobby pins and have never had them fall out on me.

I also use roller pins. They are more heavy duty than regular bobby pins.

And when you have a lot of hair, divide and conquer. I usually part my hair in quarters - an off-center part on the top of my head (more flattering than a center part, in my opinion) and then I make two more parts, one above each ear. I twist and loosely bun each section, pin them closely together, and done!

Youtube is great. Search for hair tutorials. I love this lady's.
posted by Tall Telephone Pea at 5:24 PM on August 2, 2010

I had long hair in my late twenties and early thirties (I'm a guy). For the most part, I used a ponytail because it was fast. I used elastics that were more fabric than elastic - according to a friend of mine, the more elastic they are, the more they break hair and the more fly aways you get. I concur. The fabric elastics wear out faster, though. I carried four in my pocket for emergencies. One thing that helped me with flyaways too was to condition the living crap out of my hair and get the ends trimmed twice a year. I had a girlfriend at the time who derided my choice of conditioner routinely as transference of her frustration that I have better hair than she did.

I always had problems doing braids because I'd drop a strand early. I worked around this by putting my hair in a ponytail with a scrunchie, doing the braid, then tying it off with an elastic and removing the scrunchie. It's also not bad to braid damp hair, let it dry then put it into a pull-back so it looks textured/permed.

I invested in the Klutz book of braids and bows. Fabulous. It was made for little girls to learn how to do interesting things with their hair. The pull-through braid is called 'pollyanna' in their book, IIRC. Apparently there is an updated version for more grown-up styles.

I found their rope braid (shown on cover) to work especially well if you used two strands instead of three and worked with your hair slightly damp.

Your hair would probably also work well in pull backs - where you only work with the hair on the top of your head (or the sides) and pull those back into smaller pony tails. Smaller pony tails means less weight which means the elastics don't fight as much force and stay in better.
posted by plinth at 5:34 PM on August 2, 2010

Late additional reply: yesterday I picked up a couple EZ Combs (at Sears for $5, not the price on the page). I've been having a lot of fun playing with them and it does seem like they can easily contain all my hair, even the wispies. It does seem to stay in securely, too; wore one over a bun out to feed the horses and no problems.
posted by galadriel at 9:57 AM on August 5, 2010 [1 favorite]

You might like Ketylo hair sticks. It's a similar idea to the two chopsticks through a bun, but the sticks are slightly curved into a corkscrew and you twist them a little as you slide them in (they're hand polished and really smooth, so they don't snag your hair). It's such a small little change to the stick idea, but it's amazing how much of a difference it makes. They hold your hair up really well. As long as I twirl my hair a bit and tuck the ends in a little to my bun, I don't even have stray ends sticking out. A friend of mine with really long hair loved them so much she bought twenty pairs so she could hand them out to friends.

They have some videos of different styles you can use them with here.

It's not really a new idea, just a bun, but it's the easiest and nicest looking bun I've ever had. Your hair has a similar texture to mine, so I think they'd work really well for you.
posted by mosessis at 6:08 AM on August 8, 2010

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