Tight and tidy hair?
January 5, 2013 7:39 PM   Subscribe

Ladies with thick hair: what do you use to put your hair up? I'm looking for techniques and products that will reliably hold long, thick hair for hours at a time.

My 9-year-old daughter has very thick, long hair (about 4 inches past her shoulders). On school days we usually put it in a tight ponytail, sometimes 2 pigtails, or occasionally 2 braids. But all of these come out or come apart at some point during the day. Sometimes I also add a headband or clips, but haven't found any that work REALLY well. Any good products or techniques for keeping her hair neat AND tight? I use hairspray on her occasionally, but I'd like to avoid daily use of that, for obvious reasons.
posted by yawper to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (39 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Do you french braid? Getting good at a tight french braid could help.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:42 PM on January 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

When I was a kid, my hair was just a constant mess. Nothing my mom did succeeded.

Now that I'm older, I just end up fixing my hair numerous times throughout the day. One of the longest-lasting for me is a single side braid. Possibly a bit more mussed than you'd like, but I think they're adorable.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:43 PM on January 5, 2013

Response by poster: French braiding is not something I've mastered yet unfortunately, though I've been trying. If I got good at it, how long do you think it would it take me to do in the morning?
posted by yawper at 7:44 PM on January 5, 2013

Best answer: Try hairsticks! Also, be careful about repeatedly doing tight ponytails, as this can cause weakening and breakage of the hair. Another super-comfy but unusual looking option is a snood, which is really easy and doesn't damage the hair, but also looks pretty non-standard; it depends if your daughter's ok with that. (I think they look awesome, but I'm a 26-year old woman with "different" tastes and a life that allows me to express them, not a 9 year old girl subject to a classroom full of potentially vicious teasing).
posted by windykites at 7:45 PM on January 5, 2013

how long do you think it would it take me to do in the morning
Five minutes. The trick to getting it nice on thick hair is to do it while the hair is still pretty damp, but not soaking wet.
posted by DoubleLune at 7:45 PM on January 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

Putting her hair up while still damp will help it stay better. But kid's hair is often so silky it can be basically hopeless to keep it neat.
posted by psycheslamp at 7:47 PM on January 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Also, it will help to know if your daughter's hair is straight or curly for styling options and product recommendations.
posted by windykites at 7:47 PM on January 5, 2013

Best answer: my hair is longer than that (halfway down my back) and crazy insane thick, and my favorite way to put it up is into a top knot bun, which actually works best with long thick hair! i can actually just top knot a bun into itself if i have to thanks to my particular hair texture, but if i want it to have staying power, i either use bobby pins or goody spin pins to keep it in place. bobby pins put in properly will keep a top knot in place all day. if i make a tight top knot, bobby pins will keep it in place even through a night's sleep!
posted by lia at 7:47 PM on January 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

My hair was pretty much the same when I was little and my mom mostly kept it short, but when I decided arbitrarily to grow it out, it was usually in two long braids on the back/side/ish area of my head which she then tied together in a big bow at the nape of my neck. I still came home with pinecones in it though.
posted by elizardbits at 7:50 PM on January 5, 2013

Response by poster: Her hair is slightly wavy, basically straight, very silky.
posted by yawper at 7:50 PM on January 5, 2013

Dittoing lia's comment, if your daughter is cool with a topknot. I just twist my hair up, tuck the end through the "donut", and shove a pencil through it. Stays put all day.

The only other approach I've found is to pull my hair into a ponytail, and then add additional poiytail holders around the tail at several-inch intervals. Hard to describe. It sort of looks like a rope-pull or something when all done.
posted by nacho fries at 7:52 PM on January 5, 2013

Best answer: I have thick hair with loose waves and curls, and I put it up like this (not my blog).

The octopus clips made by Goody last longer than the others.
posted by topoisomerase at 7:54 PM on January 5, 2013

Seconding that she's 9 so there's not much you can do.
posted by greta simone at 7:55 PM on January 5, 2013

Best answer: Ficcare hair clips are great for thick long hair. A bit on the pricey side though.
posted by gnat at 7:56 PM on January 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Dittoing lia's comment, if your daughter is cool with a topknot. I just twist my hair up, tuck the end through the "donut", and shove a pencil through it. Stays put all day.

Yes, a bun is a good way to go. My 9yo daughter has thick, straight, very long hair. We use those thick ponytail holders from Goody. I will add to the above advice--my daughter takes ballet, and the kids are all required to have their hair in buns. The instructors use ponytail holders rather than bobby pins. One band to put the hair in a ponytail, and then twist it up and wrap a second band a couple times around the knot. You can be pretty haphazard and it will still stay. (Also this takes only a couple minutes.)
posted by torticat at 8:02 PM on January 5, 2013

Best answer: I have ultra thick hair and always used 3 hair scrunchies to put my hair up. (and I mean the over-sized things from the early 90s) Flip head over grab hair on right side of head - bunch up hair and tie, grab left side and bunch tie hair and on 3rd wrap of hair tie encompass the right side tied hair. With 3rd tie wrap both sections. This make a giant mess of hair on back of head that will not cause needless headaches. Also gives added bonus of people thinking you have so much more hair that you already actually do have.

I am also a big hair stick fan. Although there will probably be some rule against having lethal weapons on your person at school.

And one last thing I have done is what I lovingly call Who-Hair. 2 tight pigtails on top sides of my head, then spin those suckers until they tighten up and wrap around themselves. Secure with one more hair tie around base of each pony tail. These tall buns are awesome and they will not go anywhere. I have successfully worn these for several days at a time while camping and traveling.
posted by phytage at 8:02 PM on January 5, 2013

When I was younger, I had thick, waist-length hair. My mother often French braided it, either in one braid or in two. Sometimes I'd wrap the braids around my head like Heidi and apply bobby pins liberally. Once I started doing ballet right after school, I'd put it in a bun and just wear it like that all day. Pony tail in the middle of my head, braid the remaining hair, and then bobby pin it as I wrapped the hair into the bun.
posted by ChuraChura at 8:14 PM on January 5, 2013

Best answer: Hair sticks are fantastic. French braids, done when damp, are great. Also pulling it back in multiple scrunchies -- take one that grabs the top third of the hair, another that takes that and also the middle third, and a final one that grabs everything. Sort of like this, but without the parts. If you want the hair to be down, a few clips on either side will pull it back from her face. But generally things will loosen and your daughter will figure out how to fix things herself.
posted by jeather at 8:14 PM on January 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

i had long thick hair as a child and my mom put my hair in 2 tight braids high on my head while wet & with a bit of oil tied with ribbons that are braided in and tied at the end. this is similar to the way indian women wear their hair. also, strong butterfly/banana clips work.
posted by PeaPod at 8:27 PM on January 5, 2013

I cannot get most hair ties to hold, but there are some that I think Scunci makes that are much thicker around and basically *flat*, I think I've never seen them in anything but black, and they hold like woah. Things do loosen up a little eventually, but I just realized I did my ponytail at about 8am this morning, it's 11:30pm, I had a several-hour nap at some point, and it was a little loose but I hadn't redone it at any point that I can recall during the day.
posted by gracedissolved at 8:34 PM on January 5, 2013

The hair ties with the rubber edging stay put, but pull a lot.

But as a child with wavy thick hair, I gave up on anything staying in it all day. Even now there are days buns fall out or get headaches from the weight/tightness. I favour the topknot at the moment, or a side ponytail/bun. Bobby pins are rarely enough to keep my hair up on their own, or even in a bun.

Also, work out what is happening through the day. I hate it when I get out the door and realise today I need a hat but I have my hair up so it pulls and annoys me.
posted by geek anachronism at 8:55 PM on January 5, 2013

I learned to do my own French braids when I was 11, and they really helped hold up my hair. Bonus: they distributed the weight better around my head, so unlike high ponytails or buns which always gave me headaches, they hurt much less. Of course that was only once I learned to do them myself; getting yanked on by someone else who isn't aware of the tenderness of your scalp can be problematic.
posted by nat at 9:20 PM on January 5, 2013

When I was a kid I'd always use those barrettes that blend in with your hair color, because no matter how well I had my hair up, it would become messy by hour one and a complete disaster by hour two. Even then I'd need at least four and usually six of the fuckers.
posted by dekathelon at 9:27 PM on January 5, 2013

Best answer: You want these spin pins.
Much better than elastics to put thick hair up in a bun.
posted by msamye at 9:42 PM on January 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

What about a sock bun?
posted by peripathetic at 10:05 PM on January 5, 2013

Best answer: I have thick, long hair - and have had long hair since I was a young child. When I was a child, my hair kept falling out of whatever hairstyle that it was in.

One thing that works is not to wash it every day. Hairstyles, especially braids, stay better on second day hair. If you feel that it's icky, just rinse it every day with water but don't use shampoo.

The thing that finally worked was when I taught myself to do my own hair. I was 8, in second grade, so I guess your daughter could do it as well. I went to a sleepover with a bunch of friends, and we had the time of our lives doing each others' hair! There are several youtube videos on french braiding, plus I'm sure that there is a friend of your daughter's (or their older sibling, or parent, or a babysitter) that could teach her. Children learn extremely fast.
posted by xmts at 10:10 PM on January 5, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: I have liked the Goody Stayput elastics for tight ponytails that don't sag as much (ugh, that puff underneath), but they will tear hair out more than other elastics because the grippy part is all along the outside. I have stopped using them, but I suspect your daughter might be just old enough to learn to spend 3 extra seconds unwrapping them carefully to take them out rather than pulling them straight out. Although I just learned that in my late twenties so perhaps not.

There are Scunci No Slip Grip hair clips for thick hair--I have only used the ones with 4-5 prongs on each side but there are other styles. I spent an entire adolescence being jealous of girls who could actually twist their hair up with clips because it was totally impossible for my hair and I hate loose updos but these will hold all of it and keep it fairly tight. However, the rate of prong attrition is unfortunately a bit fast on these. I have some trouble finding them, but I believe I've had the best luck at Rite-Aid.
posted by zizania at 10:32 PM on January 5, 2013

Best answer: Oh, also, something about this variation holds my hair more neatly than a basic ponytail: do a half ponytail (with the top half of hair only, leaving the rest loose) followed by a low ponytail with all the hair, so that there are two elastics a few inches apart. I suppose it works because any short pieces get caught in the top one and the work is split between the two elastics. I don't do this hairstyle as an adult except to bum around, but I thought it was stylin' when I was a kid.
posted by zizania at 10:42 PM on January 5, 2013

As a kid I used to wear a version of the hairstyle zizania describes. part the hair in the middle. Comb the hair on that side back and grab a small section at the front and make a small ponytail pointing to the back of the head. Moving back slightly make another ponytail incorporating the first one + a new section of hair. Repeat going back in sections as small or as large as you need.
posted by oneear at 11:07 PM on January 5, 2013

Use two elastics?
posted by radioamy at 1:20 AM on January 6, 2013

I have long, thick and slippery hair, and it still wriggles out of just about anything, but a tight bun (I use a scrunchy to secure, or a hair pin) or a tight high braid, first turning the hair into a ponytail, and then braiding it, with another elastic at the end (so, two elastics, one at top and bottom). Sometimes it helps if you experiment with different elastic types, I have some that hold very well, vs some that are useless.

Is shorter hair an option?
posted by thylacinthine at 4:34 AM on January 6, 2013

You are using hair pins or clips in addition to scrunchies, right? The bits that come loose are coming loose due to gravity. So by securing the strands that normally come loose with pins or clips or what have you you greatly reduce the likelihood of them coming loose. Secondly, teach your daughter to fix her hair herself. She is plenty old enough to redo a pony tail or braid. And to secure any loose bits with hair clips for example and she'd probably enjoy how grown up it all feels.
posted by koahiatamadl at 4:54 AM on January 6, 2013

My daughter has very long, very thick hair and her go-to "lazy" style is a looped ponytail. First she gathers it into a regular ponytail (about medium high--neither on top nor at the nape). Then she gathers the ponytail into a single loop with the tail on the underside and secures the loop with a second ponytail holder. Takes 30 seconds, can do it in the car without a mirror, stays put through 3 hours of cheerleading practice.

And you can achieve the stay-in-place effect of french braiding without having to master the art through the use of the banded ponytail style. This is especially useful if she's got any layering in her cut.
posted by drlith at 6:27 AM on January 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My qualifications for answering this AskMe: I have incredibly fine but massively thick hair. Always have. My sister has the thickest hair I've ever seen, poor girl. I have spent a lifetime in search of just what you seek. I wear a ponytail to work EVERY DAMN DAY and for a long while, that either broke my hair or was so heavy that I got a massive headache from the pull. Here's what I use now...

A while back I bought some Suave elastics and while I can't seem to find them anywhere on the damned internet I went to my bathroom and checked. That little pack of elastics came with a free sample of Suave Tangle Free PonySox. THEY HAVE BEEN A GODSEND. They do not knot my hair, they stay tight, they are wonderful. I'm not sure where you can get them nowadays but be on the lookout when you shop the beauty sections -- they are black, feel sort of like sweatshirt material and seem very small at first but stretch easily. I'm going to stockpile what I have now and then petition Suave to make me some more.

Also, for prettier updos, which have always been the bane of my existence because nothing seems to hold up my hair, I use these: Goody Bobby Slides. 3 of them in a bun down low or on top of my head hold it all day without pain. When I want to look pretty I either curl it all up into a bun with those or put a couple big braids on each side and wind them into a bun. I absolutely adore those pins for what they've allowed me to do with my hair. My sister uses both things I mentioned and highly recommends them as well and her hair is even thicker and slicker than mine.
posted by youandiandaflame at 6:33 AM on January 6, 2013

Best answer: I second Ficcare clips! I found out about them from a long hair board online, and they are actually the best thing since sliced bread. I have worn my Ficcare Maximas literally almost nonstop since 2008, when I bought it. I have thick but fine/silky hair, and these definitely will hold it. She probably would need either a small or a medium, given that she is nine and given her hair length, and I would recommend the Maximas, which seems to be the one that most people use. It comes in different designs, like flowers or pearlized or about 10 others. I'm an adult, and I use a medium for my thick wavy fine armpit-length hair. They're ridiculously expensive, but for me, they're worth the investment, because they're the only thing that will hold my hair up reliably, they don't make my head ache like ponytails and butterfly clips, and also because mine has lasted for almost five years now without breaking (or really showing any kinds of wear at all) whereas I had to buy other clips several times a year. I don't know what it is about the design and the spring that works so well, but they really are unbelievably awesome - many ladies with long hair consider them their holy grail product. I would recommend your daughter try one on if she can before buying, just to make sure it works for her; it looks like Nordstrom sells them and they're having a sale, so maybe that's an option.
posted by UniversityNomad at 6:43 AM on January 6, 2013

Thirding Ficcare clips, but only if your daughter is responsible because they are pretty pricey (~$30). I've had mine for more than five years, and it's super strong and will probably last forever.

Also, see this previous question, where everyone pretty much recommends thinning it out at the stylist.
posted by hooray at 7:43 AM on January 6, 2013

Glad someone finally mentioned getting your daughter's hair thinned! I have extremely thick AND fine hair (so fine strands, but a whoooole lot of them), which makes it really hard to style - and when I was a kid, really hard to even brush. In fifth grade I had a tangle in my hair the size of my fist that no one could get out. My teacher was so concerned about my welfare that she called a conference with my parents and the principal, it was hugely embarrassing for all, etc.

Clearly you're not at that point. But you're running out of styling options, and at some point your daughter will want to do her own hair, which will mean french braids are out (unless she's super dextrous - I couldn't figure out how to french braid my own hair until I was like 20). Seriously, unless she's super attached to it, have a stylist thin out her hair. I still get it done every two or three months. It means my hair isn't triangle-shaped, I can wear it down - I can even blow dry it, though it takes 20 minutes (it used to take an hour), I use less shampoo. Thin it, thin it, thin it. She will have so many more styling options, and her life will be so much easier.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 10:29 AM on January 6, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Another vote for Spin Pins! My hair is waist length and straight and I have been amazed by the way the Spin Pins hold it up. I have two sets to I can make more elaborate styles but most of the time two work just fine. A bonus for me is that when I pull my hair up with them, it is secure but not tight so it doesn't aggravate my neck problems.
posted by wallaby at 10:30 AM on January 6, 2013

I'm Asian and have super thick, long (currently midway down my back) hair (and lots of it) and I agree with the person upthread who mentioned washing her hair less if possible. This seems especially feasible if she hasn't hit adolescence yet (often that's when hair and skin get oilier). I could never get stuff to stay in my pretty-soft hair and a year or so ago I started washing my hair less (there was an awkward period while it got used to it, but it was worth it and now it looks fine all the time) and one of the big unexpected bonuses I noticed was that my hair holds shape better now in general, both up and down. When I was younger and it seemed more my style to wear my hair up (I'm 30 and mostly wear my hair down while out, knotting it up only while bumming around the house), I was a big fan of aforementioned messy topknots, that segmented-ponytail-close-to-the-scalp thing, vaguely Leia-ish hair (two low mini buns/knots, sorta right behind and slightly below my ears), and the looped ponytail. The looped ponytail never stayed as well, but it's SO easy I didn't mind fixing it up when it'd fall apart during the day.

I love AskMe...totally gonna search out those spin pins and Ficcare clips. I've always loved the cheap version of those clips, shape and size-wise, but they've always been a total joke in terms of ever fitting in my fat hair.
posted by ifjuly at 2:17 PM on January 6, 2013

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