messy bun tutorial

The Awkward Girl’s Guide to Creating a Messy Bun Hairstyle

Messy Bun Tutorial | How to do a Messy Bun

Messy Bun Tutorial

On Sunday, I… well, I’ll be honest: I couldn’t be bothered washing my hair. And then I got an email from a reader asking how I create that giant, messy bun thing that sits on top of my head, and if I could possibly do a tutorial. This is one of several such requests for a messy bun tutorial I’ve had over the past few months, and I thought, “Well, why not? It wouldn’t be the first time the blind had led the blind, after all!” And so it is that today I bring to you this half-assed messy bun tutorial. I call it “Messy Bun Head”. You are welcome.

Important Disclaimer:

* Clears throat * Before I get started, I just want to stress here that I am not a “hair” person, as those of you who make up fake names to tell me how awful my hair is can testify. I just make it up as I go along, and if I’m putting my hair up, I really just mess around with it until it looks vaguely presentable. I worked out how to do a messy bun on holiday last December, when my usual routine was turned on its (messy bun) head, and rather than washing my hair first thing in the morning, I was washing it before we went out in the evening. That left me with the entire day to get through with a head full of dirty, greasy hair (keepin’ it classy here, folks!), and lo! The Messy Bun Head was born.

I tell you all of this purely to make it clear that I am not claiming to be any kind of expert on this. I’m sure there are easier, better, prettier ways to create the same look: this is just how I do it, for the benefit of those of you who have specifically asked how to do a messy bun the Forever Amber way. So! The Messy Bun Tutorial! Here’s what you’ll need:

Messy bun

Messy Bun Tutorial: the tools of the messy bun trade

L-R: Hair grips. I swear by the Goody Spin Pin, which I’ve been using since the nineties, when they were sold as “Hair Scroos”. Yes, with that spelling. I KNOW. Goody recently re-released them as a the “Spin Pin”, however, and you can buy them in Asda or Boots if you’re in the UK, or Wal*Mart and Target in the US. You can probably buy them in lots of other places too, but those are the ones I’ve seen them in personally. You can also use good old bobby pins (I normally use a few of those too, to secure any stray strands of hair I’m left with) or any other kind of hair-securing measure you know of, as I will not be coming round to check you’re all doing this EXACTLY LIKE ME.

Comb. You’re all familiar with combs, right?

Hair elastic: And I believe you know Mr. Hair Elastic?

Hairspray. This one is Asda’s own brand, and is the probably only the second can of hairspray I’ve bought since I was a teenager, so I have no idea how good it is compared to any other brands. It seems to work, though.

Greasy Hair: I find this style is best done on unwashed hair, because if my hair has been freshly washed, it’s just too fine and slippery, and so the bun will be much smaller and less full of TEH DRAMA. In other words, it will be simply a Small Messy Bun Head, rather than a gigantic one. If you don’t have a handy head-full of greasy hair, there are probably lots of things you can use to add texture, thicken your hair up, and make it easier to style. I wouldn’t know about any of them, though, because I’m not really into hair products (See “Not a Hair Person” above. Actually, that image is kind of creepy, isn’t it? A Hair Person, I mean. Run, do not walk, from… THE HAIR PERSON!!!!!!!)

Let’s get started and make us some messy bunheads, shall we?

How to do a Messy Bun | Step One

Take your hair elastic, and secure your hair in a high ponytail. How high you make this will determine the eventual look. If you want the full-on, Messy Bun Head effect, secure your pony tail more or less in the centre of your head. For a more subtle, “coronet” effect, place it further back. You can also create a Messy Bun Head at the nape of the neck, on the side, under your arm…anywhere you have hair, basically.
how to do a messy bun

messy bun: how to

How to do a messy bun: begin with a high ponytail. Hai, ponytail!

(Er, I feel the need to add that the false eyelashes were for a review I was doing: am all about multitasking, you know. I don’t normally ponce around in false eyelashes on a Sunday. Sometimes I don’t even wear CLOTHES on a Sunday, to be completely honest.)

How to do a Messy Bun | Step 2:

Take your comb:

how to create a messy bun And backcomb like your life depends on it.backcombing hair

How to do a messy bun: backcomb. Like whoa.

(Things I Learned From Blogging # 392: it’s hard to take photos of yourself backcombing your hair. I’m sure you all know how to backcomb, but just in case you don’t, you’re basically combing your hair in the opposite direction you’d usually do it, i.e. working the comb from tip to root, rather than from root to tip.)

Again, how much backcombing you do will determine your final outcome, and the more backcombing, the bigger the hair, and the bigger the Messy Bun Head. For a more subtle look, just backcomb very lightly, to add a bit of body. You could also add clip-in hair extensions here, if you had them, or pad it out with old socks, or anything you feel like, really: your hair is your oyster. Or something.

Amber’s Top Tip: To keep the bun looking as smooth as possible, try to backcomb the underside of your ponytail only, leaving the front of the hair smooth. This is the part that people will see once the bun is complete. Once you’re done, your hair will look something like this:

easy messy updo

It was acceptable in the 80s, the 80s…

How to do a Messy Bun | Step 3:

Wrap the hair around the hair tie, in the rough shape of a bun.

messy bun tutorial

(Things I Learned From Blogging # 393: how to do a messy bun while also taking photos of yourself at the same time, GOD.)

This style is supposed to look messy (Well, d’uh!), and not too “done”, so you don’t have to get this perfect. If it was supposed to look perfect, I wouldn’t be able to show you how to do it, you’d need an actual Hair Person (OMG!). And, at the risk of repeating myself yet again, how you do this will… yes, you guessed it, effect the final look of the bun! If you wrap the hair tightly, it will create a small bun. If you wrap it loosely, it will create a larger one. I personally tend to go for a “The Bigger, The Better” approach, so I keep the circumference of the bun fairly wide, but that’s just me.

how to do a messy bun

“You! Know! You! Can! Do! It!”

(Note how my hair is changing colour from photo to photo. You’ll be pleased to know that this is NOT a requirement of this messy bun tutorial, it was because the sun was constantly going in and out from behind clouds, so the lighting in the room kept changing, and sometimes the flash would come on, sometimes it wouldn’t. I don’t have magically changing hair, although that would be pretty cool.)

How to do a Messy Bun | Step 4

Once you have your basic shape, secure with your hair grip of choice. Here, I’ve used four of the spin pins: one on each side, one at the back, and one right on the top, to hold down the shorter bits of hair which stick up. I find these will hold my hair in place all day, but obviously do whatever you need to here to keep it secure.

How to create a high, messy bun

At this point, your hair will be a hot mess, I’m not even joking. There will be bits sticking up everywhere, there will be wispy bits all over your head. There will be a weird bit sticking out the back:

oversized bun tutorial

A good example of how NOT how to do a messy bun…

You won’t want anyone to get too close, and you’ll be thinking, “That FREAKING Amber, why did I ever listen to her?” Your forehead will also be weirdly shiny. Oh no, wait, that’s just me. Don’t panic! And don’t come round and beat me up. It can be fixed! Simply return to your trusty bobby pins and comb, smooth down the hair where you need to and secure any rogue strands. Soon you will be feeling all warm and fuzzy:


“Oh, Gigantic Bun Head, I love you!”

(Er, I hadn’t actually done any of those things here, as you can tell from the fact that my hair is still a Hot Mess. I just thought it was a funny photo.) Finally, you’re ready for…

How to do a Messy Bun | STEP 5:


hair tutorial: messy bun

“Simply spray directly into the eye…”

OK, so this is a totally posed photo. Because yeah, like I’m allowed to use flammable liquids around my face without supervision: I DON’T THINK. I only really use spray to keep the little fluffy bits around my head down: the pins do the rest of the work. You may not even need to use a product at all: I will leave that up to you. And there you have it: A Gigantic Messy Bun Head, all of your very own! Awww! I think I’ll call mine “Clive”.

Now, I gotta admit: this isn’t one of my better bunheads. In fact, it truly is a Half-assed Bunhead, if ever I saw one. I was trying to do it without the aid of a mirror, and with one hand clutching the camera remote and THAT IS MY EXCUSE. I also didn’t ACTUALLY use the hairspray, so you can see that the fuzzies are still very much in evidence. Sometimes, though, that’s just how it goes. Some days, my hair just doesn’t want to be in a Giant Bunhead, and this was one of those days. I’m sure you get the idea, though, and it’s not creating the perfect Bunhead that matters, it’s, er, the taking part. Or something. Where is my wine?

Tutorial: how to create a messy bun

And they all lived happily ever after, with their giant bunheads…

OK, folks, it’s over to you. Go forth and create Giant Messy Bunheads of your own. A Giant Messy Bunhead Army we will be! P.S. Right after taking these photos, I took Rubin for a walk, and a wasp landed on my head and would not leave me alone. I am 98.72% sure it thought my head was its nest, true story.

And that, my friends, is how to do a messy bun!


Messy Bun Tutorial | How to do a Messy Bun

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  • maz aka MallyMon


    I don’t even think your bunhead is messy! My hair isn’t long enough now so I can’t participate, which is a shame. I do have my own method of putting my (almost shoulder length) hair out of the way though – brush or comb it through, scrunch it up at the back using both hands, clutch the small bun in one hand, then smartly put a large hairclip over said small bun, avoiding fingers of the bun-holding hand. (Why yes, that DOES look as messy as it sounds!)
    (P.S. I love your ‘so very drunk’ photo.)

    August 15, 2011
      • Ann Marissa


        “spray directly into the eye” literally dying reading this.

        April 26, 2014
  • Excellent. My greasy stalwart is the mini quiff fringe where you wrap it into a little tintin bump, plus a pony tail. I like to think it’s Gwen Stefani but to be honest I look more like Josh Homme.

    Anyway, I spent most of the entry transfixed by The Top. It’s lovely! Where is it from, if I may ask?

    PS – those eyelashes are amazing, I will be keeping an eye out at Hey Dollface…

    August 15, 2011
  • You have now saved me from having to wash my hair tonight as now I shall just do a half arsed messy bun head tomorrow! Will be sure to report back, although I don’t have a Rubinman to save me so it already isn’t boding well…

    August 15, 2011
  • Awww, lovely! 🙂 Great writing, and great photos, too – in these you totally remind me of Ms Hepburn (and in my book, that is a very good thing :))!
    I’ll have to see whether my hair is long enough for this, but I’ll definitely try it! Thanks so much for sharing!

    August 15, 2011
      • heehee thanks, but of course you’re most welcome 🙂

        August 28, 2011
  • Y’know, for you not being A Hair Person, this tutorial was better illustrated and more helpful than the majority of hair tutorials I see out there. Maybe wine is the key to successful hair blogging.

    August 15, 2011
  • You crack me up. Luckily, I have hair long enough to do this and thick enough I can do it with freshly washed and dried hair WOOT! Thanks!

    August 15, 2011
  • Unrelated to the topic of your post, I really like that breton (or breton-inspired) nautical shirt you’re wearing. Details?

    August 15, 2011
  • Amy


    Thanks for the tutorial – very nice photos of the process – can’t imagine how difficult it must be to stop along the way for documentation. And, once again, I must gush about your beautiful red hair, you lucky, lucky woman. Every time I see a redhead, I feel compelled to give a compliment, since it seems as a group, you tend to get more mean comments than compliments. The other day I was at the store with my husband and the young woman at the checkout had lovely red hair, and I told her so . And my husband says that she looked over at him and all of a sudden a look passed over her face, and they smiled at each other – because he has red hair, too.
    Just jealous, that’s me.

    August 15, 2011
  • Mia


    I didn’t know a hair tutorial could be so funny! I’ll definitely be trying this out.

    August 15, 2011
  • At first, when I read this, I was all “Well, it sounds good in theory, but I can’t even put my hair into a ponytail properly, so I highly doubt I’ll be able to manage something as complex and difficult as a Gigantic Messy Bun Head.” I’m not just not a Hair Person, I’m the exact opposite of a hair person. I’m like, the anti-hair-person. (Right when I typed that, I pictured myself in a sexy superhero outfit, fighting giant anthropomorphic hairballs.)
    But anyway, I didn’t end up with a Gigantic Messy Bun Head because I have the thinnest hair of any person ever. But I did get a Smallish Messy Bun Head, and it looked pretty good. And now you’re my hero because now when my hair gets greasy, instead of pulling it back into a deformed ponytail, I’ll do this instead.

    August 15, 2011
  • Can also be created on much shorter hair with the help of a hair donut (you know the ones – big squidgy net in donut shape that goes over the ponytail to add bulk). Just wrap the backcombed hair over the donut and pin. Job done!

    August 15, 2011
      • Depends on length of hair really. I thread the ponytail through the middle of the donut, then sort of arrange the hair over it, pulling sections from the middle and folding over to cover the donut…but I don’t really wrap it because if your hair is too long, you end up without enough donut to pin onto. It’s trial and error, really.

        August 16, 2011
  • Teehee. I love your writing style. Seriously I want to share a bottle of wine with you now. Also – NO FAIR gorgeous red hair!! I swear I have tried a million of these tutorials, and they never work on my sort-of-long, sort-of-short hair. Which is frustrating. But I will try this after I buy some scroos (ha!). So excited I found this blog!!

    August 16, 2011
  • Claire


    You look extra lovely in this set of photos (in a non-weird, non-stalker way). That lipstick really suits you!

    August 16, 2011
  • great tutorial! I wish my hair was longer!


    August 16, 2011
  • Rebecca


    Oooh, maybe I’ll shower tonight so that by tomorrow, my hair will be dirty enough to do a Messy Bun Head! That sounds much easier than fiddling with my blasted curling iron.

    August 16, 2011
  • You’re so funny, Amber – your blog posts are killing it lately. (That “drunk” photo is priceless, too.) I almost want to go and buy a wig so I can attempt this.

    August 17, 2011
  • I laughed so much reading this post! You’re hilarious!
    I really like your messy bun, and I loved your top…
    And I think that you gave some great tips in this tutorial in the most humorous way you could! 🙂

    August 18, 2011
  • This was soo much fun to read!! Loved this tutorial! Makes me wanna go find one of my clip in ponytails just so I can give it a whirl! LOL

    August 18, 2011
  • Lol your tag lines are fun! 🙂
    Really like the messy bun. At first I thought it’d be like all the constricted hair-buns doing the rounds. but this is really cool! Great job and Thanks for the post!

    Look who’s Wearing (LwW)

    August 18, 2011
  • Amber I love your Giant Messy Bun Head tutorial. Made me wish that my hair was long enough, as it is now I could probably only muster a mini messy bun. First time visiting your blog, and I love your pics and your writing style, you are hilarious.



    August 19, 2011
  • Great tutorial and awesome bun!

    August 19, 2011
  • KON


    I dun it!!

    First time i have sth bun-shaped on my head. I’m so lucky, i could cry. But admittedly, i needed quite a long time and now my arms are shaking. And i did thought of getting drunk …

    I tried to do a bun quite often, but this is the 1st tutorial to make me pass. All the others were like “do this and that, wooosh, tadaaa” and i just felt stupid for not getting it done. Well, now i feel like having a plastic-wig on my head because of hair-spray-abuse, but my hair is just so fine and straight.

    I would really like to see a donut-hair-tutorial, because my boyfriend told, this would look even better on me. And i’m confident in my hair-doing-powers as long as i have a tutorial by mighty Amber.

    (now i should get me a hair donut and some of these drill-pins, they look trustworthy)

    humble bows, KON

    September 2, 2011
  • Emelina


    Gee, thanks.
    Ugh! Haircut regrets…
    Step 1. Grow-out hair…. …. …. ugh

    January 8, 2014
  • Half-Assed Hair Tutorial: Gigantic Messy Bun Head Funniest hair tutorial I’ve read in forever.

    January 29, 2014
  • @mollyadaly This girl reminds me of you!

    February 21, 2014
  • Zoesox


    I just stumbled upon your blog, I luv it. And YOU are hilarious Amber & give great instructions. Will visit often, thanks for all the fun tips Lady!

    June 12, 2014
  • Jo


    Great tutorial, thank you. Do people really make unpleasant comments about your hair? There are some strange folk around. I think it’s wonderful!

    May 18, 2015
  • Becca


    Oh my dear lord…I could not possibly adore your writing style more!

    September 17, 2015
  • Samantha


    Thanks for the tutorial–you’re also funny as hell. Peace!

    November 11, 2015