We asked stylists how to perfect the ultimate I-woke up-like-this hairstyle.
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Woman With Dog At Home with a messy bun
Credit: Ivan Babydov/Getty Images

There's nothing more cool-girl casual than the messy bun. Not only does it look effortless on all hair types, it's actually effortless to DIY. But of course, not every messy bun is created equal, and if you want your messy bun to look a bit more…intentional, there is an art to creating one. 

According to celebrity hairstylist Bridget Brager, the best practice is to use either a flatiron or curling iron to boost texture before each messy bun, or use either tool at the end of your style to add polished bends and waves around the face and at the nape of the neck. "These pieces are what make the bun feel unique, so don't be afraid to let them drop out and be seen," she says. "I love T3's Lucea ID ($249; amazon.com), and Curl ID ($249; amazon.com) hot tools, which allow you to set your heat settings based on your hair texture, length, and color treatments, reducing your risk of heat damage."  

Looking for the right messy bun for you? We asked hairstylists how to create a myriad of different messy bun hairstyles for every hair length and occasion.

1 The Classic Messy Bun 

To create this look, you first want to start on second-day hair. "Comb through tangles with a wide-tooth comb or detangling brush," says Brager. "Add a drop of oil to the ends and then a splash of dry shampoo at the roots to refresh and add volume."

Pull your hair up into a high ponytail and secure it with a hooked elastic. "There's no need to brush your hair into a tight ponytail; just leave it haphazard and bumpy in all the right places," she says. "You can also pull down loose hair around your face and use the T3 Curl ID to add polished waves." Set the barrel to the midshaft of the piece you want to define and twist while pulling the iron down. "This gives you a haphazard wave that's perfect but polished." 

Tap down unwanted frizz with a pomade or wax for hold, and grab the length of your ponytail and split into two sections. "Twist the two sections around each other, then wrap the twisted lengths around the base of the ponytail and secure with hairpins," Brager explains. "Pull apart your bun to make it big or keep it on the tighter side. Use a little extra texture spray or light-hold hairspray to finish the style!"

2 Messy Low Bun or Messy Top Knot

"To create the messy top knot, you want to first pull the hair into a ponytail at the crown of the head and fasten with a scrunchy, like ​​Kitsch Pro Satin Scrunchies ($8, amazon.com) or a bungee, like Kitsch Pro Bungee Hair Ties ($7, amazon.com)," explains celebrity hairstylist Jana Rago. "Separate the ponytail into two pieces similar to tying shoelaces, until you reach the end." Take the pony and roll it around the top of the fastened ponytail and fasten the bun with hair pins until it feels secure. 

For this look,  Rago suggests gently loosening thicker parts of the bun to accomplish the messy-undone look. "To help tame unwanted frizz, take one of your large makeup brushes and spray a flexible hold hair spray on the tip of the brush—use your makeup brush to brush the fly-away hairs around the bun without destroying the bun." 

To create this look with a low knot, simply part your hair in the middle or side, if preferred, halfway back to where your ear would meet the top of your head. "Sweep the hair to the nape of the neck using the same steps as the top knot and fasten with pins," says Rago. "If you want to accessorize this messy bun with a pop of color or texture, take a silk hair scarf, like UO Silky Neck Scarf ($16, urbanoutfitters.com) in some light spring colors and fasten it around the head for a chic, cute finish. You can also use a dark leather wrap for a night out."

3 Double Buns for Short Hair 

Got short hair? According to Brager, even those with short hair can rock a messy bun—or two. To start, use your favorite dry shampoo or texture spray and target the mid-length and ends for this style. "There's always an option to add a little bend or wave for extra texture and fullness," she says. "Next, gather as much hair as you can and secure in a ponytail on top of your head—create a mini loop bun by tieing off hair, but for the last loop, leave hair in a little top knot."

The ends are left out to be swept around the base of the loop. "Now grab your bobby pins and start haphazardly tucking pieces away around that base," says Brager. "Repeat these steps on your second bun by securing as much hair as you can to the back of the head or at the nape of the neck." Remember not to be too careful—you want to keep it messy. Add a little texture spray to finish.  

4 Messy Low or High Bun With Braid

First, using a comb, part hair down the middle and fasten into a low bun closer to the nape of your neck. "Start to braid the hair in your ponytail using either a scarf, ribbon, or cords of leather to again add more life to your messy bun and personal style," says Rago. "Once the braid is fastened, you can wrap it around the base of the ponytail to create a bun and fasten it with some french pins, like Glamlily U Shape Pins ($13, amazon.com)." If you want to achieve the braided bun in a high bun, sweep the hair up without the middle part. For both messy braid buns, gently loosen the thicker rounded corners for the messy effortless look.

5 Wide Bun on Long Hair 

To create this look, use a texture spray from roots to ends. "Create a middle part (it doesn't have to be precise) on the very top of the head and secure two ponytails on each side of your parting (like pigtails)," says Brager. "Once secured, use a brush to add light backcombing (for added volume) and texture spray on the lengths of each ponytail."

Now snake the ponytails around each other like a figure eight, and secure hair to the base of each ponytail. "Add extra texture by pulling the buns apart gently," says Brager. "Spray with a light hold hair spray to finish." 

6 Top Knot With a Middle Part 

Leaving two thick pieces of hair down around the frame of your face, bring the rest of your hair into the crown of your head into a high ponytail; follow your cheekbone using an imaginary line to the top of your head. Then fasten with elastic or bungee. "Wrap the ponytail in one direction to create a bun and fasten with pins," says Rago. "Then take the two large strands of hair and loosely bring it back so that you can pin it beneath the base of your ponytail—keep these strands loose if you would like, or you can pull them back tighter, but remember it's OK if there are bumps, as you don't want to have a sleek look with this messy bun style."

7 Bun With Curtain Bangs

Using the middle part, sweep the hair back, covering the ears so that you bring it to a ponytail to the nape of the neck. "Taking this pony, twist the hair and then fasten the bun using a bungee or hair elastic," says Rago. "Then, taking the ponytail and twisting it clockwise into a rope, take one hand and push it upwards on the shaft of the hair to create some flyaways; this is a trick that will help achieve that messy look once the hair is fastened in place." 

Take the ponytail and wrap it into a loose bun fastening it with some bobby pins. "To help lock the bobby pins more effectively, turn the rigid part of the pin towards the head, not opening all the way but just leaving enough for the hair to be scooped back," she says. "With the short strands that you left in the front, style the bangs or strands with some hair spray or product to keep the appearance of the bun soft and gently framing your face shape."