Long hair can hold all kinds of adornments, but a stick (or two) is a fast way to put up a bun securely. With a little practice, you'll be expertly styled in no time.
What to look for: A stick made of strong wood or resin will have good staying power. As for the length, "five inches to five and a half inches is perfect," says Ira Sage, a stylist at the Robert Cromeans Salon, in Las Vegas. Longer sticks look odd and can dig at the neck.
How to style: Gather hair as you would for a ponytail, then twist it until it forms a tight bun and tuck the ends under. Holding the bun with one hand, insert the tip of the stick through the bottom, pushing it upward through the middle of the bun until it just protrudes at the top. Next, flip the end over a full 180 degrees and push it down through the bun from top to bottom. Add a second stick for a more secure hold. Or fasten the bun with an elastic and use one or two sticks for decoration.
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For Short Hair
"Women think that if they have short hair they can wear only bobby pins and barrettes," says Karen Shelton, founder of Hairboutique.com, a beauty website based in Dallas. "But a headband will add definition and accentuate a great cut." It's also a good choice if you're trying to grow your hair out.
What to look for: For very short hair (one to three inches, like the pixie cut shown here), look for bands less than two inches wide. For longer bobs, thicker bands, wraps, and scarves also work.
How to style: The key is to create volume at the crown for a flattering "halo" effect that also keeps the band in place. As you blow-dry damp hair, use your fingers to lift the pieces on the top of your head. For even more volume, tease hair at the crown. Place the band just past the hairline, brushing any bangs to the front of it.
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For Thick Hair
A Decorative Ponytail Holder
Taming thick, unruly hair can be daunting, but an ornamental elastic will do the trick: It provides control and gives a focal point to all that volume.
What to look for: Choose a wide, snag-free elastic. If the band is so thick that it's difficult to stretch, use a thinner elastic first and place the thicker one around it.
How to style: When hair is still damp, pull it back and secure it low at the nape of the neck. "Working with wet hair will make it more manageable, because the hair lies flat with less volume," says Marc Anthony, a stylist in Toronto. (With dry hair, use a moisturizing styling cream for a similar effect.) Wrap the band around the hair until it feels secure but not too tight. Center the ornament.
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For Fine Hair
A Small Wire Comb
The greatest challenge for fine hair is finding an accessory that will stay in it. Wire combs, which are made of lightweight, paper-thin metal, are a great investment because they grab hair well and won't slip out the way tortoiseshell ones do.
What to look for: A 1½- to 3-inch comb will provide better hold than a larger one.
How to style: First, "dirty the hair up a bit with styling products," says New York City–based stylist Danilo. This adds volume and a slightly tacky texture, which will provide more "grab" for the comb. For a side sweep, mist dry hair with a flexible-hold hair spray, then brush out. Make a vertical part just before the ear to separate the hair you want to pull back. Holding the comb with the teeth angled to the scalp, sweep the front section to where you want the comb to sit. Reverse direction and secure the comb.