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Hair & Makeup

How to create the perfect messy bun

British hair stylist GEORGE NORTHWOOD has worked with both A-listers and royalty and is renowned for executing effortless, enviably chic messy buns. Here are his secrets for hair success

Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, the Duchess of Sussex and Tracee Ellis Ross – all pull off the messy bun with aplomb

London-based hair stylist George Northwood is the man Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Alexa Chung and Alicia Vikander rely on for red carpets and photoshoots; even Meghan Markle has benefitted from his expert hands. Northwood’s specialty is creating an uncontrived up-do that expertly straddles the distance between groomed and nonchalant – no mean feat. Here’s how to recreate the magic…

Get dirty

“Tight buns just look out of date,” says Northwood, who suggests working with day-two hair rather than hair that’s freshly washed. “You don’t want squeaky-clean hair because you’re after the shape that comes once it has been lived in a little. The loose and soft texture is what makes a bun modern.” If you have just washed your hair, however, you can still recreate some of that texture. “Don’t be too precise with your blow-dry; rough-dry your hair with your hands and then work a texturizing product through the lengths to create that same texture.”

Start a wave

Northwood creates even more texture by using a waving or curling tong, which has the added benefit of creating some shape around the crown. “A little height here looks really pretty, but again, you don’t want anything too precise, otherwise it can look contrived,” he says. Separate your hair into fairly large sections, a few centimeters at least, so that you create waves instead of tight curls. Begin tonging each part in different directions, leaving the sections of hair around your face until last. “Tong these sections away from your face,” advises Northwood. “You’ll be pulling a few of these strands free in a moment, and tonging in this direction creates the perfect shape.”

All about that brush

“Loosely pull your hair back into a ponytail, positioning its base where you want your bun to sit,” Northwood advises. A high bun can look a little severe, whereas a lower bun – the kind seen on the Duchess of Sussex – looks more relaxed and nonchalant. “Using a small comb or dressing brush, backcomb the ponytail itself so it becomes thicker. This will give your bun more substance, as well as something to secure your grips to.” Lightly brush over the sides of the ponytail to create a smoother finish, then twist the length around itself into a shape resembling a bun. “Once the coil is in position, secure it in place with grips the same color as your hair. I prefer to use grips instead of pins, because they hold the hair more securely.”

Find your frame

“With everything secured in place, you want to start pulling some strands of hair free from the bun. Loosen a few strands around your hairline and allow them to fall free so that they frame your face,” suggests Northwood. “The final step is to mist everything with hairspray.” Northwood’s hairspray of choice is from Redken, but any spray with medium hold and a non-sticky finish will do.


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