10 Ways to Upgrade a Bun
Do It With a (Very) Deep Side Part
Not only is it easier than pulling strands straight back ballerina-style, but brushing your hair to the side will look less severe and more refined. Begin the line right above the highest point of your brow's arch, says hairstylist Mara Roszak, who created this look for Emma Stone. From there, drag the end of a styling comb back from the hairline at a slight inward diagonal to give it an edgy angle.
Sally Beauty wide-tooth tailed comb, $1; sallybeauty.com.
Add a Headband
If your bun feels blah, jazz it up. Chunky, embellished bands like the ones at the Dolce & Gabbana fall show look right with low buns. Simple, skinny versions are cute with high knots. For a modern look, choose one that's sleek (no more than 1 to 2 inches wide) and position it about an inch behind your hairline.
band.do crystal head wrap, $165; shopbando.com.
Skip Pins, Try a Spiral
Pinning long hair into a bun requires some patience. Simplify the process with an all-in-one holder. Just twist hair into a bun, then corkscrew this coil into your hair to hold the knot in place. Our trial run showed it blends seamlessly into thick locks and can help "bulk up" finer hair.
Goody bun spiral, $7; at Walmart.
Make It Messy
For tossed-off chic that goes beyond freeing a few wisps in front of an otherwise tidy knot, Miami hairstylist Oribe suggests texturizing hair with dry shampoo, then twisting it and holding the bun in place with French hairpins instead of an elastic. "It lets you put all your hair up in a really soft, sexy way," he says.
Oribe Hair Care Dry Texturizing Spray, $39; oribe.com.
Just Loop a Bunlet
For chin-length hair, start by pulling hair into a ponytail, then tease the tail for extra volume. Next, take a loop of the elastic and pull it down and over the pony, tucking ends of hair under to form a bunlet. Secure elastic—and hide any loose ends—with hairpins.
Weave in Ribbons
"It's way easier than it looks," says hairstylist Mark Townsend of the embellished twist he created for Jennifer Lawrence. Gather hair into a low ponytail, then tie a long strand of metallic trim around the base, leaving the ends roughly the same length as your hair. Then braid, pinning the plait into a bun. Feeling adventurous? Go for multiple braids.
MampJ Trimming multi-stone beaded trim, $30/yard; mjtrim.com.
Let It Gel
For big, glam topknots like Jennifer Lopez's, hair gel is a must, says Oribe, who works with the star. "It adds hold, plumps strands, and minimizes frizz." Let hair air-dry, then pull it into a high pony, and work through a cream gel like Oribe's Rock Hard gel ($36; oribe.com). Twirl hair into a rope, winding it around the elastic and pinning as you go.
Bump It Over
Tweak the position of your bun for a flirty variation, says L.A. hairstylist Kristin Ess. Part hair in the center, and then sweep it onto one shoulder before setting the bun behind your ear. If you feel lopsided, balance the look with a few face-framing tendrils on the opposite side.
Prep for Shine
Sleeker topknots look most elegant when they glisten. To build in shine (and prevent flyaways), work a dime-size dollop of an enhancer into damp strands before blowing it dry. A few passes with a flatiron will make it even smoother.
Dove Frizz-Free Shine Cream-Serum, $4; at drugstores.
Take Two (Or Three or Four)
Rachel McAdams's intricate updo is actually the sum of tons of little buns. To try a similar look, pull 1- to 4-inch sections of hair to the back of the head, twist into small buns, and secure with crossed bobby pins. "Use your fingers to loosen the sides and lift the top," says Town send, the star's hairstylist. "It should feel romantic, not punk-rock."