How To Pull Off A Slicked Back Bun
How To Pull Off A Slicked Back Bun

How To Pull Off A Slicked Back Bun

Classic and sophisticated, a slicked-back bun is one of the easiest ways to look chic in seconds – assuming you know what you’re doing and how to look after your hair’s health in the process. Here, two celebrity hairstylists explain all.
By Rebecca Hull

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Choose Your Day Wisely

“To achieve a slicked-back bun look, it’s best to work with hair that isn't squeaky clean. It should be three or four days since you’ve washed it, or a little bit greasy. This way, your hair will have better hold in the style.” Syd Hayes

“If you have to wash your hair and can’t bear that greasy feel, the slicked-back look can still work once you’ve shampooed. Just style the hair when it’s already wet and get layering. Start with a gel, then sweep on an oil to get that glossy effect. Use a wide-tooth comb to distribute both products evenly.” Patrick Wilson

Don’t Skip The Prep

“The slicked-back look can veer towards lank if you’re not careful. The key is to prep well. You want to only use products that give shine and hold. It’s also important to perfect the look by taking your time. It may look simple, but it requires some groundwork. If you get it wrong, you can definitely spot the snatch. If you’re starting the style on wet hair, apply a mousse, then layer up with an oil – or edge control – to boost the hair’s texture. If you’re doing this look on dry hair, blow-dry the hair in the direction you want it to fall. Then mist on a dry-finish hairspray to lock everything into place. This is where toothbrushes come in handy for minimising flyaways around your hairline. I often spray one with hairspray first, then glide it over certain sections to smooth down the bumps.” – Patrick 

Use Gel Over Hairspray

“I’ve recently become obsessed with R+Co’s Wall Street Strong Hold Gel. It contains hair nourishing ingredients like vitamin A and glycerine, both of which leave hair feeling nourished instead of spiky, flaky or crunchy. A pliable product is key because it means you can adapt and change the bun more easily, moulding it into your desired style. While flyaways are always annoying, using gel within the ponytail will keep them at bay. For Afro textured hair or super curly textures, you need to use different products, as gel will only enhance the curl. I love to use CRS Olive Oil Edge Control on Afro hair to slick it back and create a sleek finish.” — Syd

A PLIABLE PRODUCT IS KEY because it means you can ADAPT AND CHANGE the bun more easily, moulding it into your desired style.


Go For A Low Bun

“You can wear the slicked-back look however you please, but it works particularly well in a bun or a low ponytail. Why? Because it’s extra secure and looks neat. To get the look, pull your hair back into a low ponytail, then secure with kirby grips or a bungee hook. Spray the hairline with hairspray – or use a toothbrush to keep flyaways at bay. Now for the bun – if your hair is long or heavy, plait the ponytail before twisting it into shape. This will add extra support. Once you’re happy with its shape, use pins to secure it.” – Patrick 

Make Sure The Bun Is Tight

“Nailing the look comes down to the tightness of the bun and, unfortunately, it’s often a case of no pain no gain – though avoid this if you suffer with hair loss or alopecia. Make sure you really get the bun tight for that supermodel lift. Once the ponytail is in place, the key is to secure it with a strong elastic. I use 2mm cord elastic, which allows you to really yank and tie it tightly. To stop the hair pulling, make sure the pony is properly secured (use gel if needed) which will mean you won’t need to use any additional pins and the look will be more comfortable.” — Syd

Opt For A Middle Parting

“Always perfect your parting first for this look – decide on taking it centre or right off to the side. Blow dry your hair using a nozzle for extra smoothness, then mist on a buildable hairspray that you can work with to set the look in place. I swear by Sam McKnight’s Modern Hairspray as it never gets too sticky. Follow up with a pump of an oil or a serum, using your hands to guide your hair back behind your ears. Finish by securing your hair behind the ears – take two sections either side, pull them into the nape of the neck and secure with clear elastic bands. This way, it’s invisible and you won’t see kirby grips poking out.” – Patrick 

Stock Up 

“There are plenty of products you can use, but the one I’ve been loving for this look is JVN’s Air Dry Cream. It’s normally used for letting your curls or waves air dry, but I’ve been loving it as a setting aid. Use a small amount onto your palms and apply it around the hairline and parting before brushing your hair into your desired style. It’s quick and easy to use and never gives hair a lank feel or look.” – Patrick

Finally, Keep Your Make-Up Simple

“You don’t have to stick to rigid rules, but if I am creating this look for the red carpet, I’ll always pair it with low-key make-up. Whether that’s a winged liner, or just a red lip and minimal foundation. In my opinion, you don’t want a heavy base with slick hair – especially not around the hairline. Keep everything soft and natural so you can balance the two together.” – Patrick


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