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How to Do a Perfect Bun for Ballet Dancers - an Easy, Step by Step Picture Guide

Updated on July 13, 2013

Start with Combed Damp Hair

How to Begin

1. Start off with Damp or Wet Hair: This is very crucial, because it helps to keep the strands together and easier to manage. Right after a bath or shower is the best time to style the hair. Or you can use a small water bottle (purchase one inexpensively at the pharmacy or beauty supply store).

If you have any knots or tangles, be sure to remove them using a detangler or leave-in conditioner, and a wide-tooth comb or a brush that has wide bristles. Note: You may want to sit your little ballerina in front of the t.v. for this step!

2. Using a fine-tooth comb, make a neat top or side part. Now go through the hair, making it as flat as possible. Take care to put it behind the ears, and comb in a downward motion.

One Hand Holds Ponytail - Other Hand Raking Hair Back

High Ponytail

Have Help Pulling Hair Through Elastic

Put the Into a High Ponytail

3) Gather the hair together into a high ponytail. Use one hand to hold it up and back, while simultaneously using the fingers of your other hand to "rake" the it up higher. See my picture to the right for a demonstration of how to do this. If this technique does not work, then have your daughter bend and carefully flip her hair down, over the back of her head. Then gather everything up while it's upside down.

A tip: If your dancer's hair is really long, wavy or thick, then have her pull the ends of the ponytail through the elastic, while you hold tight to the holder (see picture just below). This will prevent excess pulling.

Note: Decide if you want (or need) to have the bun very high on top of the head, medium-high or lower (at the nape of the neck). Some classes and/or performances have specific requirements for this. If not, then the placement is simply a matter of individual taste (yours and that of your girl's). One of my daughters likes her bun at the top back, while the other one prefers hers lower down, at the middle of the back of the head. And I believe that one at the very top looks the prettiest!

Apply Gel

Put Gel on Top and Sides of Hair

4) Control the wisps of hair by using gel. Now put a small amount of gel or other setting lotion in the palm of your hand. Rub your hands together and then use both hands to smooth the strays, going from your girl's face, to the back of the head. Then use the comb to re-flatten the wisps. I like to actually take out the elastic band and re-do the ponytail, to help secure all of the short strands. (It will be much easier to do the elastic again. Just be sure to take it out carefully, to avoid pulling.)

A word about the gel: One of my favorites is CVS' basic gel, because it is inexpensive and it has just the right amount of thickness and hold. It comes in a black tube and it costs $1.99. Many dancers like "dippity do."


Twist & Coil

5) Twist the ponytail tightly from the top to the bottom, and wrap it into a tight coil: The most important thing to remember is to make this very tight. Have your girl hold the coil firmly against her head when you are first wrapping it into the circle. Then put in the bobby pins. I have shown these steps directly to the right:

Put in Bobby Pins & Cover It Up

Hair Nets (Bun Holders)

Finish Coiling & Put on Bun Holder

6) Keep coiling the hair until it is completely wrapped around in a tight circle. Put in as many bobby pins as it takes to hold this firmly to the head. Do not worry if the end pieces are not twisted; just pin them to the bun. Now put a bun holder over the coil. Many dancers like to use a product called "bun holders" (available at local drugstores, dance shops and even some supermarkets). I recommend using these if your daughter's hair is very wispy or if it has many layers. These holders are very stretchy: Pull them apart to make them large enough to easily fit over the coil, then twist and wrap and put over the bun again. Place several bobby pins around the edge to keep it in place.

Also: Some people like to use the pretty, colorful holders that are sold at specialty shops.

Hair Spray

Spray with Hairspray

7) Spray with hairspray and you're done! I prefer to use pump sprays, because aerosol is not good for people, especially children. Make sure to have your ballerina close her eyes and hold her breath first. Sauve makes a really good, spray with excellent holding power, and a good smell, too.

Final Result


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    • Austinstar profile image

      Lela 4 years ago from Somewhere in the universe

      I always wondered how to get that polished look!