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How to Get the Perfect Textured Ballet Bun for Class

Photo for Pointe.

Growing up, I had the worst time learning to master the "perfect" ballet bun. My poker straight hair was impossible to keep up and out of my face unless I completely slicked it back with enough hairspray to ensure I could never wear it down loose after class. Even if your hair is thick or curly, chances are you've struggled with getting your ballet bun just right. That's why on a recent photo shoot (stay tuned for the October/November issue), I watched as hair and makeup artist Sandrine Van Slee styled the models' hair into the coolest textured buns.

Using some tricks I picked up from Van Slee (and a few things I figured out on my own over the years), here's your step-by-step guide for a bun that will take you from studio to street! Plus, a few behind-the-scenes shots from our photo shoot.


1) Start by brushing through your hair and misting a dry texturizing spray throughout to give it grip. Van Slee used my personal favorite, Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray, $46, but I've found that Garnier Fructis Texture Tease, $4.49, is a great drugstore alternative.

2) Because this was for a photo shoot, Van Slee used a curling iron to add soft waves to the girls' hair before she pulled it back, but you can skip this step since it's pretty time consuming.

3) Use a paddle brush or comb to loosely pull your hair into a high ponytail at the crown of your head. Don't fuss over getting a perfectly smooth ponytail—Van Slee actually pulled (gently!) at the hair once it was secured with an elastic to get a more textured finish. Use a thicker elastic without any metal, like the Scunci No Damage Hair Ties, $3.84, to keep your ponytail in place without leaving an indent in your hair.

Van Slee's hair and makeup setup.

4) If your hair is fine and silky, blast the length of your ponytail with another spritz of texturizing spray. Or, if your hair is thick or curly and tends to get frizzy, use an anti-frizz spray like Living Proof No Frizz Humidity Shield, $22, on the length of your ponytail.

5) Twist the length of your pony into a rope, wrapping it around the base of your elastic and pinning it into place with u-shaped pins like Bunheads Hairpins, $7, as you twist and wrap. Van Slee didn't worry about twisting the hair before pinning it into place since the girls weren't taking class, but the tighter you twist, the more secure your bun will be when you anchor it in place with the pins. If you have layers you're afraid will pop out, wrap a Bunheads Hair Net, $3, that matches the color of your hair around your bun and pin in place.

6) Finish by misting your hair with L'Oréal Paris Elnett Satin Hairspray, $12.59, which will add extra hold and shine to your bun without making it impossible to brush through after class.

Van Slee and our model behind-the-scenes at the shoot.

7) Post-class, you can wear the slightly tousled knot as is for an outing with your friends. Or, pack along a brush and some dry shampoo in your dance bag so you can let your hair loose. The twist you created earlier, mixed with the dry texturizing spray, will leave you with undone waves. And the dry shampoo (sprayed throughout your roots on dry hair) will give the hair at the crown of your head a volumizing boost.

The Conversation
Ballet Stars
Angela Sterling, Courtesy PNB

Your teacher at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, Marcia Dale Weary, recently passed away. What impact did she have on you?

I feel deeply indebted to her. She shaped my life's course, and I know that were it not for her, I would not be living out my dream today. She led by example through her remarkable commitment to her work, as well as her genuine kindness and generosity.

You were a trainee with San Francisco Ballet. What was that experience like?

It was an exposure to different schools of thought. We were mostly in the full-lengths, and watching run-throughs of Sleeping Beauty and Don Quixote was revolutionary for me. But I was young and far away from home. That transition was hard. My body started changing. It wanted to be fleshy. Biology is cruel in that way. I desperately wanted to fit in, but it wasn't meant to be.

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