20 Cool (and Easy) Buns That Work for Short Hair

Those with bob-length hair can deeply relate to the struggle of waking up late and wanting nothing more than to throw your hair up in a messy bun, only not being able to do so simply because you don’t have enough of it. Don’t get us wrong, short hair rocks, but the messy-bun life is a life that can sometimes be missed.

The bad news is that creating buns with short hair isn’t quite as effortless as it is for those with many inches to work with. The good news is that it is possible. As long as you have an arsenal of dry shampoo, elastics, and bobby pins (the short-hair updo’s best friend), your options for buns are wide open.

We put together a roundup of super-easy tutorials with help from the experts, that will give you an adorable bun in five minutes or less, no matter your hair skill set.

Meet the Expert

  • Monaé Everett is a celebrity hairstylist, author, and speaker with over 18 years of experience in the beauty industry. She is the creator of “The Monae Life Academy” and the Texture Style Awards, the first hair competition of its kind, celebrating all hair textures.
  • Nick Stenson is an international beauty expert, celebrity stylist, and Matrix Artistic Director, a haircare company dedicated to providing professional-grade solutions for every hair type.

Keep scrolling for your guide to pulling off buns for short hair once and for all.


Boho Double Knot

Set of two low buns on shoulder-length hair

A dry shampoo, like Living Proof’s Perfect hair Day (PhD) Dry Shampoo ($41), or a great texture spray is the key to this effortless summer look. To start, evenly spray from mid-shaft to ends.

  • Part your hair into four equal sections, two on either side of the front and two on either side of the back. 


  • Take a section from the back and coil it around the base to create a bun. Secure with bobby pins. 


  • Repeat with the other back section. You should be left with two untouched sections up front. 


  • Pull one front section toward the back bun so it drapes over your ear. Coil the tail of that front section over the back bun, and pin in place. 


  • Repeat on the other side. 


  • Pull out a few face-framing pieces, et voilà!


Accessorized Bun

Olivia Palermo wears a low bun with colorful star clips

Hair accessories, like these star clips, are playful additions that keep flyaways at bay. “The most ideal style for buns in short hair are center-parted low side buns,” says Stenson. “These buns sit at the bottom corners of the nape and typically capture all the hair.”

  • “To achieve, prep hair with Matrix Total Results High Amplify Dry Shampoo ($20) and brush through. Part hair down the center and secure separation of sides with clip,” Stenson explains. 


  • Using hairspray, smooth the left section into a low ponytail at the bottom left nape and secure with a clear elastic. 


  • “Twist the ponytail from the end until it doubles onto the base of the ponytail and secure with a second clear elastic,” Stenson says. “Repeat this step on the right side of the head and finish with Matrix Total Results Miss Mess Dry Finishing Spray ($20).” 


  • Lastly, add clips or the accessory of your choice.


Center-parted Low Bun

Sofia Richie with her hair in a low bun
Getty Images

Another classic, and favored by performers (think ballerinas), parting hair down the center highlights the symmetry of the face.

  • Similar to above, prep hair with a dry shampoo and part hair down the center. 


  • Using hairspray, smooth into a low ponytail and secure with a clear elastic. 


  • Twist hair into a bun and pin with bobby pins.

While the same style of buns will work for varied textures and types of hair, Stenson always recommends adjusting your product selection to cater to the needs of your hair. For fine hair, use a firm hold spray and for highly textured and curly hair, reach for a lightweight oil for extra workability for the style.


Low Bun With Bow

Selena Gomez wears a low bun with black ribbon

Dress up a classic look with an even more classic accessory. You know what they say: The bigger the bow, the better the bun.

  • Brush hair into a loose ponytail and secure with an elastic. 


  • Twist into a bun and secure with bobby pins. 


  • Set the look with a finishing spray like Living Proof’s Flex Hairspray ($27). 


  • Fasten a bow slightly above the finished bun without hiding it.


Bedhead Bun

Gemma Chan wears a low messy bun hairstyle

Haven’t you heard? The low messy bun is the infinitely cooler, chiller sister to the topknot of yesteryear.

  • To achieve lift, lightly backcomb the hair at your crown. 


  • Gather your hair into a loose, messy ponytail on the nape of your neck. Just hold it for now; don’t secure with an elastic. 


  • Using your other hand, twist the ponytail around itself to create a bun shape, and secure with pins. 


  • Tousle the hair on top, and leave out a few short pieces in front for a no-frills bedhead look. You can also style them with a curling wand to make the look feel a bit more formal.


Sock Bun

Zendaya wears a classic low sock bun
Getty Images

Give off the illusion that you have more hair than you actually do with this sock bun look.

  • Evenly coat hair with dry shampoo and brush back into a ponytail.
  • Secure with an elastic.
  • As for the big finish, make a perfect bun every time with a little help from a hair donut.


Cornrowed Low Bun

Yara Shahidi wears a short cornrowed low bun hairstyle
Getty Images

If you’re looking for a relaxed way to wear your protective style other than a ponytail, consider a bun.

  • Gather your braids, twists, or locs in a ponytail and loop through to form a large bun. 


  • Allow some pieces to fall out for a more undone look.


Messy Half-Knot

Hailey Bieber wears a long bob with half-up topknot
Getty Images

This is the ultimate bun for short-haired folks, but it works best with unwashed strands for the best hold.

  • Create two parts in your hair on either side of the crown. Try to keep the parts straight, since they’ll be visible in the final look. 


  •  Pull the hair between the two parts into a high ponytail right on top of your head. Don’t pull the ponytail through the elastic on the final loop; this way, you’re left with a loose bun. 


  • Tug the bun to make it fuller and messier. If you don’t like the ends poking out of the bottom of the bun, simply coil them around the base and pin.


Half-Up Bun with Bangs

Charli XCX wears a half-up bun hairstyle
Getty Images

Highlight your blunt bangs with this easy half-up, half-down style that works with any texture.

  • Blow-dry hair with a blow-out cream like Oribe’s Straight Away Smoothing Blowout Hair Cream ($44) so hair is smooth. 


  • Similar to the look above, create two parts in your hair on either side of the crown. 


  • Pile the hair on top of your head and twist into a bun.


Braided Ballerina Bun

Kelly Rowland wears a short cornrowed ballerina bun hairstyle

An artistic look that allows you to rock two styles in one, a braided ballerina bun is ideal for those with natural hair looking for a way to switch up the typical bun.

  • While braiding or twisting, make sure to use a smoothing gel like African Pride’s Moisture Miracle Curl Defining Gel n’ Cream ($5). 


  •  Gather braids at the back of the head and secure them with an elastic hair tie. 


  • Twist the hair and pin it in place with a bobby pin.


Modern Milkmaid Bun

Emily Blunt wears a braided low bun hairstyle
Getty Images

This might be more of an updo and less of a traditional bun, but it gets the hair off your face in a chic way all the same.

  • Start by parting your hair down the middle, and split it into two equal sections. 


  • Back-comb the hair at the crown of your head to add a bit of extra volume. 


  • Create a French braid on one side of your head, starting close to your face and finishing it out so you have a braided pigtail. Secure with a clear elastic. 


  • Repeat the third step on the other side of your head. 


  • Pull the end of the first French braid behind your head, and secure with a bobby pin. 


  • Do the same with the end of the second braid so it overlaps with the first, and secure with a final bobby pin. 


  • Mist the braid with a medium-hold hair spray, like L’Oréal’s Tecni.Art Infinium 3 Medium Hold Working Spray ($28).


Classic Topknot

Jasmine Tookes wears a simple topknot hairstyle
Getty Images

If you thought high buns couldn’t be achieved with short hair, think again. Polished and effortless, meet this relaxed take on the topknot.

  • First, gather as much of your hair as you can into a ponytail at the very top of your head. If shorter pieces fall out, pin them up to the back of your head with a bobby pin. 


  • To make the topknot appear fuller, open the elastic and pull the hair up halfway through to create a loop. 


  • Take the excess length leftover from the loop and coil it around the base to hide the elastic. 


  • Secure with pins, and add a spritz of your favorite hairspray.


Braided Topknot

Moses Ingram wears a braided topknot hairstyle
Getty Images

A natural updo is even easier to achieve when the style is already in place.

  • “Gather the braids in the ponytail up to the top of the head,” Everett advises. 


  • Twist the hair down like a donut and pin in place. 


  • “To finish off the bun smooth the hairline using the African Pride Moisture Miracle Edge Styling Wax ($5),” she says.


Sleek Low Bun

Meghan Markle wears a low ballerina bun hairstyle
Getty Images

A simple choice for the office or date night, a sleek low bun is always a good idea.

  • “Angle the ponytail to the back of the head just above the nape of the neck,” Everett says. “Tuck the ends of the ponytail under and pin in place.”


Curly Bun

Kehlani wears a curly topknot hairstyle

“For short natural hair, hair above the shoulders, I recommend smoothing the hair while wet, adding a leave-in conditioner, and creating subsections of each ponytail,” Everett says.

  • Use a gel like the African Pride Moisture Miracle Curl Defining Gel ($5) to smooth the hair into a ponytail. 


  • Once the ponytail is created, you also can wrap your hair with a scarf or a hair wrap to smooth the shorter hair strands in place. 


  • Allow pieces and curls to spill over the top.


Messy Bun

Lili Reinhart wears a low messy bun hairstyle
Getty Images

Effortlessly chic and perfectly put together for brunch or an evening out, a messy style like this requires some texturing spray and bobby pins.

  • Spritz texturing spray all over blow-dried hair (two-day-old hair works better for grit). We love Oribe’s Dry Texturing Spray ($49). 


  • Gather hair in a low, loose ponytail. 


  • Twist, wrap, and pin your hair into a bun, separating into smaller sections if desired. The more displaced-looking, the better. 


  • Using your fingers, pull out some pieces at the crown for a slight bump of volume at the back of the head. 


  • Allow chunky pieces to frame your face, lightly spraying them with a flexible hold hairspray.


Midi Bun

Rihanna wears a slicked-back bun with wispy pieces
Getty Images

Look as effortlessly chic as Rihanna with a slicked-back bun that shouts cool girl. This is one of the rare moments the star and entrepreneur has rocked her natural, blown-out hair, sans extensions.

  • First, use a boar bristle brush like Denman’s Boar Bristle Ceramic Brush ($47) to smooth your hair back into a bun. 


  • Let a few of your flyaways and sideburns hang freely. Don’t worry about everything being in its perfect place. Using the brush, take a hardworking pomade like Hick’s Edge Control ($15) and swoop and smooth down your baby hairs. 


  • Using an elastic, pull your hair back into a ponytail. 


  • Take the ends of your ponytail and wrap them around in a coiled, twisted direction. Take a second elastic band to secure your bun.

For an extra-sleek finish, tie your hair down with a silk scarf for 10 minutes, then remove it.


Bantu Knots

Damaris Lewis wears a set of Bantu knots
Getty Images

Bantu knots are a great protective style for any length of natural hair, and it’s up to you how many knots you want in your style.

  • “Smooth the hair into several ponytails on the top and sides of the head,” Everett advises.
  • “Use a serum like the Biolage Anti-Frizz Smoothproof Serum to smooth the hair in the ponytail.”
  • “Finally, twist each ponytail and pin in place.”


Backward Braided Bun

Topknot hairstyle with braid detail up back
Getty Images

If you have piecey bangs paired with a lob or bob, this one is for you. Let your bangs hang loose and frame your face in the front.

  • Begin by parting your hair in the back into three medium-size sections. 


  • Braid three medium-size cornrows in the back, stopping at the crown of your head, in the direction of your ponytail. 


  • Next, create a ponytail. Once you’re finished braiding, use a rubber band or a hair tie to pull your braids into a ponytail. 


  • Using the ends of your braids and loose hair at the front, wrap your ponytail into a tight topknot. Don’t worry about extra flyaways. Remember, a messy bun is the goal here.
  • Finish off your look with a spritz of Sexy Hair’s Healthy Sexy Hair Smooth & Seal Anti-Frizz & Shine ($20) for a subtle shine.


Faux Hawk

Mirian Njoh wears a faux-hawk of natural textured buns

Give some edge to your style with an easy-to-achieve faux hawk.

  • Braid three medium-size cornrows in the back, stopping at the crown of your head, in the direction of your ponytail. 


  • Gather the braids into three to five ponytails down the center of the head. 


  • Roll braids down and tuck under. Pin in place.

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