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Buns and Braids

What a summer we are having friends. They say April is the cruelest month, but I’d vote for August with this heat and humidity. Even when the temps aren’t so high, the weight of moisture in the air may drive those of us with longer locks to the hairdresser for a chop. But if you want to keep that length going into fall, consider a few hot-weather-friendly bun and braid hairstyles to keep you looking and feeling cool for the rest of the season.

A tight, low bun is a chic and versatile hair look to beat the heat. Start with dry hair and add hair oil for a finish. Then, take a fine-tooth comb to create a sharp center part, pull the hair back into a low ponytail, and secure it tightly with an elastic. Wrap or twist the hair around the elastic to create a bun, and use bobby pins to hold it in place. You can also use a styling gel in lieu of oil, but I prefer an oil since many include ingredients like soy protein and peptides to nurture hair. Set with extra-firm hairspray to combat frizz. Not a fan of the center part? You can still achieve the low bun with a side part; just be sure it’s a clean part for maximum effect.

Very similar to the tight, low bun is the low slicked-back twisted bun. This is another sleek style that starts with a low pony at the back of your head. Then twist your hair clockwise all the way down and style it with either a classic or a more intricate bun shape of your choosing. This is a great style for longer hair, but the key is to twist all the way down your pony and keep your twist tight, or else hair will get loose, and the style looks less “bun” and more a mess in a hair tie. Styling cream will also help you keep those loose strands from straying.

Similar to a bun is the top-knot, which works on almost every hair type and is super low-maintenance for those sticky days when you start sweating as soon as you get out of bed. Use a brush and some gel to pull your hair to the top of your head, making sure to brush out any creases or bumps. Gather your hair into a pony and tie it with an elastic to keep your hair tight and in place. Then, twist your hair into a bun shape and pin it with bobby pins. Finish with a setting spray. Sometimes I attempt this style bent over with the hope that gravity will do some of the work for me, of gathering up my hair. And sometimes that actually works.

Speaking of work, you can’t go wrong with a classic chignon. A chignon is a low bun, but unlike the tight low bun, it’s not twisted or wrapped, but the hair is more so tucked. However, if you’re feeling very French or just tired of plain buns, you can style your chignon into a twist. Pull one side of your hair back against your head and secure it with a few bobby pins. Then, grab the other side of the hair and twist it over those bobby pins. For a classic French Twist, bobby pin those pieces, or to switch things up, use any claw clips or pins you may have laying around. You can tuck any pieces in or leave them out for more of an undone look.

Of course, messy may not be the best for when you’re on the go, even on the hottest of days. Braids are another way to get every last stray piece of hair tucked away and secured. I’m not very deft when it comes to braiding hair, personally, so a braided ponytail is the best I can do. The key to braiding a pony is to make sure you tie off your ponytail first and then start braiding. Your braid will stay tight and exactly where you want it all day. You can make this messy by pulling out front pieces or bangs or keep it sleek with a styling cream to slick it back. You can also wrap around the hair tie and secure it with a clip to keep it off your back and neck. Or create a braided bun by making a hole in the area of your hair above the ponytail holder, then lift your braid up through the hole. Fold your braid once more through the hole, but don’t pull it all the way down through; instead, flip the braid to pull the bulkiest part to the hole and let the bottom portion of the braid (the tail) fold over on itself within the hole. Secure your braid with bobby pins and use your fingers to pull the braided pieces apart a bit to make the bun look fluffier and add texture.

For longer hair and more adept braiders, you can split your hair into two sections, braid each, and then wrap the braids around your head using bobby pins to hold it in place for a braided crown, which can be quite a striking look at your end-of-summer BBQ. Other braid styles include French braids and Dutch braids, both of which start with three strands near the crown of your hair. For French, cross the strands over the middle one while picking up a piece of the surrounding hair with each cross as you work your way down your head. Once you’ve gathered all the hair into the braid, you can switch to a regular plait to finish the length by securing it at the nape of your neck. For Dutch, start with three strands, just the same as the French braid. However, instead of crossing the strands over the center strand, you pull them under the center, which causes the hair to puff up and create a sense of volume. With either style, watch some YouTube how-to videos a few times on this to get a good sense of technique.

Braiding can be difficult to master. Again, check out some videos and practice if you’re up for the challenge of more intricate hairstyles. What I like about all of these do’s is that not a single one requires you to pick up a curling iron, blow dryer, or flat iron. Hot tools in August — no, thank you!