Put Your (Long) Hair Up Without Damaging It

First, this is not a post about sock buns or topknots. Can the term “sock bun” just die already? I am so not putting a bloody sock in my hair! And topknots, as chic as they can be, are kind of played out right now, don’t you agree?

I don’t wear my hair up much. Obvi, not in a sock bun, only in a topknot at home, and rarely in a ponytail. But why no pony? Any hairdresser will tell you that if you repeatedly use elastics in the same spot on your hair, you will experience breakage at that point. And when you have very long hair, you can’t afford to have it breaking halfway up.

So what’s a long-haired girl to do when it’s 90,000 degrees outside, and the last thing you need is a fur coat on your back? Here are some options…

Rock a Side Braid

Ponytails have never done it for me. Aside from the damage wearing one regularly inflicts on your hair, I get headaches from them, especially if one little hair is pulled a little too tight. So when I hit the gym, I prefer a side braid over a pony. And let’s be clear about this: we’re talking one braid, not two, à la Pippi Longstocking. If you’re over age 13, you shouldn’t be wearing double braids, and hell no, definitely not at 40+.

Side braids are comfortable, and can be incredibly sexy. I loved that for Valentino’s fall 2013 show, models wore side braids with a simple black headband. The look was youthful, but Renaissance-chic, if you will. And how easy?! Anyone can do this at home.

Valention fall 2013 show models wearing side braids
via style.com

Of course, the end of that braid has to be secured with something, so…

Use Metal-Free Elastics

Recently, while stalking my favorite new blog, The Sparkle, I happened upon an older post by Erin that featured these Emi-Jay hair ties. I know they’ve been around forever, but I’m just now giving them a whirl. With no metal or glued seams, they are gentle on your hair and super cute (but not too cute, which is important especially if you’re not in the gym).

emi jay hair ties
Emi-Jay hair ties are gentle and don’t leave your hair bent or crimped.

Oh, and if The Sparkle hasn’t been on your radar, prior, get on it. You will love Erin’s class, beauty insights, and sweet personality. Um, can you say girl crush?

Get Your Geisha on With a Chopstick Bun

A bun is my go-to style when I need my hair completely off my neck and out of the way. Usually, I just twist it up and kind of tuck it into itself; I don’t actually need any elastics, etc., for it to stay that way. But if your hair is not quite as long, you might need a fastener of some sort. Enter hair sticks.

Christina of Hair Romance shows how it’s done, for this style and hundreds of others (if you ever need hair inspiration, her blog is the place to go). Just twist, twist, twist, and secure by weaving hair sticks through your bun. No elastic, and therefore no elastic to tangle in your hair.

chopstick bun by Christina of Hair Romance
via Hair Romance

Tip: I’ve found that shellacked, wooden hair sticks stay in place better than plastic. My favorites have always been Mei Fa Hairstyx; the length and design help them to stay put.

What’s your favorite up-do?



  1. I don’t have super long hair, and even when I did it is so soft and fine that putting it up was always a bit difficult. It doesn’t want to stay put. A few years back I discovered these long, curved, metal clasps that actually work to keep my hair in place. I twist my hair up, stick in a clasp, and have an instant updo that looks pretty good and is very good about keeping my hair out of my eyes all day. When I have time I put my hair in a french twist with bobby pins, but it has to be the perfect shoulder-length for that to work. I’ve never tried a side braid but I do think they’re very pretty. My Nephew’s girlfriend wears her hair that way and it looks great.

    Wonderful post as usual! I’ll have to check out those blogs.

  2. v, i’m honoured you like my blog! i’ve been a longtime reader of grit and glamour and have always been drawn to your bold style and have always respected your opinions! it means a lot that you find value in what i have to offer. thank you so much for the mention, too! annnnd, i’m glad you found the emi-jay hair ties useful… the colors you picked are so “you”.

    THANK YOU! xo

  3. If my hair was longer I would totally rock a side braid! I wear my hair in a ponytail mostly but to keep the breakage at a minimum I use ribbon ties and scarves to keep my hair up without being tight.

  4. Just recently I’ve been doing a low side ponytail, secured with the “Ouchless” non-metal Goody elastics. Just curving around the neck and forward. Not like an 80s cheerleader side ponytail. My hair is too layer-y to stay nicely in any sort of braid. But I’ve actually gotten compliments on the side pony, and it’s a refreshing change from the busy mom back pony. I feel chic and pert.

    I also love to twist my hair vertically up behind my head, and then I use a simple large, tight metal barrette to fix it in place against my scalp, just at the upper back of my head. I arrange the loose ends airily or nicely, or even curl them if I’m being fancy. The tight metal barrette is not the best idea, I know, but I haven’t come across an alternative that will hold my thick twist in place. I wonder about @HeatherFonseca’s clasps.

  5. My hair is not to long and i always do a ponytail to keep it up from my neck but my hair became broken from the middle of it and it looks so bad, so what should i do to prevent it from damging again . Thank you for those nice tips.

  6. I like your blog. My problem is my hair is very thick and frizzy. I go to the gym alot and work as a janitor. My hair is broken off right where I pony it at the back of my neck. I need a way to do it up so I can repair. I am braiding it now with one big braid. Does this still damage my hair? I love the side braid but my hairs only just below my shoulder. I am trying to grow it. Any advice would be helpful thanks.

    1. Thanks, Jessy. I’d suggest a half-French Twist secured with a butterfly clip or a simple bun held by bobby pins. I do think a braid with an elastic only at the end of the braid is a great idea. I tend to stick to braids too. Be sure you are using smooth, covered elastics, or ribbon-style elastics so they don’t pull your hair as much.

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