It’s no secret that bobby pins are one of the most essential tools in our hairstyling arsenal—but these humble clips are good for so much more than just keeping your hair out of your face (and getting lost on your bathroom floor, but that’s another story). Used correctly, bobby pins can transform your entire beauty game—so we’ve rounded up our very best (and most useful) bobby pin tricks.
1. Wear them the right way.
There’s still a lot of confusion about this, so let’s settle the argument once and for all: Bobby pins are meant to be worn with the rippled side facing down, against your scalp. This helps them grip better, and the smooth side looks a lot nicer in your hair.
Bonus tip: This doesn’t apply to bobby pins that are curved, obviously. Wearing those the wrong way is a recipe for a headache.
2. Customize with nail polish.
If you’re looking to hide your bobby pins, you know how important it is that they match your hair color exactly—but since pins tend to only come in three colors, that can be kind of hard. Instead, make your own perfectly coordinated pins with nail polish. Just find a shade that matches your hair, slide the pins onto a piece of cardboard, then paint the side that will be visible with polish. Counterpoint: Paint your pins with bright polish to call attention to them!
Bonus tip: If you’re looking for maximum color payoff, begin with blond pins—the light metal means that the polish will really pop.
Bonus tip #2: If you’re looking to match your hair color exactly, add a matte topcoat to the pins once the polish is dry. This will ensure they blend into your hair even more completely.
3. Use as an accessory.
If you’re not into hiding your pins, why not make them the focus of your look? Try one of these styles: Pull your hair back, and secure it with four or five contrasting-color bobby pins per side; tuck metallic pins into your braid at irregular intervals; create a unique ponytail by securing your hair at the nape of your neck with a series of bobby pins, rather than an elastic. To make these styles look deliberate, be mindful of your spacing (we recommend a finger’s width between each pin if you’re spreading them out) and your angles (straight is always best!)—but beyond that, the sky is the limit. Why use one pin when you can use 13?
Bonus tip: If you wear glasses, you may find that wearing multiple bobby pins too close to your ears gives you a tension headache. Keep that in mind as you’re styling, and place the pins above and below the arms of your glasses for maximum comfort!
4. Spray starch for extra grip.
If you can’t keep bobby pins in your hair, lay them out on a paper towel and coat them with spray starch (you know, the stuff you’d usually use on your laundry). The starch will adhere to the pins and make them extra-grippy so that they won’t slide out of your hair.
Bonus tip: We find that spray starch works a lot better than hairspray for this trick. For one thing, it lasts a lot longer on the pins. For another, it doesn’t leave residue behind in your hair. It also doesn’t make the pins look crusty or dirty the way that hairspray can, which is essential if you’re choosing a style that requires visible bobby pins.
Bonus tip #2: If you want to boost the grip of your pins even more, buy the right type: the ones with texture on the inside are essential. Then make them even better with spray starch.
5. Make your curls last all day.
If getting your hair to hold a curl is nearly impossible, embrace the power of the pin curl to up the staying power: Slide your curl off your curling iron, coil it up into a little roll, and pin it against your scalp with a bobby pin. Hit your curls with some hairspray; when they’re cool, unpin them and brush them out for waves that actually last.
Bonus tip: The longer you leave your curls pinned up, the longer your curls will last. If you have very straight, fine hair, you may want to sleep on your pin curls: Wrap your head in a silk scarf before you go to bed to make sure friction doesn’t leave them frizzy.
Bonus tip #2: If your hair is very fine (or you use your curler on a really high heat), you might notice that your bobby pins leave little crimps near the base of the curl. Avoid this by using totally flat bobby pins, instead of the kind with a wavy side. Also, turn your curler down a little, unless you want to re-enact Little Women in real life.