The 5-Step Guide to Perfectly Imperfect Messy Hair

Rachel Krause


Sexy, insouciant, laid-back, cool—the elusive messy-on-purpose hair look seems to come naturally to It girls and models off duty, but for the regular girl on the go, we often find ourselves with something that looks decidedly disheveled rather than tousled, like we’ve just walked off a plane runway rather than an actual catwalk. If you, like us, are forever pursuing the quest of how to get messy hair, we’ve narrowed down the five-step formula for achieving it from start to finish. Don’t blame us if your friends start to wonder if you actually did wake up like this.

Always start with a primer.
Hair primers have only come to our attention in a big way within the past few years, but that’s ample time for us to realize just how critical they are for laying down the foundation for a look that styles better and stays that way. Not only do primers detangle, hydrate, and protect the hair with a lightweight formula that won’t weigh locks down, but they also optimize the performance and lasting power of other styling products, as well as heat tools. We love Living Proof Prime Style Extender Spray, which strengthens, conditions, adds body, and makes your hair smell salon-fresh.

It kind of goes without saying that the most glorious thing about messy hair is that it’s imperfect, so there’s no need for serious blowout skills or a way with a round brush. It can really go either way: if you want to put a little more time and effort into your look for a more polished version of messy texture, you can start by drying your hair with a diffuser to enhance its natural wave or, if your hair is curly, start with a smooth blowout. When you’re heat-styling, the primer lays down the base for loading up on texture-enhancing products. Too many products—or too much of them—will weigh hair down, but we recommend starting off with a heat-activated volumizing product, like the excellent amika Bombshell Blowout Spray, to boost your look and add a bit of grit.

…or don’t.
If you’re more interested in the low-maintenance take, we’re currently obsessed with Bumble and bumble Don’t Blow It, which we’ll readily admit has replaced every product and tool in our styling routine most mornings. It really works to bring out the hair’s natural wave and add a touch of hold, not to mention a frizz-free, touchable finish sans product-y feel. It’s the dream cream for anyone who wants to airdry their hair into smooth, silky waves without running the risk of weird bends or a fuzzy halo (so basically everyone).

Start your style.
Once your hair is dry, it’s time to work with what you’ve got. A curling wand is our go-to for major volume and texture—these relatively new heat tools enable you to create loose, sexy waves that are soft and flattering, not ringlet-y or too “done.” ghd Curve Creative Curl Wand is the perfect size, with a tapered barrel that effortlessly creates big, beachy curls. Working from front to back, curl large sections of hair, starting halfway down the length, away from your face for serious volume and bounce that isn’t too structured. Let each curl cool in your hand before starting on the next section to ensure the style stays in place. If you like a looser wave, use your fingers to tousle and separate strands.

Once your style has been established, this is where you go back in and add that disheveled texture, which takes a bit of fudging to achieve on freshly washed hair. A dry texturizing spray is our weapon of choice: A generous mist of Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray has been known to whip even the finest, most lackluster hair into gorgeous messy waves. Use your fingers to scrunch and twirl in sections until you’ve reached your desired texture, and don’t be afraid to add more if you need it.

Read more from Daily Makeover: The Right Way to Use a Curling Wand