The ‘Sofia Richie Bun’ Is Raising Red Flags Among Hair Experts

Photo: Rachpoot/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images.
At Refinery29 Australia, we’re here to help you navigate this overwhelming world of stuff. All of our picks are independently selected and curated by the editorial team, but we may earn commission or other compensation from the links on this page.  
There's no denying the style and beauty influence of Sofia Richie Grainge. Following her wedding, her exact bridal glam breakdown went viral on TikTok. There were multiple video tutorials on "how to get the look" (which were copied by many people, whether they were a bride or not).
Richie Grainge's latest video showed her technique for achieving her signature hairstyle the internet has dubbed "the chic bun" or "the snatched bun" and surprise — it’s gone viral, too. 
Now, I've watched many slicked-back bun tutorials on TikTok in an attempt to get mine down, but I was surprised with this one from the jump. The video — viewed 23.3 million times — starts with Richie Grainge straight out of the shower with clean, wet hair. “I really love you guys for thinking this is, like, my chic hairstyle,” Richie Grainge starts, combing damp hair. “This is actually my lazy-girl hairstyle. Over the years of doing it, I’ve gotten really good and I have a really easy technique. So, to start, we have wet hair.” Personally, I save my lazy, sleek buns for day-four hair which is exactly the opposite: dry and dirty. But Richie Grainge has her process, which includes layers of leave-in hair products.

What is the Sofia Richie bun?

Richie Grainge first saturates her damp hair in Unite 7Seconds Detangler, $36.50, parts it in the centre, and adds a hair mask, specifically the Christophe Robin Regenerating Mask, $85, in lieu of a hair gel. "I'm convinced it's the reason my hair grew lusciously over Covid," she explains. Hair gels are often silicone-based, whereas hair masks tend to have more nourishing and hydrating properties, so she's onto something there. Over the mask, she uses the Oribe Matte Waves Lotion, $64, which "really seals my hair down," she says, before brushing and pulling it "as tight as I can" with the help of the world's fanciest hairbrush: the Mason Pearson ($121!), made with boar bristles. Once her ponytail is high and tight, Richie Grainge twirls her hair into a sleek and secure bun at the back of her head, like a ballerina.
Here's the rub, a warning to the millions of viewers of this video: This damp-hair styling might work for Richie Grainge, but for me — and anyone else with fine hair and a sensitive, dry scalp — there are some important disclaimers.

Caution: Your hair is extra delicate when wet

First of all, you don't want to style your hair when it's wet or damp like this if you can avoid it. Why? Wet hair is more sensitive than dry hair, explains Helen Reavey, board-certified trichologist and founder of Act+Acre. "Tight styles such as a slick-back bun can put excessive stress on the hair," she explains, "which is only amplified when the hair is wet since it's much more vulnerable and tends to break more easily." Wet hair and a tight hairstyle is a recipe for breakage, so Reaves would recommend drying your hair first and then slicking it back.

Treat it with a hydrating hair mask (not a bond-building one)

It's a good idea to avoid or limit wet styling in general, but if you must work with damp hair, take this good cue from the Richie Grainge tutorial: Before brushing and pulling your hair, apply a hydrating hair mask — not a bonding treatment, like Olaplex like K18, as you don't want protein overload. "If you’re styling [your hair] wet every once in a while and using it as a time to add a hair mask or treatment, then it's generally okay," says Reavey. "Avoid using bond treatment masks for this, and opt for hydrating masks made with moisturising butter." She recommends the Act+Acre Restorative Conditioning Hair Mask, $65.17, but is quick to note, "Adding these products to your hair while wet and then styling a slick-back bun doesn’t mitigate the potential damage to the hair."

Avoid wet-hair styling if you have dandruff or fine hair

If you have an existing scalp condition, like dandruff or general dryness, you definitely don't want to slick back wet hair. "If you have extremely brittle and fine hair or a scalp condition such as dandruff, I would avoid slicking your wet hair back until it subsides," says Reavey. Wet and tight styles can exacerbate these issues and cause other forms of damage and irritation, Reavy adds. "Typical signs of damage include thinning hair, a tender or easily irritated scalp and overall dry or brittle ends."
Of course, Richie Grainge appears to have very healthy hair, but if yours is a lot finer or thinner (i.e. you seem to have less hair than she does) you have to be extra careful with slicked back buns because you could lose some strands. "Continuously putting the hair in tight hairstyles like [these] can also cause traction alopecia, which occurs when the hair follicles are gradually pulled, resulting in thinning or bald patches, especially around the hairline and temples," adds Reavey.

Do your slicked-back bun on dry, dirty hair

We can still have fun with high, slicked-back buns, though. According to Reavey there's a best-practice when it comes to pulling your hair back á la Sofia Richie Grainge. Start with dry hair — dirty hair is even better because it has more natural oils. There are lots of dry-hair sleek bun tutorials on TikTok.
If you have textured hair, you can dampen your hair a little bit, but avoid completely saturating it. "Curly hair is often more malleable when wet, so you can get it slightly damp before applying hair gel strong-hold styling cream," Reavey says. "Look for options specifically designed for curly hair, but remember to try and avoid silicone or sulphate-heavy formulas."

You'll need: styling paste, a boar-bristle brush, and silk hair ties

Create your hair parting — or don't, sometimes I want a clean pull-back — then apply your preferred styling paste, wax, gel or oil. "I try to steer clear of products that are packed with silicones and petrolatum since they are known to build up on the hair and scalp," offers Reavey. Another tip: "If you’re looking to achieve that wet effect you can mix your styling paste with a hair oil," says Reavey, which will give the hair more of a sheen. We personally vouch for the Oribe Curl Gelee, $67, which also has a blend of nourishing oils and gives a straight-from-the-ocean wet look, without actually starting with wet hair. Then follow this with the Oribe Matte Waves Lotion, $64, as Richie Grainge did.
Then you want to work your hair into the place using a good brush — Reavey recommends the Mason Pearson. If you'd rather spend less, try any brush with finer bristles. Then secure it into a ponytail, twist the ponytail into a bun, and secure with another hair tie. We have tried Richie Grainge's technique of dividing the hair into two halves and slicking the hair of each section and can confirm that it also works on dry hair, and makes smoothing out the front section far easier. Silk or satin hair ties are gentler than the alternative. Finally, tame flyaways and baby hairs or edges with more styling paste or a small amount of hair oil on a bamboo toothbrush. Et voilá, a slicked-back bun.

Wash your hair twice

Whenever you're adding a lot of hair product directly to your scalp, it's best to add a scalp treatment to your routine. You can do a pre-shampoo treatment. I really like Ouai Scalp Serum, $78, because it's easy to apply over the scalp before bed (no washing out necessary). I also love the Ouai Detox Shampoo, $55, for a non-stripping wash that breaks down and removes any of the build-up from styling products. In the shower, Reavey recommends a double cleanse: shampooing twice to make sure your scalp is thoroughly clean before you dry it and slick it back all over again.
Want more? Get Refinery29 Australia’s best stories delivered to your inbox each week. Sign up here!

More from Beauty