There's no denying the style and beauty influence of Sofia Richie Grainge. Following her wedding, her exact bridal glam breakdown was written up in multiple publications with makeup artists posting video tutorials on "how to get the look" (which were copied by many, 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" and surprise — it’s gone viral.
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?
Her first step: She saturates her damp hair in a spray detangler, parts it in the center, and adds a hair mask, specifically the Christophe Robin Regenerating Mask, 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 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 ($175!), made with both boar and nylon 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 sleek-back buns 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 leave-in hair mask — not a bonding treatment, like Olaplex like K18. "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. Make sure you're using a product that's formulated as a leave-in and not something designed to be rinsed out out of your hair. "Avoid using bond treatment masks for this, and opt for hydrating masks made with moisturizing butter," says Reavey. She recommends the Act+Acre Restorative Conditioning Hair Mask 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 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 slick-backs because you could lose some strands. "Continuously putting the hair in tight hairstyles like sleek back buns 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! 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 sulfate-heavy formulas."
You'll need: styling paste, a boar-bristle brush, and silk hair ties
Create your hair part — 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, petrolatum, and fillers since they are known to build up on the hair and scalp," offers Reavey. She recommends the Act+Acre 4% Candelilla Matte Styling Paste designed for texture and hold, while supporting the scalp microbiome. 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.
Then you want to work your hair into the place using a good brush — Reavey recommends the Mason Pearson (sorry, it might be worth the investment) — then secure it into a ponytail, twist the ponytail into a bun, and secure with another hair tie. 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 the Briogeo Scalp Buildup Detox Spray because it's easy to spritz into your scalp 15 minutes before your shower. Reavey recommends the Act+Acre Vitamin E Scalp Detox Oil to break down and remove any of the build-up from styling products while soothing potential irritation (this is great if your scalp is sensitive). 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.
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