Known for its large, elaborately sculpted shape, the bouffant is a legend in its own right. According to widely circulated rumors (so much so that both stylists we spoke to for this story mentioned the legend themselves), the style was created in the 18th century to give the illusion of volume to Marie Antoinette's otherwise thinning hair. The bouffant, which comes from the French word "bouffante" (meaning puffed out), quickly became a fixture of Western European culture.
Fast forward a couple of hundred years (and a couple of hundred miles) to 1950s America, and the bouffant began to catch on stateside as celebrities like Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, and Jackie Kennedy donned the classic style. "Unlike other voluminous hairstyles, the bouffant is about precision," says hairstylist Justin Toves-Vincilione. "The backcombed style is worn high on the head, especially at the crown, and molded into a neat, clean finish."
Meet the Expert
Read on for some of our favorite celeb takes on the bouffant, plus expert-approved breakdowns of how to achieve the style (and a half-bouffant iteration) at home from Toves-Vincilione and hairstylist JamieLynn DeSimone.
How to Create a Bouffant
- Begin with dry, brushed hair: Be sure to smooth away any knots or kinks before creating the shape, suggests Toves-Vincilione.
- Work texture spray throughout: If you're working with naturally thinner hair, apply a texture spray to half-inch sections of hair from the front of the head to the back, focusing around the crown area. This will give some extra grip and keep hair from falling out, DeSimone says.
- Backcomb the crown: Using a rattail comb or teasing comb, begin to tease hair at the root of the crown. "The more teasing the better with this look," says DeSimone. "You can always take the height down after, but it will be more difficult to add height in once complete." As a rule of thumb, the more backcombing you do, the more volume.
- Set the volume: Set your backcombing and control flyaways with a strong-hold hairspray. Spray any un-teased hair with a texture spray, if you didn't before.
- Brush back: Using a small natural- or boar-bristle brush, smooth over the backcombing and softly brush the hair away from the face and up toward the back of the head, says Toves-Vincilione. If the hair is looking more voluminous than you'd like, now is the time to readjust. Brush out any over-teased areas until you reach your desired height.
- Create the shape: Using your hands, gather all the brushed-back hair into a low ponytail (do not secure it with a hair tie). Then twist the ponytail clockwise until it creates a French twist-type look. If you'd prefer, you can twist the ponytail and fold it into the back of the head to make it look flush with the bouffant. Either way, tuck the twisted hair under the base of the ponytail where you'd normally put your hair tie and secure it into place with hair pins.
- Style and set: Finish the look with more hairspray, lifting and molding the hair into the desired shape. For a more casual look, you can loosen up the sides of the hair by pulling it over the ears and creating a soft, drooping appearance across the mid-section of the ears.
How to Create a Half-Bouffant
- Style hair: A half-bouffant, similar to a half-up, half-down style, is often worn with curls or a slight flip at the ends, says Toves-Vincilione. Style as preferred, though both experts suggest going with a smooth, voluminous look.
- Section off: Using a rattail comb, section out the portion of hair you want to wear up. DeSimone suggests using your eyebrow arches as a rough guide for sectioning.
- Tease it up: Add a thickening dry texture spray or volumizing powder to the section you just made. This will add volume and create some grip and texture so that the teasing won't loosen up. Backcomb and tease the section. Like with a full bouffant, you can always lower the height later on, but it's more difficult to add height after the fact, so tease as much as possible.
- Set the volume: Set backcombing with a strong-holding hairspray. Spray any un-teased hair with dry texture spray.
- Smooth and brush out: Using a natural- or boar-bristle brush, gently smooth out the teasing and mold the section into place up at the back of the head. Adjust the bouffant height with additional brushing if needed.
- Secure and style: Secure the section with bobby pins around the occipital bone (about halfway down the back of the head). Add more hairspray to lock the style into place and lay down any flyaways. If needed, lightly backcomb the hair being worn down to match the volume of the hair on top.
How to Take a Bouffant Down
Creating a bouffant requires a lot of backcombing and product application, which means the process to take down the style can be just as tedious as putting it up. Toves-Vincilione suggests taking extra time and care to properly take down the style and avoid unnecessary breakage and shedding. Be gentle and patient when detangling the hair pre-shower.
Water can cause the backcombing to potentially matte, making it even more difficult to untangle, so take your time brushing out and smoothing over the hair before getting it wet. Because of the toll the hairstyle (and the removal process) can take on hair, he also suggests restoring hair with a hydrating mask post-removal.
Piled high on the head and rounded in shape, the classic bouffant features a strong silhouette and sky-high volume. Adding extensions is a great way to cheat more height and create a fuller appearance. For a slightly more casual look, pull face-framing pieces out of the bouffant and curl the ends out, as seen here on Dua Lipa.
The bouffant doesn't need to be all about the vertical. Create volume in the back by teasing the section and laying the twisted ponytail flush with the head. Play up a natural, wavier hair texture by forgoing the smoothing step and giving the top section a messier, lived-in feel. To achieve a similar look, finish the style with an extra spritz of Bumble and bumble's Thickening Dryspun Texture Spray ($31).
To emulate Lupita Nyongo's braided bouffant, rather than creating volume via backcombing use the braids themselves (by stacking, styling, and sculpting them) to create a beehive-inspired bouffant with the desired height.
Serving some serious Bridget Bardot vibes, Kim Kardashian's bedhead bouffant embraces a full-bodied, tousled take on the classic. The result is a more casual, lived-in pouf. This sexy, "zhushed" style is seriously chic.
Miley Cyrus rocked a nostalgic half-bouffant at Gucci's 2021 Love Parade. By crimping the hair left down and leaning into a messier vibe, this take on a half-bouffant feels far more rock 'n' roll than the traditional, smoothed-out iteration.
If the wearability of a bouffant were ever in question, this baby bouffant on Anne Hathaway should silence any doubts. Like the good old pouf of the early aughts, a smaller half-bouffant at the back of the head creates volume without overpowering. For a similar look, DeSimone suggests using bobby pins the same color as your hair to help disguise the pins and create a more seamless appearance.
Embrace natural curls and volume with a piled-on, zhushed-up bouffant like Tinashe's. Prep hair with a moisturizing, curl-defining gel and finish off the look by using fingers to deconstruct and tousle the hair, pulling out flyaways and tendrils at the nape of the neck and around the hairline.
Complement a voluminous, pouffy dome with sky-high hair accessories to bring even more drama. After prepping hair with a full-bodied blowout, teasing the hair, and creating the shape, pull out face-framing bangs and gently tug at various strands in the bun area to create a piece-ier pouf and more natural entry point for the accessory of your choice. Using the right tools is key here—DeSimone suggests using a YS Park Rattail Comb ($12) for precision.
Headbanded Bouffant With Sideswept Bangs
Give your bouffant a little extra oomph with a deeply side-swept front and a thick headband at the base of the head. Keep the bottom half loose rather than twisted up to give a 1960s feel, pinning up the entire crown section as you would with a half-bouffant.
Add some wow factor to a simple bun by teasing hair on top into a subtle bouffant shape and framing the face with deeply side-parted bangs. This creates a double-hump sort of silhouette that blurs where the bouffant ends and the bun begins.