Medium-length hair is full of fun opportunities when it comes to hairstyles. You can do an intriguing braid, bedhead curls, or even a no-fuss bun. If you, like many, are stuck in a rut and are bored with your hairstyle (or lack thereof), we're here to help with some major hair inspo.
For those who are short on time and motivation in the mornings, these hairstyles are easy to achieve with our step-by-step tutorials. We tapped some of our favorite hair experts to share their go-to hairstyles for medium-length hair to help you look polished on those days when you're tired of your usual style—and are looking to add a little pizazz to your look.
From hairstyles that require a few well-placed curls or a different way to part your hair that transforms your look, let us show you how versatile medium-length hair can really be.
Keep scrolling for 35 easy hairstyles for medium-length hair.
Volumized Low Pony
This low ponytail is a little bit '60s and early 2000s (remember the notorious Bumpits?). We're obsessed with its effortless vibe. It works on most lengths, but medium styles give the look loads of bounce:
- Part the front of your hair down the center, brushing the rest back so that it sits nicely into the ponytail shape.
- Prep with a volumizing mousse worked from roots to ends.
- Tease your hair with a boar bristle brush like the Wigo Cushion 100% Boar Bristle Brush ($25), focusing on the crown and roots to create volume.
- Secure the ponytail at the nape of the neck and slick down the edges by combing in your lightweight gel of choice.
Medium hair doesn't offer a ton of room to play around with up 'dos, but a low chignon doesn't require much length to look great. This one leaves just a couple of strands out to flutter in the breeze for an undone and romantic feel. Follow these steps from stylist David Lopez to get the look (and watch the full tutorial below):
- Using a tail comb, create a middle part down the center of the scalp. "You want to make sure that part is dead center because it just brings that symmetry to it, makes it look cool," says Lopez
- Brush the hair back with a boar and nylon bristle brush, moving at a slight angle from the temples to create a bit of lift.
- Combine a shine spray like Kenra Platinum Diamond Deflect Hairspray ($17) and a hair oil like IGK Crybaby Anti-Frizz Smoothing Serum ($28) in the palm of your hands and smooth onto the crown of the head.
- Create a low ponytail with a small elastic. Apply more hair oil and shine spray to the ponytail with the hands, then brush through.
- Attach another elastic to the bottom of the ponytail, then twist the ponytail and spiral it into a bun. Secure with a bobby pin tucked into the base and finish with hairspray.
Celeb Stylist David Lopez Shows Us 2 Low Bun Styles For Day & Night
Loose, S-shaped waves (as seen here on Rose Byrne) are easy to achieve with a flat iron, says celebrity hairstylist and L'Oreal ambassador Jonathan Colombini, and work well on shoulder-length strands since there's less weight to drag them down. "I’m all about natural textures or lived in textures," says Colombini.
- "Try putting just a small bend either with a curling iron or flat iron wave and avoiding a traditional curl. It’s the best way to get at least a couple of days out of your style," says Colombini.
- After creating the waves, legendary hairstylist Frederic Fekkai suggests taking a styling product like the Fekkai Shea Butter Gel Crème ($25) "to help define curls throughout the hair."
- Next, he suggests "dry scrunching the hair with a diffuser low speed/medium heat." This will set the wave.
Kourtney Scott, a stylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago, likes "a messy bun or bohemian dutch fishtail braid" for a more formal look for medium-length hair. Ciara's textured topknot fits the bill.
- "You may experience at this length that not all the hair is long enough to be gathered into a top knot," says Colombini.
- "Instead, try a half up half down top knot." Gather the longest strands into a loose bun at the top of the head.
- "As for the hair that’s down, refer to the above style with a slight bend I explained earlier," Colombini adds. If you have natural curls or waves, you might be able to skip this step.
This is a great style to turn to when you are between washes as it embraces texture and gives off an effortless vibe.
Super blunt micro-bangs are balanced out with a bit of length and easy texture.
- "Wavy mid-lengths can sometimes go too curly with a curling iron," says Joseph Maine, a celebrity hairstylist and cofounder of Trademark Beauty.
- "Instead, I recommend creating waves with a waving iron like Trademark Beauty Babe Waves ($59), which comes in three sizes so you can find one that’s perfect for any length or texture."
- Then, take a small flat iron to your bangs, which will ensure that they lie flat on the forehead.
Here's yet another easy-to-replicate style. "Half-up styles like topknots, space buns, and half ponies all look great on mid-length hair," notes Maine. To achieve:
- "Always style your hair as usual, then pull the half up of your hair loosely and secure it down with the hairpin," says Fekkai.
- Add a texturizing spray to create that soft, beachy wave seen here on Kiernan Shipka.
Messy Side Braid
Elizabeth Olsen's side braid is all about volume and loose pieces hanging free, a result that works best on layered strands.
- Start by parting your hair deep on one side before loosely plaiting your hair and securing it with an elastic.
- Don't forget to add a little volumizing mousse along the way. We like Bumble and bumble's Thickening Full Form Soft Mousse ($32) since it's lightweight and non-sticky.
Model Imaan Hammam proves that sometimes all you need is proper curly haircare to make your hair brunch-ready. To style medium-length curls into a volumized look:
- "Set it and forget it!" says Colombini. "Using either a moisture cream like L'Oreal Elvive Dream Lengths Super Curls Leave-In Cream ($7) with a slight hold or a curl-enhancing gel (whichever you prefer) more focused on taming and preventing frizz."
- "Be pretty liberal with the amount of product you apply."
- "After you have an even saturation, take small subsections of your hair and twist; this will create a direction for your hair to fall into rather than letting it fly away."
- "After creating the twist, this is the 'set it and forget it' part. Once you’re completely dry, feel free to break up the twist in the palms of your hands."
"Note: never rake your fingers through; this... can create frizz," says Colombini.
A slicked-back, high ponytail is a great look for super curly hair that hangs towards the shoulders. Follow Colombini's tips to achieve:
- First, "gather in a pony and let your curls fly free."
- You can brush some gel through to tame down flyaways.
- Comb down baby hairs along the scalp if needed, and keep any bangs straight for contrast.
- "This would be a great style to do after you’ve set your curls as I mentioned above [see #9]," says Colombini.
Half-up, half-down space buns look totally effortless and work especially well on medium-length hair because they won't be too small or too large. This style is so quick and easy and suits any texture.
- Part your hair down the middle.
- Section the top part of your hair from the bottom and clip it.
- To create the first bun, take one side of your hair and put it in a ponytail on the top of your head and secure with a hair tie.
- Twist the hair and wrap it around the hair tie, making a bun. Use bobby pins to secure the bun in place.
- To create the space bun look, use your hands to spread or fan out the bun.
- Repeat on the other side.
- Finish off the look by spraying with hairspray to secure the buns in place.
A simple braided crown like the one Nine Zero One stylist Nikki Lee did on Hilary Duff is the perfect bohemian updo for medium-length hair. Leave a few loose pieces around the face for a more casual appearance. To create this look yourself, follow these steps:
- Section of the front part of your hair, from behind your ears and forward, that will be braided. Secure the back part so it stays out of the way.
- Sweep your hair from your ear over to one side and brush out the tangles.
- Start French-braiding from your ear all the way across your crown and behind your other ear lobe.
- Finish off braiding the hair all the way down to the end and tie it with a clear plastic. Braid this section in with an unbraided section of hair and secure with a clear plastic.
- Loosen up the braid at your crown and pull out a few pieces to get a bohemian and messy look. You can leave the back of your hair down, or pull it up a messy bun like above.
- For more detailed instruction, check out our crown braid tutorial.
Not sure how to do a French braid? We've got you covered. Check out our step-by-step guide to perfecting the French braid.
"I like a medium-length hairstyle with curtain bangs and/or long layers [in a shag style]," says Fekkai. Face-framing bangs instantly take a simple, medium-length cut to the next level. To style:
- According to Colombini, "If curtain bangs are cut correctly, there is minimal styling involved—this is the point of having them."
- However, to get that quintessential '70s vibe, he suggests styling with a round brush. "I suggest a round brush no larger than two inches in diameter placed at the top of the bangs and with a blow dryer dry from underneath."
- "Once you’ve completely dried, set it with the cool shot to ensure a long-lasting hold."
Messy Bun With Bangs
Or, do as Sienna Miller did at the 2018 amfAR Gala, and leave your fringe loose as you gather up the rest of your hair into a messy high bun.
- First, follow Colombini's styling tips from #12 to ensure your bangs are in top shape.
- Then, pull your hair back into a bun or ponytail.
- To disguise your hair part, take a ribbon or headband and tie it around the crown of your head.
True Ballerina Bun
A true ballerina bun looks so elegant and takes any outfit to the next level. It works especially well for thicker, slightly longer hair that can really fill out the bun silhouette (think just below the shoulders to collarbone length). Follow these tips from celebrity stylist Ashley Streicher:
- "I recommend brushing clean, wet hair into a bun."
- Next, she lets it dry "as much as possible (if in a hurry add heat)."
- "Then, once it is set like that, you can take it out.
- Finally, "[leave] the shape and brush back into a bun."
To us, there's no easier way to update a tired high ponytail than by slicking it back as Jamie Chung does here. This is an easy way to get a polished look, especially on those days you don't have time to wash your hair.
- First, use a flat iron to straighten your hair. If you have stick-straight hair already, you can skip this step.
- Brush your hair back into a high ponytail and secure with a hair tie.
- For this look, you don't want any stray hairs. Use a fine-tooth comb to brush the hair back and apply some pomade, such as Ouai's Matte Pomade ($24), to give you the slicked back look.
- To achieve a clean, sleek pony covering the scrunchie or hairband, take a piece of hair from your ponytail, then spray a medium hold hairspray on that piece of hair to smooth. Then, twist it around the elastic for a polished look.
- Finish off by spraying your crown with a light hairspray to hold everything in place.
Margot Robbie's traditional side braid is extremely reminiscent of Frozen's Queen Elsa. This one requires hair on the longer side of medium.
- Start by swooping the top part of the hair back to the crown of your head before braiding down, eliminating the part.
- Leave a few strands loose around the face.
- Then, all it takes is some teasing, a classic three-strand braid, and a little hairspray for extra staying power. We like Living Proof's Flex Hairspray ($27).
The Wet-Look Style
As demonstrated here by Kourtney Kardashian, the wet look is an easy way to style a bob or other medium-length cut. Achieving this glistening, tousled look is easy. For proof, listen to Streicher:
- Start by repeating the steps from #14's ballerina bun style, skipping the second bun.
- Next, "let hair air dry or blow-dry into the shape you want."
- Finally, "brush through some product." We recommend a flexible hold gel like Not Your Mother's Curl Talk Frizz Control Sculpting Gel ($9).
Yara Shahidi's curls may be braided back, but her look is easy enough to replicate sans braids if you're short on time.
- First, follow Colombini's curly hair styling types from #8.
- Next, give your hair a deep side part.
- Part the hair back on one side, and secure with bobby pins; It will give the same super-chic effect. Then add accessories if needed.
Add interest to a basic ponytail or bun like the one illustrated in #2 by leaving texture at the crown of the head. We love the strands by the ears. Here's how to recreate this romantic look:
- Apply some volumizing mousse to the roots of your hair to give your crown some lift.
- Pull your hair back into a low ponytail and secure it with a hair tie. Don’t brush it back, as you want the front to stay looking slightly messy or texturized.
- Attach another clear tie to the end of our ponytail.
- Twist your hair, spiral it into a bun, and secure it with bobby pins.
- Pull out a few tendrils around your face and curl slightly as needed.
A center part and a lot of volume work beautifully for curls, which can be styled using the same principles as #8. Keep in mind Fekkai's advice:
- "All of our curls are different textures, patterns, and consistency, no matter the length. However, we all need a proper haircut and the right products, so getting a haircut in your desired shape along with products that work for your texture is half the battle. The other half is choosing your style."
- "I think it’s best to start adding in light layers or texturing once the hair gets to a medium length to release any waves or curl you might have naturally," adds Streicher.
One Thick Braid
One thick braid down the back is classic and cool for any length. We love how this look incorporates natural curls and flyaways for a textured appearance.
- "Braids can be fun but more challenging on short hair," says Maine.
- "If looking to incorporate a braid, just create a small three-strand braid."
- "Once you have tied it with an elastic, start at the top of the braid and move your way down the length, pulling it outwards for more fullness."
Jeweled Mermaid Waves
For fancy occasions, consider adding some rhinestones or pearls to the subtle waves from #3 for a mermaid-inspired vibe. This jeweled look can be overwhelming on longer hair but is pitch-perfect for a lob like Aimee Song's.
- If your hair has a little texture or curl, spray in some Bumble and bumble Surf Spray ($29) to play up its natural beachy texture.
- Dry your hair with a diffuser and slightly scrunch it.
- If your hair is straight, create some subtle waves by creating a few bends with a curling iron or flat iron.
- To finish off your mermaid look, apply Bitzy's Stick On Pearl Hair Gems ($4) around your hair for an ethereal glow.
Want to play with color but don't want to commit to the maintenance of a full dye job? You can copy Charli D'Amelio's fun and playful look. Consider contrasting your natural shade with a few hidden highlights in a fun color.
- Ask your stylist for highlights that are only visible when you tuck your hair behind your ears.
- If you want something temporary, use L'Oreal Paris Colorista Hair Makeup 1-Day Hair Color ($7).
- Tuck your hair behind your ear and apply to the strands that are hidden when your hair is down.
- You can also apply the color to a "money piece" or one single strand in front.
- Have fun highlighting different sections as it washes out in one day.
Another braid style that doesn't require a whole lot of length, this milkmaid braid worn by Lucy Boynton is perfectly red carpet-appropriate while remaining unfussy. This look is easy and doesn't require any French braiding.
- Divide your hair into two sections.
- Braid the ends of one side, using a regular three-strand braid technique, and secure with a hair tie. Repeat on the other side.
- Pull the first braid up and over and secure with bobby pins. Do the same thing on the other side, paying attention to adjust the braids so there isn't a seam where they overlap.
- Pull out some strands and tendrils for that romantic look.
Sharp Center Part
"Sleek and straight" is Maine's favorite way to style medium-length hair. "I love a medium blunt cut at the collar bone," adds Streicher.
The sleek ballerina bun from #14 gets a trendy upgrade by moving the placement from the nape of the neck to the top of the head. Think of this as your formal topknot. Here is how to pull it off.
- If your hair is curly or wavy, consider using a flat iron to straighten hair for a sleek look.
- Pull your hair up in a high ponytail and secure with a hair tie.
- Divide your ponytail into two sections and twist them together.
- Wrap the twisted section around your hair tie and secure with bobby pins.
- Spray on some hairspray to smooth down any flyaways and to hold your style in place.
"Medium-length is a chic style in itself, so don’t overthink it with styling. Simple waves or nice and sleek can be super stylish," says Maine. Glossy, structured waves give Zoey Deutch a sophisticated, Old Hollywood vibe.
- "For straight or slightly wavy hair, dry your hair at the roots upside down," says Fekkai.
- "Flip your hair back and apply the Fekkai Brilliant Gloss Multitasker Perfecting Crème ($20) to add shine and shape," he says.
Tracee Ellis Ross's full, shoulder-length curls have a whole lot of definition and shine. This is absolute proof that curly bangs can look fabulous.
The shag is a classic medium-length hairstyle. Choppy layers and grown-out bangs make this look effortless to maintain. To style, Colombini recommends:
- "Beach sprays, sea salt sprays, and a bit of pomade at the tips."
- "You can blow dry them in, but I think letting these products air dry in is the best texture," he says.
Anne Hathaway takes a classic wavy style and makes it unique by slicking back one side for an asymmetrical vibe. Choppy waves deliver a whole lot of shine.
- Apply products to the root of your hair to give it a lift. "For straight hair, I like using a good thermal protectant and thickening spray like Oribe Maximista to add texture to your hair to show movement," says Scott.
- Style your hair in a deep part and swoop it over to one side.
- Pull the rest of your hair back behind your hair and over one shoulder.
- Spray some hairspray on the slicked-back side to keep hair in place.
Stylist Kristin Ess takes a low ponytail to more formal heights with a lush black velvet bow and dramatic curls.
- Pull your hair back into a ponytail and secure with a hair tie.
- Allow some loose tendrils out around your face.
- You can style your ponytail sleek or with high volume. For creating dynamic styles, Scott switches between two brushes. "Ion Paddle Brush is great for straightening longer lengths, and the 9 Row Vess Brush is great for smoothing and light volume," she says.
- Finish off your look by hooking on this Kristin Ess Velvet Bow ($14) onto your hair tie.
"Play with half-up styles like topknots and space buns to switch it up even when it may feel too short to get it all up," says Maine.
- Pull your hair up into a high ponytail and secure with a hair tie.
- Separate your ponytail into two sections and intertwine them. Then, twist that section around the hair tie.
- Stop before the entire ponytail is twisted, letting the end hang out slightly to give it that "undone" look.
- Spray on a finishing spray to smooth flyaways and to add shine. "Dream Coat by Color Wow has epic sprays for both curly and straight looks that offer a ton of weightless moisture and shine," Maine says.
To get the medium-length curly hair of your dreams:
- "Invest in a great haircut," says Maine. "Medium length curly shapes can vary from triangular to boxy to round or oval. It’s important to find one that fits your face shape."
- This is a great example of a curly, mid-length style that is balanced.
- "For very curly hair, towel dry the roots and then apply the Fekkai Shea Butter Gel Crème and defining curl. Apply a curl refresher spray the next day or when needed," says Fekkai.
Gorgeous Shoulder-Length Locs
Shoulder-grazing hair like Chloe Bailey's still gives ample opportunity to play with locs and texture.
- Bailey styles her locs to the side, with one side up front for a flirty look.
- Use products that are designed to keep your scalp healthy and your hair moisturized, such as the Dr. Locs Yasin Shampoo ($18).
Want more loc hairstyle inspiration? Check out these 12 loc'd hairstyles that are jaw-droppingly gorgeous.
While medium-length hair doesn't allow for as many opportunities to create intricate chignons, accessories like clips and jewels can elevate a simple style. Here it how to copy Saoirse Ronan's elegant look.
- Pull your hair back into a low ponytail, leaving your bangs out to frame your face.
- Divide your ponytail into two sections and intertwine them together. To make the bun, twist that section around the hair tie and secure with bobby pins.
- To instantly upgrade your look, clip in this butterfly hairpin ($10) on the side of your hair.
How do I cut layers in medium-length hair myself?
There are tons of tutorials online on how to cut layers into medium-length hair at home, but unless you're a trained cosmetologist, we recommend going to a professional for the best look possible.
Can I start locs with medium-length hair?
Long story short—yes. Depending on what method you are using to start your locs (two-strand twists, comb coils, braids, etc.), longer hair might be easier to loc than hair on the shorter side.