When it comes to prom, they say finding the dress is the hardest part. And while that may be true, details like your hairstyle will make or break your entire ensemble. With a photo package on the line, picking the wrong 'do is one major don't. Lucky for you, we have the hairstyle inspiration you need to make that perfect gown look that much better. Besides, prom is one of those events in your life that you get one shot at—twice if you're lucky. Do yourself a favor and get it right while you can.
The Back Braid
Business in the front, party in the back—Millie Bobby Brown's hairstyle isn't your average topknot. Enlist the help of a friend to create three sections at the back of your head from the nape of the neck, to the crown of your head. French braid each section and secure with a mini elastic. Flip your head over and create a sleek ponytail and secure with a bungee. Wrap all remaining hair into a tight bun and spritz with hairspray.
Exposed Bobby Pins
We're so used to hiding bobby pins, but to the contrary, showing them off is actually much cooler. Grab a pack of colorful pieces that match your dress and accessorize your 'do in a way that shows them off. We love how Jourdan Dunn paired her set with a sleek braided bun.
You might've worn some variation of this style in your middle school days, but for some reason, a voluminous bubble pony feels much cooler today. Wear it like Kendall Jenner—low, with face-framing pieces, a center part and tons of texture—for an unexpected, and super chic approach to prom hair.
This wavy bob is making us want to commit to a short chop. To recreate Bella Hadid's waves at home, use a wand on two-inch sections of hair, curling hair away from the face. Create a side part and spritz dry shampoo or texturizing spray from roots to ends to give you extra lift throughout.
If you're a pro at braiding, the crown braid is as simple as creating two side braids (pigtail style), wrapping both ends over the top of your head, and pinning in place. If you're not super comfortable with your plaiting skills, you can even find headbands that come pre-braided for you. If you'd rather not deal with it, call your stylist. Either way, a crown braid is a sure bet for prom.
The French twist is the ultimate formal-night hairstyle. It goes with almost every dress style and boasts a certain je ne sais quoi. Wear it alone á la Zoe Kravitz or embellish with a pretty hair accessory.
The Formal Topknot
Who said you can't wear a topknot to prom? However, wearing it super sleek and high on the head like Rihanna makes for a much more formal look than the one you wear to wash your face. The trick is to get your hair really straight before styling. Blow-dry clean hair, then use a flat iron to get it pin straight. Secure tightly in a high ponytail before wrapping it in a bun and use bobby pins to hold it in place. Finally, use a hairspray-soaked toothbrush to smooth flyaways and lay your edges.
This silky wave actually works best on second-day hair, so be sure not to wash it the morning of prom. Brush out yesterdays blowout and apply a hair oil to your ends for tons of shine. Use a 2-inch curling iron to curl sections of hair away from the face. Create a center part to the crown of your head and smooth sides behind the ears. With a teasing comb, add some volume at the crown for a '60s inspired bump. Brush out your style to soften the look. A pair of bobby pins on each side keep your style in place all night.
If we could only go back to our own prom, this is the style we'd go with. Zendaya's voluminous, brushed-out curls are giving us major disco vibes—and truly, we can't think of a better mood for which to enter your senior dance. Full disclosure: You'll need a major set of hot rollers to get this '70s-inspired look, so leave the legwork to your stylist.
A retro-looking ponytail is just what you need to make a splash on your big night. When paired with a pink dress, the result is Barbie goes to prom in the best way. To recreate the look, start with a fresh blowout that focuses on flipping the ends outwards. Pull hair into a high and tight ponytail and smooth flyaways with a hairspray-soaked toothbrush. Lightly brush out your pony and spray your flipped-out ends with hairspray to hold that bend like Hailey Bieber's.
The Side-Pony Braid Trio
We're obsessed with this trio of waist-length braids worn by Yara Shahidi. To recreate the look, pull hair into a high ponytail and secure with a bungee. Teaser: You're going to need extensions for hair this long, and now's a good time to add them. Create three separate braids and secure ends with a small elastic. Top the look off with a shiny barrette.
If you're sporting a short pixie cut, texture is the name of the game. Rough dry hair with your fingers from side to side, then apply a lightweight pomade to create a moveable hold. Embellish with a shiny headband or barrettes for a touch of sparkle.
For the rockabilly and retro-inspired set, the obvious go-to style would be pin curls or victory rolls. And although we love a 1950s twist, this modern version worn by Rooney Mara still feels retro but screams prom-queen glam. These blunt baby bangs look uber cool contrasted by the sleek ponytail. To recreate the look, pull hair into a straight-back pony and roll ends inward to create a tunnel. Pin in place and cover in a hairnet the same color as your ends.
Don't let anyone tell you old-Hollywood waves only work on long hair. Lily Collins' collar-bone grazing locks look gorgeous in this vintage style. On clean, blowdried hair, install rollers throughout your hair, rolling inward toward your face. Let them set while you do your makeup. When you're ready, remove the rollers, create a side part, and brush through hair to create a cohesive wave. Set with hairspray and tuck sides behind your ears.
Hailee Steinfeld's double bun look is classic and feminine with a bit of a twist. If we had to guess, only the top bun is made of her natural hair (something tells us the second bun is made with the help of a hairpiece). If you're looking to recreate this 'do, consult with your stylist and bring some extra hair with you just in case.
If you have naturally curly hair, this one will be a breeze for you. If you're not blessed with spiral tendrils, fear not—that's why curling irons were invented. Pull hair into a high ponytail as tightly as possible. Using a 3/4 inch curler, create tons of bouncy spirals. Twist hair into a half bun, leaving the ends out, and secure with bobby pins. Evenly distribute curls all round the sides of your bun, and you have yourself a supermodel-approved style.
The Braid Corset
You can wear a dress with a built-in corset, or you can wear one in your hair à la Gaga. Create (or have a friend create) two fishtail braids that join together in the middle. Using a bobby pin at the end, weave cord or ribbon through the plaits in a shoelace pattern. Tuck the edges under your braid or tie a bow at the end. Extra credit for metallic cord or ribbon that matches your dress.
Zendaya is the ultimate hair chameleon but this textured ponytail lives high on our list of hair inspo. Similar to her '70s-inspired waves, this look takes time, countless rollers, tons of texture spray, and a plan (unless you're blessed with a natural texture this good). Consider getting your hands on extensions and calling your stylist for this one.
Kendall Jenner's messy updo proves prom hair doesn't have to be sleek to look polished. We love this loose bun with face-framing pieces she wears on the red carpet. Another style that works best on second-day hair,
We envy the texture of a tight spiral curl. Go ahead, show it off. Yara Shahidi's updo with tons of face-framing tendrils is just the look you need to get noticed on your big night.
There's something about this braided bun on Jennifer Lopez that looks so regal. If that's the look you're going for, you might want to seek professional help and lots of human hair extensions. A glam squad and extensions? There's nothing more regal than that. But it's prom—we say it's worth it.
The Wet Look
The wet look is so modern and edgy—definitely, cooler than the look we wore to our proms. To get the look for yourself, mix a little hair gel and shine cream between your hands and smooth through damp hair from front to back. Create a side part, comb it in place, and finish by smoothing out the comb lines with your fingers. Just skip setting products like hairspray or mousse to avoid a crunchy feel.
We couldn't decide whether we liked the deep side part or this slicked-back version of wet hair. Our advice: Do a practice run of each with your makeup and dress on.
The Faux Cut
And finally, the coolest way to wear the wet look is none other than this pulled-back look that mimics a short haircut. The result is an illusion (without the commitment).
Never underestimate the power of a single side French braid with face-framing tendrils. It's easy to create—and a messy hand just adds to the romance. For a waist-length style, weave in hair extensions in your color.