A Beginner's Guide To Using Bobby Pins

Despite their deceptively simple construction, bobby pins can be difficult to use and rarely come with instructions. Hair is very hard to work with, and no one ever reviews bobby pins -- meaning that beginners are lucky if they even have the right pin to work with, never mind know what to do with it. Here is a very brief introductory guide.


Theoretically, bobby pins are primarily used for keeping short hair and bangs in place. In order to do this, you will need to find the right pins. Bobby pins generally come in two lengths: (more or less) two inches long and (more or less) two and a half inches long. The extra half inch makes a difference. If you want functionality, you probably want the bigger pins. Although if you really want functionality, hair clips are even better.

Generally, keeping a bob in place is a comparatively easy task. Take two or three pins (per side) and pin back the hair as desired. Use a mirror, at least until you are used to the procedure. Remember that you are creating a laid-back and breezy hairstyle, and don't be too picky.

Pro tips:

  • The smooth side goes up. The bumpy side goes down.

  • If you are using a decorative bobby pin, plan on backing it up with two or three standard, boring pins. The most attractive placement probably won't be the most functional.

  • It is perfectly acceptable to open the pin to get more hair in. This will limit the number of times you can use the pin, but they are cheap.

  • Crossing two pins in an X is often quite effective. Crossing four clips in a 'death star' is very effective, but should be avoided.

  • If you have fine, smooth, or particularly sneaky hair, you may find that coating your bobby pins with hair spray makes them more effective (place the pins on a sheet of paper towel, spray, and let dry).

Braids and Twists

There are many different hairdos that can be shaped with bobby pins; I have very little knowledge or interest in anything more complicated than keeping your hair out of your face. However, one frequent use of bobby pins is anchoring braids and twists of hair, which is quite simple to do.

To keep a twist of hair in place, including a twist that will be the basis of a braid, start by twisting the lock of hair away from your face; rotate it enough to make a well-defined twist. Insert the pin halfway, making sure the pin is clasping a good chunk of the twist. Flip the pin over and push in and downwards, making sure you pick up hair from the scalp. Push it all the way in. It should be tight enough that you feel the tension, but not tight enough to pull your hair or pinch. This video give a good visual tutorial of the process.

Pro tips:

  • If you are trying to keep a bun neat or pin an updo, you do not want to use a bobby pin, you want to use a hair pin.

  • Because you are 'folding' the pin over, a too-long pin may pinch and pull hair. You will most likely want to use the small size of bobby pin. Very short pins are available if you look for them, and may be useful for small braids.

  • If you see ribbons braided into a braid, chances are that the ribbon is threaded through (or tied to) the bulge at end of a bobby pin. Some pins are designed especially for this, with slightly larger bulges and sometimes with reduced or no crimping.