Embellish Your Hair with Beads: 3 Ideas to Try

Jean Campbell


I've attended a few bead shows lately where I noticed a trend: Middle-aged women with strands of sparkly stuff in their hair.  At first I thought it was very silly—something that should be left for the Little Mermaid set or a drunken Mardi Gras pedal pub ride. But when I saw someone I really respect with the treatment at consecutive shows, I started to look at it differently…I pulled out the sociologist in me and dissected it as a cultural phenomenon.

After eyes and mouth, hair is often the next thing people look at when they meet; the reason, I think, we all spend so much time grooming it. It ends up being a strong outward expression of who we are. And what better way to express our love of glimmer than to add shiny stuff where people look first? We add it to our hands, wrists, necks, and ears, so why not hair? I figure adding it up top not only expresses whimsy and a certain sense of creative freedom, but it also serves as a great conversation-starter.

Ideas for adding beads to your hair

The glimmer strands I've been seeing sported at shows aren't the only hair sparkle my middle-aged compatriots seem to be wearing, though. The other day I met a woman who had the most beautiful strand of beads and feathers in her hair, and the way she did it—very understated—made it a very sophisticated look. Her treatment of the idea got me thinking about different ways to connect beads to hair:

1: Thread-and-bead.  Tie embroidery thread or other colorful string onto a clump of hair. Braid, wrap, or tie knots around the clump, adding beads as you go.

  2: Clip it. Pair thin beading wire and lightweight beads to form a strand of beads. Crimp one end to a tiny clip and add a teardrop or feathers to the other end. Simply clip the strand into your locks wherever you'd like.

3: Hair-as-string. Use the hair as a stringing material, adding beads right to strand. It's easiest to get the hair through the beads by first looping a short length of beading wire around the strand, adding the beads to the paired wire ends, then pulling the wire so the hair slides through the beads. Use a tiny rubber band (like an orthodontia band) to stop the bead(s) from sliding off.

Stringing is much more than embellishing your lovely locks. Learn many other types of beading instructions in Stringing magazine.

So what do you think about adding glitter to hair? Is it a middle-aged yearning for younger days, or a fashionable trend? Please share your thoughts (and any hair-beading tips) on Beading Daily.

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About jeancampbell

Jean Campbell is the founding editor (and currently the senior editor) of Beadwork magazine and has written and edited more than 45 beading books. She has written for Beading Daily and has appeared on the DIY Jewelry Making show, The Shay Pendray Show, and PBS' Beads, Baubles, and Jewels where she gives how-to instructions, provides inspiration, and lends crafting advice. Jean teaches jewelry-making workshops throughout the United States and calls Minneapolis home.

17 thoughts on “Embellish Your Hair with Beads: 3 Ideas to Try

  1. I think adding beads to one’s hair is a great idea, under certain circumstances: if the beads complement the hair color and style, and if, as you said about the friend who had a subdued version in her hair at a conservative show, the beads are understated rather than the first thing that a person meeting them sees. Beads in the hair can be a distraction from the face, rather than a complement, just as jewelry can. A friend of mine (who is middle aged) once said, “Less is more.”

  2. I’ve been making and wearing hair wraps (and the bead strands and the clip-in or braid-in types) for many years…I used to work the festivals and in Mallory Square in Key West. It’s not just in Jamaica, hippies have been decorating their hair for dacades and we older hippies still like to decorate! I still do lots of them for my regular clients here in Milwaukee… The fashion comes and goes… Like bell bottoms and tye-dye…

  3. Since when does age or for that matter, sex, have anything to do with hair ornaments? Many cultures have been doing this for centuries – Native Americans, Africans, Tibetans among others. Haven’t we worn decorated hair pins with sequins for a very, very long time. Certainly this is nothing new. I am quite surprised that anyone with any knowledge of jewelry history and world culture would find hair adornments new or a middle aged attempt to recapture youth.

  4. I am 50 years old and for about 17 or 18 years I have worn 1 or 2 beaded braids in my hair. I braid the hair first, apply a small rubber band. Then string 13 to 15 plastic pony beads on the braid. Another small rubber band is then added on top of the first one to prevent the beads from slipping off. Nothing like waking up with beads stuck to your face or other parts of the body. I can wear the braids for about 3 weeks before changing everything again. Or occasionally I change them for special events and holidays.

  5. Hi,
    What are the ‘glimmer strands’? I searched and found that it is becoming popular to put the Christmas tree garland in your hair, but instead of the silver, colored strands were used. Is this what you were referring to?
    I am also way over 30, and LOVE decorating myself.

  6. I think it is neat….anyone that is middle aged went through the Flower Power era and perhaps that is part of the inspiration. I am not sure if I would or not. I think if it was toned down and not on the frilly side it could work.


  7. I also like making beaded hair clips, particularly barettes. They are a great way to show off bead embroidery skills, and can be worn with a variety of hairstyles.
    I plan to try adding a fringe to the next one to see how it works – I like the idea of the strands of beads mixing with my hair.

  8. Hello!! Jean is speaking of the many bead designers at a recent trade show in Milwaukee! It is funny, I looked at this product before that big show and contemplated buying them for myself. (I would have had my 15 year old daughter put them in for me! She, by the way, poo poo pooed me and I lost heart, shame on me!) In fact one of the Vendors on the trade show floor was applying them to customers during the show, it is a sideline for her. So as the show went on, more and more ladies had them! Woo hoo!! I was bummed I hadn’t followed my instincts to decorate myself!! And sadly I didn’t have time to get them, since I was working for one of the designers (no glittery deco for her either ~ also bummed)!
    Okay – you can buy these lovely little strands of sparkly milar type material at Sally Beauty Supply. Before the show Sally had them on clearance, so quantities may be limited. If you don’t have a store local you can check the website.
    As for Jean questioning the motivation of ladies of a certain age….she had to make the article interesting some how. No need to be quite so hard on her!
    @spiralingbead – Do you know what a Dunbar Limit is?? Just ask Jean! LOL

  9. Great to see “WE’RE STILL YOUNG”.

    Jean – these ideas are straight out of our (or atleast mine?!) hippie days when the gals would put any pretty charm in our hair. I started making these for my nieces a coupleof years ago. I’m sharing your article with my nieces, and maybe they’ll brush off the dust and start wearing them?? I also strung light weight beads on clear hair combs with thin beading wire. You can use any color or texture as long as the beads aren’t too heavy. You can hot glue silk flowers to combs too.

  10. I don’t know, I think less is boring! I am 50 yrs old, I wear tie dyed shirts that I tie and dye myself. I wear peace sign earrings and love beads around my wrists and ankles. I buy a lot of fun scrunchies and barrettes at the Osh-Kosh store for kids! Age is just a state of mind and I don’t mind at all.
    I have long hair, nearly down to my waist. My hair is baby fine and poker straight. Which means anything with weight will fall out!
    I make tikas, combs, forks, sticks and clips and I sell them in my online store. You can see how some of the jewelry looks like in my hair in my Flickr account. http://www.flickr.com/photos/wiccan. I like making a thin wire hair vine with seed beads and braid it through a french braid.
    I use clips similar to your second example. I use very tiny clear clips. I use 2 of them and string beads between the 2 which makes a beautiful tika. WIth my hair, I use acrylic 3mm rounds and briolettes for less weight. I have strung these clips with gossamer floss and non-filament string to make a floating appearance of pearls and tiny crystals. I have made actual drops of illusion beads coming off of the string between the clips. My d-i-l wore an alternative bridal veil using my design. The illusion beads were Swarovski air blue opals and crystal AB and the drops were 12″ long in the middle and shortened as they went towards her ears then the single illusion strand of beads went across her forehead in the front. She was beautiful.
    Life is for living! Throw some glitter in your hair if you don’t have beads then go out and seize the day!

  11. Dunbar Limit must be like the Dunbar number, which cheaply explained is like the 7 degrees of Kevin Bacon.
    These are relationships in which an individual knows who each person is, and how each person relates to every other person. It is a limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationship.
    Thank the Goddess for Wiki!

  12. I’m all for beads in hair, whether the strand like decorations mentioned here or beaded barrettes, which I’ve made and wear – I have long hair and have reached that “golden” age!!

    What interests me now though is using hair in our jewellery making as they did in the 18th & 19th centuries. It can’t be any more “macabre” than using prosthetic eyes or skull shaped beads/ charms can it?

  13. Hello again!

    I had to laugh when I read “hair as string”! As a older lady who is well past menopause, my hair is thinning rapidly.. I don’t have any to spare as string! Maybe I will make a bunch of the small strands and make myself some “dreads”. LOL… I just love it here!


  14. Everything comes back into style again. I did the hair wrap style about twenty years ago, after seeing people do it at Venice beach, Ca. First I did my own hair, that was the hardest. Then my daughter, and all her friends, then their moms, and so on. When you wrap them into your hair, they’ll stay untill you cut them out. My daughter is 25 now, but she still remembers the bead wraps in her hair. Now my granddaughter wants one. Time to get some new embroidery floss.