Ratting, teasing, backcombing—these techniques make us think of a bird's nest on our head and when is that ever pretty? But ratting, teasing and backcombing are integral steps in achieving so many of the hairstyles you see on the runways and red carpet. They create a foundation, build up volume where you need it and give shape to your look. To get in on the hair-raising fun, we've amassed these tips to give you—and make you—a proper tease.
Your Tool
Too often, women grab a fine-tooth teasing comb as their tool. This can be more damaging to hair if not used properly. Your best bet is a teasing brush, which has gentler, serrated boar bristles that vary in length to give you friction without breakage as you tease. Try: Cricket Amped Up Teasing Brush.
Your Prep
Creating grip is the top priority on your prep list, and the way to do this is twofold: First, skip adding any conditioner or conditioning products from your roots to midlengths as these create too much slippage. (You can apply conditioner to your ends if you feel you need that extra TLC.) Second, use a texturizing spray, like Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray, to add the necessary tack you’ll need to allow your backcombing to stick. Concentrate your application at the roots only, since this is where you’ll be doing your teasing.
To build body and create hold, choose either a mousse or volumizing spray. Look for a product that isn’t heavy on shine; it should feel light and not sticky. Try one for fine hair, such as Kérastase Mousse Volumactive Amplifying, Perfecting Mousse for Fine, Vulnerable Hair.
Or, trade in your texturizer and volumizer for one of the new all-in-one products, such as Big Sexy Hair What A Tease Backcomb in a Bottle or Redken Quick Tease 15 Backcombing Finishing Spray. These promise to bundle all of the prep into one step, acting as texturizer, volumizer and finisher. “Redken Quick Tease spray literally changes the ‘fabric’ of the hair by adding more grip and extra texture for an instant teased effect,” says Cutler Salon owner Rodney Cutler.
Your Stroke
Wherever you want to tease, section off the hair in front of that portion and clip it to the side. This will be the hair you use to cover your teased areas. Then, “take sections about a half-inch wide, and pull the hair tight and away from your head,” says hairstylist Antonio Corral Colero. Starting at the root, brush against the grain toward the scalp using short strokes. The amount of tension (how tightly you pull) you use on each piece allows you to create better friction with your teasing brush. Go section by section until you’ve teased what you want.
Your Backcomb
That separate part you clipped to the side? Release it and begin smoothing it over your teased hair. Run your teasing brush gently over this hair, smoothing it into place. If you need to maneuver your shape around, use the pointed end of your teasing brush to ensure that you don’t disrupt the tease.
Hairstylist Jennifer MacDougall warns that you must always check the back of your head when teasing your crown. Look for gaps in your backcomb, and gently rework it until you can’t detect the tease.
Your Hold
Lock in your look with an aerosol hairspray, like L’Oréal Paris Elnett Satin Hairspray. Mist at arm’s length in the direction you want the hair to lie, and keep a light hand since overspraying will collapse your volume.
Teased Two Ways
Looking for a boost at the crown? Corral Colero shares this tip: “Often, women find it hard to stand up straight and tease their crown, so I suggest that they flip their hair over, upside down, and work their tease that way. It gives them more control, and actually encourages more volume.” If you just want to concentrate your tease at the crown, gather the hair you don’t want ratted into a ponytail off to the side so it’s not in your way.
Looking for some oomph along your center part? MacDougall gives this wisdom: section out enough hair at each side of your part and clip it; this hair will be your backcomb. “Lift the section you want to tease on one side of the part and actually pull it slightly over and past the center part,” she says. “Then begin your tease on the underside of the section.” Do this about three times for each section, and then switch to the other side. When you’re done ratting both sides, release your top section and smooth the hair to disguise your tease.
Are you ready to try teased hair?

Carolina Herrera fall 2012 ready-to-wear. Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week