Updated December 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Buying guide for best headbands

From adorable Alice bands to utilitarian sweatbands, you can find all kinds of headbands to suit a range of needs. Some are simply designed to look stylish, some effectively keep your hair off your face, and others absorb sweat for a more comfortable workout experience.

Before buying a headband, think about what type of you want and why. A headband you choose for purely practical reasons might look different from one that's chosen simply because it's on trend. Your chosen headband should be comfortable to wear, which means not too tight or with parts that dig into your scalp. You might want it to be adjustable so it fits just right. Other factors to consider include materials, styles, and color.

This buying guide contains everything you need to know to find your perfect headband. When you're ready to buy, check out our top headband picks, one of which might take your fancy.

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Sports headbands should be breathable so you don't get too hot and sweaty during vigorous exercise.

Key considerations

Fashion vs. sports

Headbands fall into two broad categories: fashion and sports.

Fashion headbands are primarily designed to look stylish, though you can also use them to push your hair out of your face. Although many are quite simple, you can find highly ornate fashion headbands with beading or gems stitched or glued on them.

Sports headbands are meant to wick away moisture or absorb sweat, making you more comfortable as you exercise. They also keep your hair out of your eyes so it doesn't get in your way when you're working out or playing sports. Sports headbands should be breathable so that you don't end up feeling more hot and bothered wearing your headband than you would without it.

Styles

There are two broad categories in terms of headband styles, plus subcategories. The main styles of headbands are Alice bands and wrap headbands.

Alice bands are horseshoe-shaped. They sit over the top of the head but are open at the bottom, with each side ending just behind the ear. They're named for the Lewis Carroll character, Alice in Wonderland, who was depicted wearing a headband in some illustrations.

Variations include braided Alice bands and toothed Alice bands that more firmly pull your hair out of your face.

Wrap headbands are circular rather than horseshoe-shaped. They must be stretchy in order to fit over the head. Sports headbands are always wrap style. Fashion headbands can be Alice bands or wrap headbands.

Turban headbands are a type of wrap headband that is wide on the bottom and tapers to a knot on the top, evoking the appearance of a 1920s turban. You can also find some headbands that tie at the nape of the neck or on top of the head.

Materials

You'll find headbands made of all kinds of materials, from basic plastic to high-tech fabrics.

Sports headbands: These headbands tend to be made of high-tech moisture-wicking fabrics. Advances in fabric technology mean that you can find headbands that don't make your head feel hot and stay perfectly dry no matter how much you sweat. Of course, cheaper sports headbands don't include the best moisture-wicking fabrics, so be careful what you buy.

Wrap headbands: These need some stretch to stay in place on a range of head sizes, so whatever fabric is used is generally blended with elastic, spandex, or another stretchy material. If you want a wrap headband that isn't stretchy, it needs a tie closure, such as a bandana.

Alice bands: These come in a wide range of materials. Basic options are made of plastic, but these are often more practical than stylish. Velvet Alice bands have a slightly retro ’90s feel to them and also look dressier than some other materials. Satin headbands look sleek and can also work with high-fashion clothing. Heavily embellished headbands covered in beadwork or gems are over-the-top but in a good way! You need to be careful which one you pick and how you style it, though, because it can look tacky if you aren't careful.

Some sports headbands have a small storage pocket for an item such as a key or credit card, which is useful if your workout gear doesn't have pockets.

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Features

Colors and prints

You can find headbands in virtually any color or print you can think of, though you'll need to search longer and harder for some.

Colors: It's easier to match a solid-colored headband to a range of outfits, so if you only want to buy one or two headbands, solid colors are the more versatile choice.

Prints: The right print can elevate your headband from basic to high fashion. Your perfect print depends on your personal style. A matching plaid headband and skirt, for instance, gives you a preppy ’90s look in the vein of Cher from Clueless. An animal print headband paired with black jeans and a leather jacket gives you an alternative look. Polka dot headbands are the perfect accessory for a vintage 1950s look.

Fit

Adjustability: Most headbands are one size fits all. Both wrap headbands and Alice bands stretch to fit the wearer’s head. However, you can find a small number of adjustable headbands. Usually these have a tie closure that allows you to adjust the size as you tie it in place. Unless your head is significantly larger or smaller than average, you shouldn't need an adjustable headband.

Comfort: Consider how comfortable your chosen headband will be to wear all day. Wrap headbands are almost always more comfortable than Alice bands because they don't have any parts that can dig into your scalp, whereas Alice bands can exert pressure behind the ears. Alice bands with padded tips are more comfortable than those with bare plastic or metal tips.

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DID YOU KNOW?
An overly tight headband can cause headaches if worn for long periods. Of course, a headband that’s too loose and slips down also causes issues.
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Headband prices

Inexpensive: You can find some inexpensive fashion and sports headbands for $1 to $5 a piece, though the cheapest often come in packs of three or more.

Mid-range: These headbands cost from $5 to $15 each, including both fashion and sports headbands that are either very stylish or made from high-end moisture-wicking materials.

Expensive: Expect to pay between $15 and $50 for a top-quality headband from a well-known brand. Some options from elite designer brands can cost $200 and up, but there's no reason to opt for something that pricey unless you're into designer gear.

It's annoying when your headband keeps sliding down into your face, so check for headbands with grips or other nonslip properties.

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Tips

  • Choose a sports headband that’s easy to wash. It will get sweaty and stinky, so it should be easy to wash and dry.
  • Consider durability when selecting a headband. Some headbands aren't made to stand up to daily use and can wear out over time. Loose elastic is a common complaint and leads to headbands that don’t stay in place.
  • Match your headband to other accessories. For instance, you could wear a black top and pants with purple shoes and a purple headband.
  • Choose the right headband for exercise. Sports headbands made of moisture-wicking and quick-drying fabrics help keep sweat out of your face during vigorous exercise.
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Heavily embellished or bold-colored headbands can be a real statement piece, but you may find they work only with a limited number of outfits.

FAQ

Q. Can I wear a sports headband with street clothes?

A. Sports headbands are usually only worn during exercise since they tend to be more practical than stylish. That said, you can find a handful of fashionable sports headbands that work for both exercise and casual wear. What's more, if your personal style is fairly bold or eccentric, you can pair a vintage-style sweatband with street clothes for an interesting look — think Richie Tenenbaum in The Royal Tenenbaums.

Q. Are headbands suitable workwear?

A. That really depends on your employer’s dress code and the type of headband. If you're expected to dress in business attire at work, it's likely that a headband wouldn't be suitable, but few workplaces have formal dress codes anymore. Some headbands should work fine for all business casual and even some business professional looks. If you can wear casual clothes at work, any headband should be acceptable. The exception is if you work in an environment where wearing a headband would be a safety hazard, such as working with machinery on which your headband could get caught.

Q. Do headbands only work with certain hairstyles?

A. No, headbands can work with all kinds of hairstyles from close crops to long hair to elaborate updos. Some headbands are specifically designed to keep long hair out of your face, so they might not work with extremely short hair, but you can always find an option that works for you. You'll find some limitations with circular headbands that fit completely around your head, since you can't position a ponytail beneath the headband. Slightly raising or lowering your ponytail should get you around this issue, however.

 

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