hair and hygiene

Reality Check: Female Hair and Hygiene

Thanks to Mustang Lt. S, formerly a SIGINT Sgt, for her insight into female hair and hygiene at OCS. Female candidates, practice before you go so you don’t lose precious sleep time at OCS.

Hair and Hygiene

Second Lieutenant Lillian Polatchek poses in front of an M1A1 Abrams tank at Fort Benning, Georgia. Polatchek is the first female Marine Tank Officer after graduating as the distinguished honor graduate of her Army’s Armor Basic Officer Leaders Course on April 12, 2017.

Long Hair (Touches the bottom of your collar and longer)

hair and hygiene.
Modified boot sock.

Here’s the honest to god truth: If you haven’t figured out how to put your hair up without fly-aways by the time you go to OCS, just cut it all off because you’re probably just being lazy. In all my time in the Marine Corps, I have only come across a few non-Black women who had hair that was justifiably difficult to put back smoothly, and they were still women of color with ponytails you couldn’t even wrap your hand around. Every white woman I heard complain about their straw-like hair being difficult to put up just warranted massive eye rolls.

There are two main ways to put long hair up (1) Sock bun, and (2) Twist bun. Shorter hair should use the sock bun, while longer hair can be twisted.

Note: Another source and friend of the blog has informed us that the sock bun “Looks great, but time-consuming as hell. Use only if you have the time, energy and give a damn factor.”  And the twist bun is, “Easy, effective. Get’s the job done. Whatever you choose, tons of hairspray and gel. If it doesn’t look like you schlacked your head you did it wrong.”

1. For the sock bun, I do not recommend the soft squishy foam bun things you buy at the pharmacy or whatever. They’re soft and unmanageable for how tight you want your hair to be. Just take a boot sock, cut the toe, and roll it firmly into a donut. If your hair is even longer, you can make this donut larger by simply adding another boot sock to it. Your first few donuts may not look that nice or be very smooth. That’s okay! It takes practice, so I suggest rolling one at least a dozen times before shipping.

Now, this should absolutely not be an issue at OCS, but for future reference, if you are trying to grow out medium length hair and need to try to put it up in a bun, use an ankle sock or hosiery to create the donut. This can give you a tiny little bun to work with. I have used this method with success when growing my hair out from chin-length.

2. For the twist bun, you can incorporate braids if your hair is thinner. I do not recommend this if your hair is already thick. It just adds to the girth of the ponytail you are trying to twist.

Medium Hair (Above the bottom of the collar)

This may be a personal preference, but I only recommend this cut for women who have naturally straight-as-shit hair or women who wear wigs/weaves with this style. If you have to flat iron it to make it look tidy, I would not bother with this haircut. While I completely empathize with people who find it absurd that wavy and curly hair is viewed as “less professional” than straw straight hair (I have ringlets), you chose to join this professional organization where appearance really matters. Also, it just makes keeping your cover on when it’s windy pretty difficult.

Short Hair (Think pixie cut length)

Do your thing, ladies. I’ve chickened out of going for this style too many times. This is probably the most practical and lowest maintenance haircut available.

Hair and hygiene.
Hairbrush. OCS edition.

General Tips:

• Do not use “see-through” or “clear” hair bands. Those tiny little ones you want to slap on the end of a braid? Purchase ones that match your hair color, especially if you have darker hair. Clear hair bands just appear white, especially against dark hair.
• If you have blonde hair, don’t buy light colored blonde bands. Go a shade darker. You are going to be putting gel in your hair, so your hair will be slightly darker and the light blonde hair band will stick out like a sore thumb.
• No, you don’t get to litter your hair with barrettes to keep fly-aways down. You slap on as much gel as possible until you have a helmet head.
• Speaking of gel, use a lot of it. Men have to pay every week to get haircuts and buy those razors to shave their faces every day. You can shore up some cash to purchase the copious amounts of gel required to look tidy.

Note: Recent OCS graduates have informed us Got2b Glued is the hair gel of choice at OCS.

• Use a small bristle brush or one of those nail cleaners to smooth down hair while putting it back in a ponytail. Dab a bit of gel onto it, then run it over your hair and back into your hair holding the ponytail to get rid of most bumps and loose hair.


Female candidates don’t need “more” showers than men. If you’re honestly asking yourself how you will survive, remember that there are still women in this world who live without running water in the jungle for their whole lives. Get over it. And in any case, when I went through OCS, you had the opportunity to shower and even wash your hair every night!

Now, I would recommend showering whenever given the opportunity. However, for you ladies with long hair (like me), I do not recommend washing your hair every night. When I was in enlisted boot camp, we were allowed to wash our hair once a week and we all totally survived. Washing your hair and then putting it up every night can take a lot of time. It also takes up a lot of gel because you’re reapplying all the time. There’s no real purpose for this. In fact, it’s not even generally healthy to wash your hair and strip it of its oils every day even outside the context of the OCS time crunch.

However, I do want to stress how important it is to let your hair fully dry every few days. This may mean waking up a little earlier and putting it up before morning lights, as opposed to putting it up before you sleep.

There have been women who had mold start to grow in their hair because they always put it up wet.

While I find it more manageable to put up and style wet hair, I still ensured I washed and then let my hair fully dry every three to four days.


Honestly, most of us stopped having our periods during training. If you do have your period, however, you will need to furnish and keep your own sanitary materials. If you’re worried about menstruating while in the field or in other less-than-civilized situations, that’s just something you’re going to have to power through. As mentioned before, women all over the world deal with these things in much less privileged settings. You’re going to survive.

Female candidates prepare now for the challenges of OCS. Do not neglect hair and hygiene at OCS.

Female candidates, what else do you want to know about hair and hygiene? Comment below with your questions!

5 thoughts on “Reality Check: Female Hair and Hygiene

  1. I just came back from OCS and I can say from experience that putting my hair into a single braid and then wrapping it into a bun was the easiest method for me. I would usually wake up around 0430, go to the head to do my hair, and then crawl back into my rack before lights. It would take me maybe 2-3 minutes at the most, as opposed to 5-6 minutes trying to do a sock bun. Also, with the braided bun you won’t run the risk of having a bun maker peeking out, and this type of bun is better for exercises where you’re wearing a kevlar.

    1. Hello, my name is Emilia and i’m 15 years old. I really really want to become a marine when i’m older and i’ m trying to do some research on it. I just have a couple questions. So in the first few weeks of boot camp you cant have your phone, so i’m wondering how you wake up earlier to do your hair. Second question, do you know if women are allowed to bring their own things to boot camp, like the gel and feminine products like shampoo and conditioner and pads etc. or do they provide you will all of that? Third question, what does a day look like in boot camp?
      Thank you!

    1. Hi Gerally,
      Yes, you can wear braids at OCS so long as they are withing Marine Corps regulations (see below). I recommend making sure you practice braiding your hair well in advance. You want to make sure you can put your hair up in less than five minutes. Also, you need the style to stay in place for the whole day, through all of your exercises and drills. There isn’t time built into the schedule to fix your hair or redo it. Lastly, depending on the braid style, that will change the size of your cover and possibly your kevlar. I recommend trying to stay with the same style throughout all of OCS so you don’t have to worry about having multiple covers.

      Reference: MCO 1020.34 H

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