The 7 best ponytails you need to try
This ponytail is elegant and flattering—and can have almost the same effect as a face-lift, says hairstylist Serge Normant. To keep it from looking too stiff, focus your styling products on the head and not the tail.
1. If your hair isn't naturally this smooth, run a flatiron through it. The ends should be completely straight, not curved, or else the look becomes cheerleader-y.
2. Smooth a quarter-size blob of lightweight styling cream from your roots to midlength. Gel might seem like the more obvious choice, but with the hair pulled back this tightly, it can harden and leave behind white flakes, says hairstylist Diego Da Silva. (Try Catwalk by Tigi Session Series Styling Cream.)
3. Brush your hair straight back with a boar-bristle paddle brush and secure it just below the crown with a hair bungee—it wraps tighter than an elastic, so your ponytail won't sag and look sloppy.
4. Divide the hair in the tail into a top and bottom section and pull in opposite directions. The bungee will rise a notch and give you a flattering little bump at the crown, says hairstylist Rodney Cutler.
A little texture and some teasing at the crown take the classic low ponytail to new heights.
1. Spritz salt spray evenly throughout dry hair until it feels slightly damp. (Try Organix Moroccan Sea Salt Spray.) Then blow-dry on low heat, scrunching the hair upward with your fingers.
2. Once your hair is dry, part it on the side and wrap random one-to-two-inch sections around the barrel of a one-inch curling iron. "You don't want the curls to look too perfect," says hairstylist Nathaniel Hawkins. (We like the Solano SmoothCurl 450 Spring Curling Iron.)
3. Gently back-comb the crown before raking the hair into a ponytail and securing with an elastic at the nape of your neck.
4. Now softly tease the length of the ponytail with a paddle brush instead of a comb. "You'll get a bigger, puffier effect," says hairstylist Ken O'Rourke. Mist with a light-hold hair spray, like Keratin Complex Style Therapy Flex Flow Hairspray, or, if you're really prone to flatness, a dry shampoo, like Philip Kingsley One More Day.
5. Give the ponytail a finished look by wrapping a one-inch strip of hair around the elastic. Grab the hair from underneath the tail and use two mini hairpins (Sta-Rite makes good one-and-three-quarter-inch ones) to secure the ends—the pins should form an X under the elastic.
6. Loosen pieces from the front and sides for a relaxed, undone vibe.
Just like the woman who made it famous, the classic Bardot ponytail straddles the line between sweet and sexy.
1. Saturate damp hair with volumizing spray and rough-dry upside down, lifting at the roots with your fingers. "This helps build volume from the beginning," says hairstylist Harry Josh. (We like Phyto Phytovolume Actif Volumizing Spray.)
2. Once hair is 80 percent dry, flip back up and blow-dry in three-inch sections, winding strands around a medium round brush held vertically to give them a slight bend.
3. Make a short center part and back-comb four or five even sections on the top of the head to just below the crown, then smooth over them with a flat boar-bristle brush. (Mason Pearson makes a good one.)
4. With the same brush, loosely sweep back the sides (be sure to leave out your bangs and a few layers in front), then do the same with the hair on top. "Brush the top layer last so that when you anchor the ponytail, you don't lose the volume at the top," says Normant. Secure it all into a ponytail at the nape, then wrap a small section of hair around the elastic and anchor the ends underneath by making an X with two mini hairpins.
5. Take a one-inch section of hair from the layers you left loose on each side of the part, mist with hair spray to smooth, and gather them both at the center of the back of the head. Tie them in a knot (like the first step in tying a shoelace) and insert a hairpin at the point where they intersect. Tuck the ends up underneath the strip of hair on each side, pinning into place if necessary.
Don't let the easy, breezy texture of this ponytail fool you—creating it is not exactly a day at the beach.
1. Saturate damp hair with volumizing spray and rough-dry it. (We like Garren New York Designing Spray Tonic.) If you're working with day-old hair, spritz it with some salt spray and scrunch as you blast hair with a blow-dryer for a minute to bulk up the texture. (Try John Masters Organics Sea Mist Sea Salt Spray With Lavender.)
2. With your fingers, loosely rake hair straight back to your nape and secure it with an elastic. "Brushing it back looks rigid and can make hair more susceptible to parting on its own later," says O'Rourke.
3. Without opening the clamp, wrap random sections of hair in the ponytail around a medium-barrel curling iron. "You'll look polished, but you won't have perfect ringlets like you're headed to prom," says hairstylist Kevin Ryan. (Try the Chi Ultra 1" Curling Iron.)
4. Wrap a section of hair around the base of the ponytail and use two mini pins—in the shape of an X—to secure the ends underneath. If the tail looks a little limp, lift it up in layers and mist each with dry shampoo and tousle to give it added bulk. (We like Davines Hair Refresher Dry Cleansing Mist.)
Create a soft, romantic style in minutes by twisting your hair back into a tiny ponytail just below the crown.
1. Starting with smooth, dry hair, wrap large sections around a large-barrel curling iron held vertically. (Try the T3 SinglePass Twirl 1.25".) Leave out a few inches at the roots and ends so the bends are concentrated at midlength. Curl the whole head and mist it with a light-hold hair spray, like Fekkai Sheer Hold Hairspray.
2. Part hair in the center and grab a two-to-three-inch strip on each side of the part at the hairline. Mist the two sections with texturizing spray or dry shampoo, like Aveeno Pure Renewal Dry Shampoo, so the hairs grip each other when you twist.
3. Loosely twist the first section away from your face. Continue twirling until you reach the back of your head, and secure in place with a duckbill clip.
4. Twist the other piece back to meet the first one and secure both twists together, just a few inches below the crown, with a small, clear elastic.
TIP: Few of us look best with 50 percent less hair—which is why so many half-up styles look scrawny and unflattering. A fuller, more attractive ratio is 30 percent up and 70 percent down, says Hawkins.
Quite possibly the sexiest way to disguise dirty hair, this style works best with oily roots. "They add to the glossy effect," says Hawkins.
1. Divide your hair into three horizontal sections. With a rattail comb, draw an arc from the top of one ear around the back of the head to the other ear—all the hair above that is your first section. Secure it just below the crown with a small, clear elastic. Then draw an arc between the center of your ears and gather that section into another elastic. Anything left below that is your third section.
2. Undo the top ponytail and smooth a blob of high-shine styling cream over the hair. (We like Bumble and Bumble Brilliantine.) With a flat boar-bristle brush, drag the hair back as tightly as you can and secure it at the crown.
3. Undo the second section, smooth it with styling cream, and brush all the hair straight down. But before you secure it, grab the length of the first tail, then wrap an elastic around them both.
4. Repeat with the bottom section so that all the hair is tied together at the nape of the neck.
5. Pass a flatiron over the free ends of the ponytail so they look smooth and sleek.
Whatever you think of side ponytails (Three's Company, anyone?), forget it. This updated version is loose, sexy, and not even a little gum-smack-y.
1. Back-comb four or five small sections of hair at the crown and loosely smooth over them with a boar-bristle brush. Mist with a light-hold hair spray, like Pantene Pro-V Stylers Flexible Hold Hairspray.
2. Part the hair to one side and gather it just off center from the nape, on the opposite side. Secure with an elastic. "The ponytail should cascade to the side," says hairstylist Didier Malige.
3. Wrap big chunks of the tail around the barrel of a two-inch curling iron without using the clamp. "I call it kissing the tong," says hairstylist Christian Wood. "Hold it for just a few seconds to give hair a bend." (Try Hot Tools Professional 2" Spring Curling Iron.)
4. With your fingers, rough up any sections that need a little roughing up to make the style feel easy and relaxed. Mist with that same light-hold hair spray.
TIP: When wearing a ribbon in your ponytail, choose one that's less than three quarters of an inch wide, says hairstylist Garren.
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