How To Create The Perfect Ponytail Every Time

PolishedPhotographed by Winnie Au.
The classic ponytail works for any occasion or hair texture, whether thrown up in an undone do, or pulled tight for a structured, sleek look. Easy to create, the style is especially perfect for busy days and humid summer temps. From polished to playful, I've given you how-to steps for sleek, textured and teased looks that work for every hair type.

Sleek & Tight — Polished Pony
The tight, polished pony works best with a straight, day-old blowout. So, if you have naturally frizzy curls, starting with a full, finished blowout is key. Start by applying a few spritzes of salt spray right around the hairline. If you dampen the front pieces slightly before blowdrying, the hair will lay much flatter when you pull it back. Using a flat brush — I recommend the Mason Person — and a blowdryer, brush your hair back flush against your head. Continue by flipping your head over so you're brushing hair back in the direction of the ponytail. If you direct the blowdryer straight down as opposed to with your head flipped over, the pony will likely have bumps when you go to put it up. Once blown back sleek and straight for a couple minutes, gather your hair and brush it back into a smooth pony, securing with an elastic. If you have thick hair, opt for a hair bungie as opposed to an elastic so you can wrap around as many times as necessary for a secure hold.

To complete the polished look, hide the elastic by wrapping a piece of hair around it. Take a 1/2-inch section on the underside of the pony, teasing one side and smoothing over the opposite side. Wrap the section, teased-side down, all the way around the ponytail. By slightly teasing the bottom, you will have a base to pin hair into. Finish by smoothing the entire look with hairspray. If hair is naturally curly use a shine spray for extra gloss and hold.
BeachyPhotographed by Winnie Au.

Beachy & Textured — Playful Pony
The boho-chic pony is all about texture and works best with beachy waves. Start by creating the waves, either by scrunching naturally curly hair with a salt spray or using a curling iron on straight hair. For lifeless hair, use a texturizing spray like this one from Oribe in your roots and shake it out with your fingers for added texture. Based on hair thickness, leave out a small, rectangular section at the front of your hairline. This section will be used to wrap around the elastic band once you’re finished with the pony.

When tying the elastic, make sure to gather hair loosely but tie band tightly to maintain the messy-chic appearance. Instead of using a brush like you do when creating the polished pony, use your fingers to gather hair so the textured look is emphasized. Once the pony is in place, tease the remaining rectangular section near your hairline for added volume and wrap it around the elastic band. Finish by applying a shine spray on the ends and scrunching hair to it give it plenty of texture and tousle.
VoluminousPhotographed by Winnie Au.

Voluminous & Teased — Party Pony
This look is young, playful, and vibrant, and perfect for a fun night out on the town or a big, glamorous event! For naturally straight hair, follow the steps above for the polished pony. When finished wrapping hair around the elastic, separate the ponytail into different sections, curling in different directions with a one-inch or smaller curling iron depending on how tight you want the curls to be. Finish by fingering through hair, using a teasing comb and spray to tease hair as big and voluminous as you want. Use a texturizing spray or a thickening powder on roots for added volume. You can be very creative with this look, going for a dramatic, statement style, or just slightly poufy and playful. And, while the "bigger is better" look is created best with naturally curly, textured strands, don't be afraid to give it a try — no matter your hair type.

From the runway to the red carpet, the ponytail works for any type of hair or personality. Classic and demure or statement and on-trend, the versatility of the pony makes it a timeless style staple.

More from Hair

R29 Original Series