Classic ponytails will never go out of style, but that doesn’t mean there isn't room for incorporating updates and new trends. If a pony is your go-to no-fuss ’do, there are plenty of ways to refresh the style without spending too much extra time in the mirror. “It’s all about taking this classic style and adding a totally modern twist,” explains Joshua Stinnett, a Los Angeles-based hairstylist who’s worked on the Ellen Degeneres Show. Here are our top tips for a fresh take on this quintessential look.
1. Get Healthy
Before you can get creative with your hair, you have to make sure it’s ready, willing and able to play along. First step: Know your hair type. “Blonde and red hair is naturally finer and less sturdy,” says Los Angeles-based stylist Lora Michael. “Darker hair tends to be thicker and stronger.” So start with a good cut and then take care not to wash too often because that strips hair of natural, protective oils.
2. Use the Right Fastener
You know those fasteners that are elastic with a metal clamp? Or even old school rubber bands? Don’t use them. No matter what type of hair you have, they can snag, pull and cause breakage. Since short hair needs more grip, Michael suggests using a silicone fastener, like those made by Goody. Longer hair is good to go with any type of fastener that doesn’t show the elastic fibers when pulled apart.
3. Prep Your Hair
No matter what texture your hair is, priming it is the key to a pulled-together look. For fine or limp hair, Stinnett recommends creating some texture by either not washing it or by applying some dry shampoo. However, if your hair is curly or coarse, some smoothing cream or argan oil might be necessary to tame it enough to stay slicked back.
4. Master the Wet Look
The wet ponytail is the post-workout go-to hairstyle of women everywhere, but it’s not particularly good for your locks. “Hair is weaker when it’s wet,” cautions Michael. No matter what type of hair you have, be careful not to pull or stretch it — especially the hair that frames the face — so hard that it snaps. Her suggestion: Braid those front sections of hair over your ears then pull those braids loosely back into your ponytail. “That way you don’t have to yank them as hard to secure them,” she says.
5. Go High
Active lifestyles call for a higher ponytail, says Stinnett, because they “help keep the hair from trapping sweat at the base of the neck.” So secure your hair as high up as you can rather than letting it languish just on top of your shoulders. High ponytails also look more current because they pair so well with the higher collars on your favorite workout sweatshirts or hoodies. Making some loose braids with the front/side sections of your hair works well with this style, too. As does a dab of pomade or molding mud and some old-fashioned bobby pins.
6. Create Volume
Play with proportion by teasing hair at the crown to create some height. This works especially well if you prefer wearing your ponytail low because it prevents the whole look from being weighed down. Start with the section at the crown of your head, “where a Troll doll has its pony tail,” says Michael. Take a half-inch strip and, starting about an inch or so above the roots, comb your hair toward the scalp. Repeat on a few other sections, and be especially gentle if you have fine hair.
7. Add Polish
Refine your look by wrapping a section of hair around your fastener. “It keeps the look more uniform,” says Stinnett. Leave a small section of hair from the bottom of your ponytail out of your fastener. If your hair has any wave to it, make sure to twist it around your ponytail in the direction of the curl, because it will lay flatter. Then secure the strands you used to wrap with a bobby pin pushed into the ponytail. Reposition hair over the pin to hide it.
8. Experiment With Extensions
Taking a few risks is also key to rejuvenating the classic ponytail. For short hair, add a ponytail extension. Cheap ones are fine, says Michael, but since synthetic hair is shinier than human hair, spray some dry shampoo on the extension first. The powder will make it look more natural. Another trick: Secure the extension while the hair that frames your face is sill loose. Then pull your own hair back, taking care to integrate it into the extension. It’s all about blending.
What Do YOU Think?
What’s your favorite way to wear a ponytail? Do you have a favorite product to protect your locks? Let us know your styling tips in the comments. —Audrey Brashich; Audrey D. Brashich covers lifestyle trends, wellness, pop culture, and parenthood for national publications including The Washington Post and Yahoo. Follow her @AudreyBrashich