How to Style a Perfect Ponytail, No Matter Your Hair Type
- Ponytails are simple hairstyles that transcend formality.
- There are plenty of ways to wear ponytail, from high or low on your head to wearing it with varying accessories.
- Here's what to know about styling a ponytail, as well as inspiration photos you can pull from for your next occasion.
Ponytail hairstyles are some of the easiest ways to look put-together without exerting much energy. The versatility of the style is a welcome reprieve from the fact that we can't all commit to a three-hour beauty routine like Cassie from "Euphoria"; in fact, depending on a few factors, it's easy to look like you actually spent a lot of time on your hair even when you didn't.
Ponytails can also act as a protective and low-maintenance style for those of us on the go. Braided ponytails have the ability to last up to four weeks at a time, and for those of us who don't know how to braid, sleek ponytails with a long braid are a go-to style that can last quite a few days at home.
Still, with the seemingly endless variations of ponytails available (how could we forget curly, low, or short ponytails?), we decided to bring it back to the basics with the best tips to achieve the perfect look. From choosing a hair tie and accessories to styling preferences, here's how you can achieve a perfect ponytail — every time.
First, How to Choose a Hair Tie
What you use to secure your ponytail can lessen any breakage on your actual hair, which is why picking the right hair tie is key. Still, choosing the best accessory for you depends on your hair type and the look you're going for. If you want an easy ponytail hairstyle that just gets your hair out of the way, we recommend the Sephora Collection Snag Free Hair Elastics ($5 for 12). Not only do these hair ties hold your hair in place, but once you're ready to take your hair down, they also won't tug at your hair like normal elastics do. People with straight hair or fine hair can also opt for a spiral hair tie to minimize snarls or damage, like this Kitsch 8-Pack ($8 for eight).
For people with thicker or curly hair, we recommend hair ties that are larger in size or thicker in width but still have a softer outer casing so as not to pull at the hair. We like the Thick Cotton Ponytail Holders ($8 for 100, originally $13) from Amazon, but another hack you can try is to use a headband as a hair tie instead, and these Goody Ouchless Headwraps ($4 for six) are the perfect size for thicker hair.
If you want to add a touch of luxury to your daily look, no matter your hair type, try the Slip Small Slipsilk Scrunchies ($39 for six). These hair ties are made entirely of mulberry silk and will not cause creasing or dents in your hair.
High Ponytail, Low Ponytail, or Somewhere in Between: Choosing a Location
Generally speaking, there are three places you can secure a ponytail: high on your head, low near the nape of your neck, or somewhere in the middle. While none of these locations signal a style that is better for formal vs. informal occasions, there are a few things to keep in mind when deciding on ponytail location.
Many formal occasions, like weddings or galas, see people in ponytail hairstyles that are lower on the nape of the neck, like chignons, because this placement tends to create less friction and tension (meaning you can wear it comfortably for a longer time). Because the weight of your hair won't be pulling at the top of your head all night, low ponytails are a great bet for these instances.
High-ponytail hairstyles, though the purveyor of the now trending "ponytail facelift," tend to work best for events of a shorter duration, like informal parties, as the style is often accompanied by an extremely slicked base, as well as multiple hair ties and pins to keep the ponytail in place. This can lead to tension that then leads to headaches, of which even Ariana Grande has admitted to.
Middle ponytails tend to be the style that's best suited for daily looks and can work well on Zoom calls, at a lunch with friends, or to run errands. These ponytails are in what's arguably the most versatile position for styling a ponytail, as they can work for the majority of occasions, formal or otherwise.
Ponytail Extensions and Clip-Ins For Short Hair
If you don't have the necessary length to pull your hair all the way back into a ponytail — for example, if you have anything from a pixie to a bob haircut — fear not: it's easy to fake a ponytail with ponytail extensions or clip-ins. (You can even go this route if you want to add fullness and body to an otherwise limp ponytail.)
These are different from extensions you apply at the scalp and instead refer to the individual ponytail piece you secure at the elastic. That makes this choice a quick, affordable, and temporary way of achieving length, thickness, and volume at home — without the need to go to a professional. There's a range of ready-to-wear clip-ins to choose from, with ponytail extensions ranging in length from short and medium to extra long. We recommend the high-quality options from Luxy Hair.
Weave Ponytails: Care Tips
Unlike temporary clip-ins, styling a ponytail when you have a weave installed requires a bit more care. While the lifespan really depends on the type and quality of the extensions, we recommend you find something that will blend with the texture and color of your natural hair. To minimize damage or snarls to your weave, make sure to brush your hair twice a day to keep hair free of tangles, and always wash with a sulfate-free shampoo, like the Briogeo Don't Despair, Repair Shampoo ($38).
You'll want to use a leave-in conditioner spray to keep the hair hydrated like you would your natural hair. Make sure to note if your weave is made with synthetic hair because you'll then want to minimize any heat styling to the ends of the ponytail.
How to Style Your Ponytail
Ponytails are extremely fun to style because of how creative you can get. Whether you want a sleek look smoothed closer to the scalp or an intentionally messy and undone style — or even a braided look — there is no "wrong" way to style a ponytail.
Some of our favorites looks include the bubble ponytail, the slicked-back low ponytail, and the french-braid ponytail tuck, but there are so many more options to choose from. Ahead, we're making it easy by rounding up the best ponytail styles to try out next.