Few styles can beat the sass or personality of the high ponytail. Whether you’re headed into a lecture at school or sitting at your desk at work, the ponytail makes you feel pulled together without feeling like you left your personality at the door. As if all that wasn’t enough, it even hides second-day hair like a charm and actually looks better on unwashed hair.
Of course, all of this depends on one thing: your ability to shape an even, sharp, high ponytail. Mystified as to how to get the perfect ponytail? Let us guide you. Grab an elastic or hair bungee, several bobby pins, and a brush or comb. You’re ready to do this thing.
Is it OK to sleep in a high ponytail?
We get it: You’re about to nail your high ponytail and would do anything to take it from Saturday night dinner to Sunday afternoon brunch. Unfortunately, due to the nature of a high ponytail, this tight, pulled-back style isn’t the kindest to your strands overnight, especially after spending multiple hours rubbing against your pillowcase. Try giving your mane a rest while you sleep and wrap it up in a satin scarf or tie it in a gentle, protective style, such as a two or three-strand plaits.
While sleeping in the occasional high ponytail likely won’t do too much harm, prolonged periods of overnight tension can put stress on your hair follicles, resulting in bald spots known as traction alopecia. So while you should enjoy your high ponytail in all its glory, try not to let the style infiltrate your nightly routine.
Now, on to the good stuff. Here are eight tricks to getting the sky-high mane of your dreams.
Start with second-day hair (or fake it).
All hair professionals will tell you that hair with a little natural oil in it is ideal for styling updos. Instead of slippery strands and pieces that won’t stay put, you’ll have a lived-in vibe that makes it much easier to create a high ponytail.
Give your hair a dose of L’Oréal Professionnel’s Tecni.Art Next Day Hair Dry Texturizing Spray for disheveled yet controlled, tousled styles. If you’re seeking more of a salt air-kissed texture, we love Redken Beach Spray. This sea salt-free spray is formulated with a combination of copolymers to help hair achieve the perfect beachy waves without drying it out.
As for dry shampoo, opt for one like Pureology Style + Protect Refresh & Go Dry Shampoo. Not only does it help your hair look and feel clean, but it works double duty by adding grit to your hair so it can best hold a style.
Upside down is easier.
When professionals style ponytails, they seem to effortlessly sweep all the hair up to the crown without any issues. If you’ve ever attempted a snatched ponytail, you know it’s not as easy as they make it look.
For starters, we always recommend flipping your head over. This enables you to get a smooth base and ensure the tail is positioned properly without having to fight gravity simultaneously.
Smoothing products are your BFF.
There’s nothing quite like the fierceness of a slicked-back ponytail. If that’s your favorite high pony vibe, you’ll want to invest in styling products that’ll get it as smooth and shiny as possible.
Start in the shower with a system like Redken Frizz Dismiss Sulfate-Free Shampoo and Conditioner before continuing on with the brand’s Spray Smooth Anti-Frizz Spray with Heat Protection. An editor go-to, this spray provides long-lasting smoothness and shine while canceling unwanted frizz. It also heat protects, so get out that flat iron and straighten your tail to your heart’s desire.
Brush, brush, brush away.
As a rushed teen, you may have gotten in the habit of using your fingers to scrape down any bumps or unflattering sections of your ponytail. Adult women use brushes instead! Putting a real hair tool to work ensures the flattest, shiniest surface possible. Start at the back of your head while it’s flipped over, and adjust the top section before securing your ponytail in place.
Photo credit: Kitsch
Trade your elastic for a bungee.
Tight elastics can pull on your delicate hair and cause breakage or traction alopecia over time. Remember taking out your ponytail as a child and seeing a dozen hairs wrapped around the edge, snagged in the metal portion of the band? We’re cringing just thinking about it.
We advise skipping the band and using a hair bungee instead, like Kitsch Bungee Elastics. This piece of elastic with hooks on each end will hold your hair tightly but not tug on it, and you won’t have to battle to get it out. What’s more, a bungee doesn’t require you to pull your tail through it every time you wrap it around the base of your ponytail, so there’s less risk of yanking out your carefully-coiffed volume.
If you don’t have a hair bungee at your disposal, you can create your own. Just loop two bobby pins through an elastic, place one end in your hair, and wrap it around your ponytail to create the base. When you’re done wrapping, anchor the bungee into place via the second bobby pin.
Remember the hairspray.
Ever wonder why your favorite celebrity’s ponytail stays flawless when yours is falling flat or has baby hairs poking out all over? She likely has an assistant following her around with a comb and a bottle of hairspray.
Think using hairspray is intuitive? Think again! Surprisingly, there is a right way to use hairspray. Experts recommend spritzing hairspray from six inches away for the most even distribution to help set your style. Spraying too close to your strands can cause your hairspray to clump or build up in concentrated areas, creating unflattering crunchiness and depriving other parts of your hair of much-needed hold.
As far as flyaways go, the six-inch rule won’t do much. Rather, it’s best to mist your hairspray onto your palms, a clean toothbrush, or a fine-toothed comb and gently smooth back any stray pieces for a slicked-back high ponytail worthy of the runway.
A quick way to make your ponytail look more intentional is adding some hair jewelry to it, such as cuffs, rings, or bedazzled clips. These days, we’re seeing quite a few matte metal barrettes and bobby pins that look appropriate in a wide range of settings.
If hair jewelry isn’t for you, add a few small braids to your ponytail for added visual interest. You can also take the bubble ponytail trend for a spin, requiring minimal skill to get it just right.
Add loose waves before you leave.
Mimic the look on any day with a few loose barrel curls. Before curling with your iron, prepare your hair with a heat protectant, such as Biolage Professional Thermal Setting Heat Protectant Spray. Let your ringlets cool, gently brush or finger-comb through them, then tousle with a medium-hold hairspray. We love a flexible formula like Redken’s Brushable Hairspray 12 (formerly called Fashion Works 12 but with the same trusted formula) since it allows you to re-shape and re-work your styles without needing a wash.
Searching for inspiration for your next high ponytail? Here are the hottest looks that are anything but basic.
8 of Our Favorite High Ponytails to Try Now
High Wrapped Ponytail
High Ponytail with Barrettes
They say that hairstyles are a form of self-expression, and now you can do it in the most literal sense with a slogan hair clip.
High, Slicked-Back Ponytail
There’s a good reason why a slicked-back ponytail is the crème de la crème of high ponies. Whether you need a quick style for an impromptu girl’s night out or an excuse to hide oily hair, the sleek look is one you can always rely on.
Dual Texture High Ponytail
Finger waves in front and tons of fluffy texture in the back—what’s not to love? Bookmark this look for your stylist the next time you’re feeling adventurous.
High Double Braid Ponytail
We never said that ponytails had to stand alone! Splitting your hair in half and creating two braids out of each section can instantly boost your volume. We especially love pairing this look with classic pearl accents for special events.
High Dream Doll Ponytail
The dream doll aesthetic is all about exuding flirty energy, and this high ‘do fits the bill. A deep side part sweeping diagonally across your face acts like a cheat code to help slim/balance a rounder face shape.
High Bubble Ponytail
We’ve been obsessed with bubble braid ponytails ever since first laying eyes on them. All you need are a handful of elastics, preferably in the same shade as your hair, and a few moments of spare time to style your high bubbles into place.