Simple ponytails are a staple of many women’s “hair wardrobes”. They’re a great go-to style for before bed, washing your face, or just taking it easy. The ponytail cleans up pretty well, too. Ponytails are now worn as red-carpet, date night, or work-appropriate hairstyles. These ponytails are just as easy to pull off as yanking your hair back in a rush, but are chic enough to give the illusion that you put lots more time and effort into your hair. Try these tips to achieve any (or all) of these 5 simple ponytails.
Note that these ponytails will work best on hair that sits at least at the top of the shoulders. Some shorter hairstyles can pull off ponytails, but they won’t have the length required to make the most of the hairstyles offered in this article.
Simple Ponytails – Smooth and Sleek
This is a great-looking simple ponytail to wear to work, school, or for a low-key night out. The hair straightener or flatiron is going to be your best friend for this style, giving you that smooth, poker-straight hair that most blowouts stop short of.
Start with damp, slightly towel-dried hair. Apply a heat protection product (see my review here for ones I like) all over, and begin straightening hair with iron. Get as close to the roots as possible while straightening sections to make the straightness appear seamless. Once hair is straightened and dry, you may want to apply a finishing product if you’re prone to frizz – such as Frizz-Ease serum or a smoothing cream. Rake through gently with fingers or use a wide-tooth comb. Use a gentle brush or comb that won’t tug to help you pull hair back perfectly, this will help you avoid those bumps and lumps. Secure with an elastic, then finish with a light spritz of hairspray to tame any weird cowlicks or flyaways. This style looks good as a low ponytail, situated at the nape of the neck. I prefer mine higher, below the crown and parallel with the ears.
Simple Ponytails – The Poof
This style has been gaining momentum in the past few years – first popularized by Gwen Stefani and now most often attributed to Snooki from MTV’s Jersey Shore (even though she wears hers in a clip, not a traditional ponytail). Basically all you’re doing here is adding some volume to a ponytail, or inserting an armature (like Bumpits) to make it look volumized.
If you’re not using an insert like Bumpits, you’ll need to volumize your hair. Separate a section at the top of your hair, beginning at the hairline (or behind bangs or shorter pieces in the front that you like loose) but stopping before the crown. Apply volumizer at the roots to damp hair, then blow-dry using a round vented brush (the bigger the better). When hair is dry, gather the volumized hair to “poof” it by grabbing the back of the volumized area and pushing it slightly towards the hairline – securing with bobby pins if necessary. Make sure it looks smooth and there are no “gaps” in your poof, this might take a few tries if you’ve never styled your hair like this before.
Once you have your “poof” looking like you want, brush the sides and back of your hair smooth and then pull all hair into a ponytail. Try to place your elastic as close to the poof as possible, to help disguise the pins.
Simple Ponytails – Messy Ponytail
The messy ponytail is undone, but not overly sloppy. This is a good style for getting an extra day out of unwashed hair, and looks best with some texture. If you like to scrunch your hair, this is the ponytail for you. This also looks good with texturizing products such as those designed to achieve “beachy waves” or bed head. This style is more casual, but very changeable – very easy to disguise a ponytail “bump” from the day before or add some different texture to your usual look.
After applying any styling products, start by gathering hair loosely to look at how high or low you want this ponytail. Secure loosely with an elastic, then pull out some strands around the face to style separately. Brush or finger-comb hair to gather again, leaving out those face-framing pieces. Secure ponytail with elastic, and tug until snug. I’m a fan of teasing, so when I wear my hair like this I’ll take a rattail comb (also referred to as a “teasing comb”) and tease a bit right at the base of the ponytail. This makes hair appear fuller, and if you curl or wave random strands within the ponytail at the ends it’ll give an interesting look.
Simple Ponytails – Side Ponytail
The side ponytail has been making a comeback in a big way. This isn’t the same Rainbow Brite hairstyle you sported in the ’80s, however. Today’s side ponytail isn’t anchored to your scalp like a protruding horn; it’s lower, looser and much more stylish.
This style meshes well with the messy look listed above. If your hair is naturally wavy or has a lot of texture, this is a pretty way to bring out your hair’s natural beauty. This looks good with some loose, face-framing strands and on hairstyles with bangs. This simple ponytail can be tied loosely or tight, just under the ear or lower on the hair if yours is very long. This can look especially sweet tied with a ribbon, giving off a bit of old-fashioned charm. How neat or messy you make this one relies on your hair’s natural texture and how much you feel like styling. It lends itself well to unwashed hair since any texture (like scrunching) you give it will hold slightly better. Try teasing the hair right under the elastic and loosely curling random ends to add some oomph, or wrap your ponytail using the tip below.
Simple Ponytails – Wrapped Ponytail
One simple way to dress up any ponytail is by wrapping it with a strand of your own hair. This hides the elastic and can give the style a more polished look overall. All you need to pull this off is a few bobby pins.
Once your hair is in its ponytail, section off a strand of hair slightly wider than your hair elastic (generally 1-2 finger widths wide) from the bottom of the ponytail. Starting from underneath, wrap around the elastic as many times as it will go, then stop at your original starting point. Poke the end of your wrapped strand through the elastic and pull snug. Secure around the base of the ponytail with bobby pins, pushing inward towards the ponytail to disguise them.