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Your Stylist: How to perfect your ponytail for the red carpet or just for running errands

February 14, 2011 |  8:00 am

Resident Image stylist and market editor Melissa Magsaysay soothes your sartorial woes in the weekly Your Stylist blog column:

Perabodannymoloshokreuters For this installment of Your Stylist, I’ve called in reinforcements in the form of celebrity hair stylist Charles Dujic, to break down the basic steps of nailing the perfect ponytail. Dujic coifs the hair of Olivia Wilde, Sharon Stone, Cheryl Hines,  Kaley Cuoco and Jennifer Morrison, to name a few, and offers us his easy tips for doing your own ponytail, sans arm fatigue.  

OK, so maybe you’re thinking, “ponytails? Who can’t whip their hair up into a ponytail?” Well, lots of people, that’s who -- including yours truly. They can be especially challenging when it comes to the clean, sleek and modern version we’ve been seeing on celebrities all over the award show red carpets.

Everyone from Hailee Steinfeld to Amy Adams has been sporting a swept-back hair style that leaves their face as the main attraction and that keeps the possibility of flyaway hairs sticking to lip gloss at a minimum. The no-fuss ponytail has also hit the fall 2011 runways in New York -– the hair at the recent BCBG show was totally slicked into a severe part and pulled back into a medium height ponytail.

This sleek style works whether you’re wearing an evening gown (in fact, it’s a nice juxtaposition to an embellished or somewhat complicated gown a la Marchesa maribou or Chanel sequins) or during the Steinfeldlucynicholsonreuters everyday, with cropped white jeans, a cashmere sweater and some ballet flats.

Here are Dujic's top tips for getting an easy and effortless-looking ponytail:

1.    The blow dry and finish: Get the texture of your hair the way you want it before you start your ponytail. So, whether you’re going for a sleek look or a more textured wavy look, prep the hair first by blow-drying it with a round brush for volume, or flat ironing it for super straight, or even using a curling iron on your hair if you want a wavy textured overall effect.

2.    Product use: We all know that hair products are essential in getting your hair to behave. If you are going for the Barbie-style ponytail then you will want to add some type of volumizer at the roots of your hair. I like the Fekkai full volume foam to add lift at the roots. I work it into the root area of damp hair and then blow-dry the hair with the head flipped over.

After it’s about 90% dry I take sections on top and on the sides of the head and smooth out with a  round brush, blowing in an upward direction to keep the lift at the roots. Then finish blowing out the rest of the hair in the same manner for smoothness. For a sleek ponytail I might add a little Moroccan oil to damp hair before blow-drying. This will calm down any flyaways and frizzies and give a great sheen to the hair. After blow-drying, I then add a little bit of spray to the hair for style retention. I prefer Adamsfrazerharrisongetty Bumble and Bumble spray de mode for this. I then flat iron section by section to give the hair that super-polished slick look. End result, a very modern interpretation of the ponytail.

3.    Technique: Putting the ponytail in place is next. You should have elastics in the tone of your hair color on hand and ready, I prefer the kind that are like bungee cords –- they have a little metal hook on each end. You should also have a few matching mini bobby pins and hairpins, and a good cushion brush like a Mason Pearson brush to get a smooth, sleek finish. If doing the sleek tighter ponytail, put a very small amount of serum or Moroccan oil on your hands and rub them together so it almost disappears.

Then gather your hair as you are brushing it in to the ponytail just below the crown. Make sure that your head is tilted upward and not downward, with your chin slightly raised. This will prevent that sag of hair below the elastic. Once gathered, take the hair elastic and wrap snugly around the ponytail as close to the head as possible. This is where I like the bungee style elastics because the hooks on the ends allow you to wrap around very close to the base without disturbing the hair in the ponytail. It also allows you to get the most secure fastening. Once this is done you can take a small strand of hair from the ponytail and wrap it around the elastic band to create a polished finish. Take a tiny bobby pin and push the end of that strand under the base of the elastic and finish with a tad of hairspray.  If you find that the top of your head has a little lump after you are finished you can take the tail of a comb and insert it just in front of the lump and glide it back towards the base of the ponytail. Most of the time this will fix any slight irregularities that you may have in the smoothness on top.

And finally, Dujic notes two style tips when it comes to this hairstyle:

"The most modern placement of a ponytail is just below the crown in the center of the head. And a low ponytail is a very classic look, and a high ponytail usually reads very young."

Who knew a ponytail could say so much?

Send your style queries to

-- Melissa Magsaysay

Photos: top left - Piper Perabo/Danny Moloshok - Reuters, Right - Hailee Steinfeld/Lucy Nicholson - Reuters, Left - Amy Adams/Frazer Harrison - Getty