The Best Tips on How to Wear a Ponytail

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How to Wear a Ponytail

Actress Ali Landry. Photo by Carlo Allegri/Getty Images

We love the ponytail and why not? These days you can wear them to the gym and then later that evening to a five-star restaurant. They look adorable on short hair and sexy on long, layered hair.

Perfectly brushed, flat-ironed hairstyles are back in style, and you can wrap a piece of hair around the ponytail holder to make it a bit more formal. Curl your hair first for volume if you want or flat-iron it for a super sleek look. Even mussy is cool, because who has time for perfection when there's the Internet to surf, the kids to feed and the beach to walk on?

Here, we rundown 20-plus great ponytails and how to style them, starting with this look from actress Ali Landry.

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Reese Witherspoon's Teased Ponytail

Reese Witherspoon. Steve Granitz for Getty Images

Reese Witherspoon is seen here walking the red carpet in a dressed-up, formal ponytail. To get this look, you'll want to separate hair into three sections and part the middle section, which adds volume. 

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Nina Dobrev's Sleek Ponytail

Nina Dobrev. Jason Kempin for Getty

All you need is a flat-iron and a good brush to get this look. But don't attempt this style if you have a ton of frizzy, split ends. Get thee to a hair salon first.

Note how Nina's ponytail works beautifully with her low-back dress. If the back was higher, it wouldn't have the same effect.

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The High Ponytail Isn't Just for Cheerleaders

Laura Cavanaugh for Getty

Heidi Klum can pull off a high ponytail and does it very well for a woman over 40, proving the look isn't just for high school cheerleaders.

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The Trendy Side Ponytail

The side ponytail has been cropping up on red carpets for years now and its popularity doesn't seem to be waning, like this version on Cheryl Burke.

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More Edgier Versions of the Side Ponytail

Brian Ach for Getty Images

Ok, so these runway models are obviously sporting extensions, but this look is edgy and would work on hair much shorter.

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The Teased Ponytail

Virginia Williams. Frazer Harrison // Getty

Ponytails with pouf. That's what these high ponies on the streets of Manhattan and on the red carpets call to mind. The extra volume on top is very trendy right now and adds polish and interest to the boring pony, which so many of us are sporting because of the weather or pure convenience.

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Just a Bit of Curl on the Ends is Super Sexy

Jennifer Morrison. Frederick M. Brown/Getty

This ponytail starts pretty far back from Jennifer Morrison's head, since her hair is wrapped around the band. The curl she has going on here looks super sexy.

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Middle Part: Very Sleek

Shengyi Huang. Pascal Le Segretain

The middle part on Shengyi Huang here works great with her face shape. It shows off her gorgeous bone structure. Not how shiny her hair is as well.

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Another Gorgeous Teased Ponytail

Wow, this teased look is simply stunning.

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A Ponytail With Just a Bit of Bang

Katrina Bowden. Frazer Harrison/Getty

Here's another version on Katrina Bowden that's terrific. Note how she has just a wisp of bang hanging out.

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A Dip-Dye Version

Don Arnold for Getty Images

Dip-Dye hair color has been trendy for a couple years now and with the number of celebrities who are still sporting this color trend on the rise, it seems this trend isn't going to die anytime soon.

Dip-dye basically means to dye parts of your hair another color. Bright hues, pastels and the popular "ombré" gradient shading are all popular hair colors. It's particularly lovely when a brunette lightens the ends just a bit in an ombré effect that's super popular right now.

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Another Gorgeous Sleek Ponytail on Jessica Lowndes

Jessica Lowndes. Jason Merritt//Getty

Note how sleek and shiny Jessica Lowndes's hair is here. You can get shine with a shine serum, but if your hair isn't healthy (meaning overprocessed or too dry), you'll need deep conditioning to get even a bit of shine to your hair.

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The Side Ponytail -- Nicole Richie

Nicole Richie at the MTV Australia Video Music Awards 2007 on April 29, 2007. Photo by Patrick Riviere/Getty Images

To get this look (see Nicole Richie's look to the right), follow these directions:

Step 1: Create waves with a wide-barreled curling iron. To do this, spritz styling spray on 2-inch sections of hair and wrap around the barrel of a curling iron. Alternate directions.
Step 2: Finger comb waves into a ponytail, securing just a few inches either to the left or the right.
Step 3: For an even more polished look (see Nicole's hair above), take a pencil-sized piece of hair from the bottom of the ponytail and wrap around elastic. Secure end of hair in the band and hold in place with a bobby pin.
Step 4: Finish with a spritz of hairspray.

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The Sleek Ponytail -- Salma Hayek

Salma Hayek. Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Wear this look to the office or out to a nice dinner. Especially gorgeous when paired with thick, dark sunglasses. (Everyone will think you're famous). Combine a sleek ponytail with thick, heavy bangs, as shown here on actress Salma Hayek.

How to get it:

Step 1: Blowdry hair straight. (Wet ponies are the antithesis of sexy). If you have wave in your hair, straighten hair completely with a flat-iron.
Step 2: Brush hair back into a ponytail. Secure with elastic.
Step 3: Tame flyaways with a spritz hairspray on your hairline.
Step 4: For added polish, run a shine serum (we like Bumble and Bumble's Gloss) through ponytail.

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The Polished Ponytail -- Jamie-Lynn Sigler

Jamie-Lynn Sigler. Photo by Peter Kramer/Getty Images for CFDA

Volume at the crown can be sexy, as shown here on Jamie-Lynn Sigler. To get this look, follow these directions:

Step 5: Let hair go and smooth back into a ponytail, securing with elastic.

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The Hair-Wrapped-Around-the-Elastic-Trick Ponytail

Marcia Gay Harden. Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Stylists love the look of hair wrapped around the elastic. To get this look, skip the nasty fake hair ones you can buy in drugstores and department stores (tacky!) and follow these directions instead:

Step 1: Pull hair back into a ponytail.
Step 2: Pull a pencil-thick piece of hair from the bottom of the pony.
Step 3: Wrap hair around elastic. Leave two inches to pull down through the elastic.
Step 4: Secure with a couple of bobby pins.

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The Cute Ponytail -- Paris Hilton

Paris Hilton. Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

This look is great for the weekend and works with all lengths of hair. We call this look "cute" because it relies on little kid barrettes or decorative bobby pins to hold back bangs or layers that don't fit in the ponytail.

This look is particularly cute on chin-length hair. The pig's tail curl is super cute. How to get it:

Step 1: Spray volumizer at the roots, then let hair air dry, scrunching it for a bit of wave. Don't have time? Blow dry hair without brushing; use fingers instead to separate hair.
Step 2: Rake hair back with your fingers (skip the brush) and secure either at the nape of your neck or just a bit higher. Scrunch pony more for more wave.

Step 3: Pin bangs or unsecured layers with a decorative bobby pin or little kid barrette. We love these France Luxe Long and Skinny Barrettes.

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The Rumpled Ponytail

French TV presenter Virginie Efira. Photo by Francois Durand/Getty Images

The perfect weekend or after work hairstyle. This look works best with unwashed hair, which we find most manageable. How to get it:

Step 1: Start with unwashed hair or get the messy look by spraying roots with volumizer and airdrying hair, or blowdrying using your fingers instead of a brush. Scrunch hair as you dry.
Step 2: Part hair slightly off-center (parting in the middle is also trendy). For an extra funky look, create a zig-zag part in your hair with a comb.
Step 3: Rake hair back at the nape of your neck. Fasten the tail lightly so that it sits slightly below the middle of the back of your head.
Step 4: For more fullness, secure four or five bobby pins just above the elastic. This way you get a fuller look. Scrunch the tail once it's in place.

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The Dramatic Ponytail -- Tyra Banks

Tyra Banks. Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

A high, tight ponytail is swingy and totally sexy. It's also wearable at work or at night. If you have a high forehead (like Tyra) you have to be careful with high ponytails -- you don't want to look bald from the front. Your best bet are bangs or a side-part.

How to get it:

Step 1: Spritz hair with a volumizing spray like Bumble and Bumble Thickening Spray, then dry hair straight. If you have curly hair, use a diffuser and an anti-frizz product instead of the volumizer.
Step 2: Take a section at the top part of the back of your head and tease hair at the root. This will give you needed volume for the dramatic look.
Step 3: Once hair is sufficiently teased, carefully brush hair back into a pony up high on the back of your head just above your ears. Gently pull hair at the top of the pony out and up for drama.
Step 4: Run a gloss through ponytail, using extra at the ends.
Step 5: If you're going out at night, up the drama ante by securing a gorgeous barrette (we love the ones that look like brooches) near the elastic and on the side of your head. If you use a barrette, keep in mind that it's a piece of jewelry, so be careful not to overdo the look with earrings, necklace and a bracelet. The less jewelry you wear, the more oomph your pieces have.

Check out these gorgeous barrettes and books on how to make your own.

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The Cheerleader Ponytail

Models in Sydney, Australia. Photo by Lisa Maree Williams/Getty Images

A super-high ponytail will take years off your face, but if you have excessive widows' peaks at your crown or if you have a big forehead, this look can be unattractive. To see if you're a bad candidate, pull hair back and look in the mirror, if hairline starts high at the top of your head, this look can bring too much attention to your forehead.

How to get the cheerleader ponytail:

Step 1: Blow-dry hair using mousse or spray for volume, then pull hair high on top of head (above your eyes). The sleeker, the better, so brush out any bumps.
Step 2: Secure with a thick elastic band. For added bounce, tease the hair right at the elastic.
Step 3: Skip the bow, but spritz with hairspray. Try a headband for a super-trendy look.

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The Half-Up, Half-Down Ponytail -- Emily Blunt

Actress Emily Blunt in London, England. Photo by Chris Jackson/Getty Images for Orange

To get this look:

Step 1: Part hair from ear-to-ear into a top and a bottom section.
Step 2: Secure top section with a ponytail holder.
Step 3: Take the point of a rattail comb and put it under the hair, just at the crown. Gently coax hair up until it's just a bit puffed.
Step 4: For more drama, wrap a ribbon or a strip of fabric around hair and fasten with a bobby pin.