Ponytails 101

By Amalah

(You guys asked for more hair demos, so God help me, I’ll give you more hair demos. At least until I’ve demo’ed the whole three hairstyles I know how to do.)
Oh Amazing Amalah,
Recently, in your Root Booster Price Tag Cage Match, you mentioned that the secret of a cute ponytail is volume at the crown of your head. And I was all, “Of Course!” Except that I really have no idea what that means. My ponytails are never really cute – they’re flat and make me look like I’m 10.
So how do I obtain volume at my crown and make a really really cute ponytail?? Just please tell me it’s not difficult, because I still can’t even manage that blow-drying my hair with a round brush thing.
Thanks ever so much!

Would you believe it’s the same basic concept as the beehive? Because it is — especially for us volume-challenged, limp-haired girls.
Products like the Pureology Root Booster or BedHead Small Talk help with volume throughout your hair, but for a really face-flattering ponytail? You gotta get in there and tease a little bit.
But this time, I really mean “teasing.” No ends-to-roots hardcore backbrushing here — you don’t really want your hair to look teased or poufed. You just want a little…oomph. (To put it technically, I mean.)
So. Here’s my hair. Air-dried, no product, totally blah.
I will now demonstrate the most basic of basic ponytails. Nothing too fancy, and therefore something you can easily do. Yes, you! You, with the round-brush-blow-drying problem! Trust me.
First I tease. I start just a couple inches from my scalp and brush backwards a few times. It’s not a really precise process, and you’ll probably need to experiment a few times before you figure out how much teasing you need to achieve the best shape for your face.
Start teasing as close to your crown as your hair will cover. If you want a Gwen-Stefani modern-conehead look, just tease the hair on the top on your head. For something more natural-looking, tease a little down the sides of your head.
You’ll have long strands of unteased hair sticking out in a most-attractive fashion.
Now just like the beehive, pull or brush the hair along your crown backwards to cover the teased part, along with the unteased ends and hold onto this loosely about where you want your ponytail to sit. (LOOSELY. If you pull it back too hard, you’ll just flatten the teasing.)
With your other hand, brush the rest of your hair, section by section, up into the ponytail. Smooth it out (as best you can, one-handed, obviously) and secure with a rubber band.
Doesn’t look like I did anything? Well, here’s a photo of me with an unteased, just brushed-and-banded ponytail.
I just love that sexy, I’ve-just-come-from-the-gym look, don’t you?
Oh, and one last finishing touch — grab a little hair from the middle of your ponytail (about a centimeter wide) and wrap it around to cover your rubber band. Secure the end with a bobby pin shoved back into the ponytail.
Ta-da! Bonus cute.
Unless your hair is super-long and all one length, I like ponytails to be a little on the messy side. So it doesn’t have to be perfect. Play around with the teased section — try some bobby pins and stray pieces and whatever. Ponytails can be really cute — just master the art of teasing your roots and you’ll never look like a 10-year-old gym rat again.
(Actually, I believe Tyra Banks would probably go ahead and say that I “photograph old.” Jeez. Could I be more woefully scowly in these pictures?)

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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I wish I had these instructions when I had long hair.
It was serious business so you couldn’t smile, right?


Okay, I am probably reading too much into this teasing then brushing bit…
BUT. After you tease the hair and then brush it back, do you just brush the unteased hair back over the teased hair or do you also brush out some of the teased hair?
And? How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?

Virginia Gal

The top/side views look great!
But, how do you get a ponytail that doesn’t flatten out and conform to the shape of the back of your head over the course of the day (because that’s also part of the oh-so-attractive 10-year-old gym rat look also)?
And any suggestions for those of us whose front layers are barely long enough to pull back into a ponytail (even without the extra body from teasing), and who can’t stand headbands because, ouch, instant headache? That is, without going for the totally awesome top of head pony.
I love long parenthesis inside other sentences. 🙂


Wow, I didn’t buy in till I saw the before-and-after. Or, I guess, the after and the before. Compelling!
Not sure I can pull off head-top pouf, since I already have a long face. I do find parting my hair on the side and trying to keep that part (and accompanying across-forehead hair swoosh) while ponytailing helps me look less like my head was squooshed in a closing elevator door.
Or I’m kidding myself. Equally possible.


OH. MY. GOD. For years I have just thought “Oh, I look horrible in pony tails” even though my sisters with their thick and wavy hair can rock the ponytail like nobody’s business. But me with the stick straight and babyfine hair? I am the ten year old gym rat. I think you’ve just given me a new lease on (my hair’s) life. THANK YOU!


Ok, so after teasing and ponytailing, whither do you apply products? Do you spritz the teased areas before ponytailing? Do you mist all over afterward? And do you brush it out before washing (ouch!) or just let the water / shampoo “melt” the tease out? Also, I like the Audrey Hepburn-y look of the flat, side-parted forehead swoosh in front and then the teased crown in back (all ending up with a ponytail at the rear, like TasterSpoon was describing.) But — how does one manage enough smooth hair in front to swoosh across the forehead PLUS enough to cover… Read more »


I, too, have the “head squished in an elevator door” problem. Can you tease JUST on the sides to widen out your face, if need be? I definitely don’t want any extra height on top. And I’ve tried that low-side-part, swoosh-across-the-forehead thing, but that doesn’t work for me either – my face just isn’t wide enough. Instead of swooshing across my forehead, it just falls down. I have to shellack it in place if I want it to stay (my hair doesn’t stay in pins). I think also my hair doesn’t grow far enough down on my forehead for it… Read more »


what about if you have curly hair? If I take a brush to my hair at all it gets frizzy ….


Amalah –
I made a deal with my boyfriend that involves me putting my hair in a Peggy Hill style updo. Don’t ask. Is that in your repertoire?

Nevin Is Hawwttt
Nevin Is Hawwttt

hmmmm. i tryed this but it isnt working for me… my hair is baby soft.. that may be the problm.