Love sleek ponytails on celebs and influencers, but always have trouble doing your own? Not anymore! Check out our style guide to learn the stylist secrets to the perfect sleek pony, every time. We’ll show you some styling tips and a few examples we love.
Sleek Ponytails: The Most Versatile Updo
The sleek ponytail is every sophisticated woman’s trick to looking put together without putting in tons of effort. You can’t rock a gym ponytail at the Oscars, but a sleek ponytail? That fits any occasion.
Creating perfect sleek ponytails doesn’t require a lot of time or skill. What you need is attention to detail, a good brush, and the right products. If you’ve struggled to master the sleek pony, this style guide is for you.
Once you’re confident in your sleek styling abilities, you’ll have another trick up your sleeve for last-minute invites and mornings when you’re rushing to get out the door.
If you can take a basic ponytail and level it up to something more polished and sophisticated, you’ll always have a go-to style for events from casual to formal.
Every woman can master a good sleek pony. Everything you need to become a sleek ponytail expert is right here in this style guide.
From prep steps that ensure the smoothest, frizz-free texture to stylist tips that help you pull your hair up without unsightly bumps, you’re about to see all the secrets to creating the sleekest, perfectly done ponytails.
Turn your pony from shaggy to snatched with these tips. It’s time to pony up, y’all!
Read Next: Cute Ponytail Hairstyles
What Is a Sleek Ponytail?
Sleek ponytails are low-volume ponytails that are pulled tight to the head and styled with straightened, sleek hair. A regular hairstyle on the red carpet, the sleek pony is a deceptively simple style that looks a lot more time-consuming and difficult than it really is.
Celebrities like Ariana Grande, Kim Kardashian, and Dua Lipa have made this secretly-simple style famous. And with the tips you’ll learn below, you can rock a perfectly snatched ponytail, too!
Every sleek ponytail is different – the height of the ponytail, the hair texture, presence or lack of bangs, and length all vary. But all sleek ponytails will have the following things in common:
- No frizz or flyaways: Sleek ponytails are never frizzy and you won’t see errant flyaways fluttering around a truly sleek pony. Hairspray, anti-frizz products, and finishing serum will help you steer clear of anything keeping you from creating a truly sleek pony.
- Tightly secured and snug: Sleek ponies are the definition of snatched and they’re never secured loosely like a more casual ponytail. Sleek ponytails are tightly secured to the head and that snugness provides a little lift that can make you look younger!
- Hidden elastic: No sleek ponytail is complete without wrapping the elastic with a small section of hair. This finishing touch elevates the ponytail to make it look more sophisticated and polished by hiding the elastic used to secure the style.
- Glossy and sleek texture: The final key to creating the perfect sleek pony is hair that is glossy, moisturized, and sleek. Sleek ponies can feature straight, wavy, curly, or coily hair, but no matter the texture and curl pattern, it’s got to be styled sleek! Extremely dry or damaged hair won’t look sleek or glossy without the help of products.
These are the basic keys to creating a sleek ponytail. But there’s more to learn, so let’s get to it! Below, you’ll see some examples of gorgeously glossy ponytails. Keep scrolling to see them and learn how to style your own sleek pony!
Sleek Ponytails: 10 Looks for Style Inspiration
Sleek ponies are not a one-size-fits-all style. There are a number of ways you can shake things up and make your ponytail more flattering for you!
From experimenting with different ponytail textures (like straight, wavy, and curly) to adjusting the height to best suit you (high, midi, or low), there’s always a fun variation to try with sleek ponytails.
Check out 10 of our favorite looks below and see which types of glossy, sleek ponies you’ll want to work into your style repertoire.
1. Sleek 3-Strand Braid Ponytail
Relaxed hair is easily styled in a sleek pony, and we love the added touch a 3-strand braid brings to the style. Small tweaks, like wrapping the elastic with hair and tucking the loose ends of the braid into the elastic, keep the look sophisticated and put-together.
2. Low Sleek Pony With Center Part
A center part is another way to rock a sleek pony gorgeously but a little more low-key. This version works really well to disguise a thinning hairline or help conceal flyaways and wispies that seem to form around the hairline. Keep the ponytail low if you plan to wear it with a center part.
3. Classic Snatched Sleek Ponytail
If Ariana is your sleek pony inspiration, this is the look you want! The ponytail is placed high on the head – right at the crown – which makes the hair look longer as it cascades down.
The elastic is wrapped with a small section of the ponytail to give the style a chic, perfectly done look. And the sleek, glossy hair texture is the bedrock of this beautiful style!
4. Sleek Wrapped Midi Ponytail
“Not a strand out of place” is the motto for this polished take on the popular sleek ponytail. We’re loving the unique midi placement (just below the crown) that isn’t quite high or low.
Wrapping the elastic with a small section of hair makes the look elegant and cuts down on the “severe” look of such a slicked-back style.
5. High, Sleek, and Straight Pony
A larger section of hair is used to wrap and cover the elastic here, and we actually love the extended look of this larger wrap!
It helps boost the ponytail’s height a bit and reduces the amount of hair hanging loosely in the ponytail. If you have super-thick hair that still looks puffy after straightening, use this trick to keep your ‘tail sleek and low-volume.
6. Low Sleek Pony With Voluminous Waves
This pretty style is a study in contrasts. The hair is slicked down with a center part to keep the hair on the head sleek and polished.
But the hair in the ponytail appears to let loose and gives way to gorgeously voluminous waves with tons of body and movement. For the biggest impact, wear the ponytail over the shoulder to show off those oh-so-glam waves.
7. High Sleek Ponytail With Laid Edges
Rocking a sleek high pony with relaxed coily or kinky texture means making sure those edges are on point. Perfectly laid edges accent the polished, glossy, and sleek texture of the ponytail with a little finesse.
Swooping motions with a fine-toothed comb or edge brush and your favorite edge control product are key to nailing this elegant-yet-trendy snatched style.
8. Midi Sleek Ponytail With Statement Elastic
If you’ve got a cute elastic (colorful, jeweled, metallic, etc.) to secure your sleek pony, don’t hide it! Wrapped elastics are common with this type of polished pony.
But a statement-making elastic deserves the spotlight. Slicking your hair back into a midi-height ponytail and securing it with a statement elastic is a quick way to rock this celeb-inspired style.
9. Go-To Wrapped Sleek Ponytail
This version of the style hits all our checkboxes – it’s a flattering height (at the low end of the crown) for most women, perfectly slicked back, and accented with a wrapped elastic (and a bombshell red lip that really sets it off).
Choosing a simple yet impactful style like this gives you the freedom to get creative with your makeup and outfit.
10. Last-Minute Sleek Pony
On mornings when you should’ve left 10 minutes ago and your hair still isn’t done, this is the style you can reliably pull off in minutes. Even if your hair’s a little greasy. Even if you don’t have time to wrap your elastic with hair to hide it.
Even if the only “tools” you have time to mess with are a brush and 2 ponytail holders. This last-minute pony comes out beautifully every time and loosely braiding the ponytail keeps things sleek, no matter your hair texture.
Sleek Ponytail Styling Tips From the Pros
Expert stylists that cater to celebs and influencers – Chris Appleton, Brad Mondo, and Sam Villa – have a master’s degree in styling the sleekest, chic-est ponytails.
We’ve reviewed their tips and recommendations to give you a complete styling guide to create the perfect sleek ponytail everytime. Check out the steps below to learn how to do this polished-but-simple style at home. It might become your new go-to look!
1. Prep Your Hair
Prepping your hair before you start styling your ponytail is key to nailing that sleek and glossy texture.
Tools and Products You’ll Need
- Round brush (optional)
- Boar bristle brush
- Hair dryer
- Flat iron (optional)
- Anti-frizz serum
- Strong elastic hair tie
- Bobby pins (optional)
Starting with damp, freshly washed hair, work in a small amount of mousse to give your hair a little hold, control, and “style memory” – it’ll keep your strands locked in the style you create for up to 3 days.
It’s okay to use a volumizing mousse if that’s what you have on hand. Brushing the hair and pulling it into a tight ponytail will sleek-ify even the most voluminous hair.
Use a little anti-frizz serum or anti-frizz heat protectant spray (we really love Color Wow Dream Coat Supernatural Spray for this and celebrity stylist Chris Appleton swears by it) if you’re battling with frizz and flyaways.
These are the enemies of a good sleek ponytail, so start combating them with your prep process to ensure a perfect pony. Blow dry with a round brush if you want a little volume in your ponytail (or use your favorite brush to blow dry).
Point the dryer nozzle downward toward your hair to help curb frizz and keep your hair sleek and smooth. Make sure you thoroughly dry your hair!
Pass a flat iron on low heat over your hair a few times if you want it smoother and sleeker. You can also use it to style your ends perfectly for the look you want – pin-straight, slightly tucked under, or slightly flipped out.
Sam Villa recommends spraying a little dry shampoo at your roots to give your hair a little more grip once your hair is fully dry. This ensures a more secure ponytail that’ll stay put all day (and all night) long and helps keep grease at bay.
2. Smooth and Gather Hair Into a Ponytail
Once your hair is fully dry and prepped with mousse, anti-frizz product, and maybe a shot of dry shampoo, it’s time to gather it all into a sleek, tight ponytail.
Your pony needs to be tight to pull strands taut and give them that low-volume, sleek appearance. But don’t pull it so tight that it’s uncomfortable!
- High ponytails add visual height and volume. They have a more youthful energy and a flirty-yet-sophisticated look. They’re best for round faces but work for any face shape with the exception of the heart face shape.
- Midi ponytails seem to “disappear” when viewed from the front since they’re placed below the crown. They work for oval, square, and heart face shapes, but not so much for round.
- Low ponytails are best paired with a center part to keep the sleek nature of the look. Low ponies are perfect for heart faces because they add a little volume to the lower portion of the face and keep the volume on top very low. This placement works for oval and square faces, too.
Gather your hair into a bundle at the height you want to place your ponytail. Leave your bangs out unless you want to brush them back into the ponytail.
Use your boar bristle brush to carefully smooth the hair up (for a high pony), back (for a midi or low pony) or down on each side (for a low pony with a center part).
Use the “pocket” of your hand between your thumb and index finger to hold the hair loosely as you continually brush and smooth the hair into a ponytail. Ensure there are zero bumps and that all the hair is smooth and sleek.
Don’t let go of your burgeoning ponytail at any point during the smoothing process. Keeping a tight grip on the bundled hair is essential to maintain that sleekness once you secure it with an elastic.
3. Secure Tightly With an Elastic
Once you’ve brushed out all tangles and the hair is completely smooth, use a strong elastic to secure your hair into a sleek ponytail. Use a handheld mirror with your back to a larger mirror to check out the back and sides.
Make sure you don’t create any new bumps in your pony when you wrap and secure it. It’s really easy to mess up your hard work and create new bumps in the act of wrapping and securing your ponytail. So go slowly and keep your grip tight while you wrap and secure your pony!
4. Make Adjustments and Finish With Hairspray
Once your ponytail is secured (with the elastic wrapped, if you decide to do that), the final step is adjusting the ponytail to suit you best and finishing with a blast of hairspray.
If you’d like, you can cover your elastic with a small section of hair wrapped around it. Take a long tendril from your ponytail and wrap it around the base of the ponytail to cover the elastic.
Wrap it as many times as needed to cover the hair tie, then secure the section with a bobby pin or two underneath the pony. So chic! If you have bangs, this is the time to style them to blend in with your sleek ponytail.
Trendy curtain bangs, bottleneck bangs, side-swept bangs, and blunt bangs all look fantastic with a sleek pony. Style with a flat iron or curling iron to achieve the look you want. Finish the style by misting all over with a little hairspray.
We prefer strong hold sprays for sleek styles like this. Try L’Oreal Paris Advanced Hairstyle Lock It Bold Control Hairspray if you’re on a budget or Nexxus Maximum Hold Finishing Hairspray for the longest-lasting strong hold.
That’s all it takes to create a perfectly sleek ponytail!
Things to Consider
You’ve browsed some of our favorite examples of sleek ponytails on different hair types with various heights and placements (high, low, and midi).
We’ve talked about the keys to creating the perfect sleek, chic ponytail and covered how to style a sleek ponytail step by step. Now that you’re ready to try this easy elegant style yourself, we have a few more helpful tips to share.
- Sleek ponies aren’t right for every face shape. While they’re chic and pretty, sleek ponytails aren’t the answer for every face shape. Round faces tend to look rounder with this style and diamond face shapes can look “pointy” with a too-slick ponytail. Square and heart faces need a few face-framing tendrils or bangs to balance a sleek ponytail out. Oval faces are a perfect fit for this sleek style.
- The ponytail should be tight, but not uncomfortably so. If your ponytail is tugging on your scalp or you’re experiencing discomfort after pulling it up, take it down and try again to make it a little looser. Not only is a too-tight pony uncomfy, it can lead to traction alopecia – hair loss due to prolonged hairstyle tension.
- Adopt a zero-tolerance policy for bumps and lumps. Chris Appleton, stylist to stars like Ariana and Kim Kardashian, says the goal for creating the perfect sleek ponytail is achieving “glass hair” that looks as smooth and shiny as glass. That means no bumps in the hair can be tolerated! You might need to go over your hair with your boar bristle brush a few more times before securing with an elastic to ensure there are zero tangles or bumps.
- Pull out the “big guns” for very thick or coarse hair. The key to styling a great sleek pony is keeping it taut and secure to prevent loosening up throughout the day. If your wimpy hair ties aren’t doing the trick to hold your thick or coarse hair tightly, switch to a jumbo hair tie or hair bungee for more security.
- Experiment with different ponytail textures. While a sleek pony should always be 100% flat and taut on the head, the actual “tail” of the ponytail can be any texture you like. Try a sleek pony with a curly, wavy, crimped, or braided ponytail to change up the look and vibe. This can make it a lot easier to wear this style on mornings when you’re running behind or don’t want to heat style!
Is the Sleek Ponytail Right for You?
Is any hairstyle more effortlessly chic and powerful than a sleek, snatched ponytail? We think not. This simple updo can be pulled together in about 10 minutes once your hair is dry and doesn’t require any special skills to pull off.
Unlike high-volume spunky ponytails, sleek versions don’t need teasing, backcombing, or perfectly-coiffed texture to look amazing. All you really need is a boar bristle brush, a strong hair tie, and a little hairspray.
Whether you’ll be rocking your sleek pony while running errands or at a formal gala, it’s never going to look over- or under-done.
It’s a truly versatile and universal style that every woman needs in her hairstyle repertoire. Armed with these tips, you can master it and join the ranks of snatched-pony celebs like Ariana Grande and Kim Kardashian!