Forget what you thought you knew about the classic ponytail. Sure, it’s a great go-to for the gym, but this hairstyle also has the potential to be so much more than that. Here to prove it to you is Mandy Moore, who debuted a loose, feminine ponytail at a recent press event. The This Is Us actress, 33, called the style “The ponytail of my dreams” on Instagram, and we can see why: her perfectly-messy updo was effortlessly chic without being overly complicated. We asked the man behind her look, celebrity hairstylist Bobby Eliot, to break down the five easy moves that made Moore’s ponytail dreams a reality.
Step one: Keep hair dirty
Dirty hair has more texture, making it easier to work with. “We went for a sort of lived-in French girl look,” says Eliot, “It’s both effortless and easy, and works great on second-day hair.” In other words, skip the fresh blowout.
Step two: Amp up the volume
Eliot recommends prepping hair with Oribe Grandiose Hair Plumping Mousse ($39; amazon.com) for serious texture. Work it into strands, lifting at the root with your hands for extra volume. If you want, you can also blast a blow dryer angled upwards as you hold sections of hair straight up for added va-va-voom. The best part: no brush necessary!
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Step three: Reach for your curling iron
Once the mousse completely dries on hair, use a curling iron to add some movement by creating loose bends. Eliot likes Harry Josh Pro Tools 1.25″ ($185; dermstore.com). You don’t want this to look overly polished though, so leave the ends of hair out when curling the strands. It’s not important to curl every single piece, so focus on just a few strands throughout.
Step four: Secure the ponytail
Once you’re happy with the texture, part hair down the center and grab a few face-framing pieces to leave out (this works best on short to medium length hair.) Pull hair into a high ponytail nestled at the crown of your head and fasten with an elastic. Check yourself in a mirror and pull the pony tighter so you see the hair on top of your head lift a little. You can also use your fingers to mess it up a little—for the first time ever, flyaways are your friends!
Step five: Add some finishing touches
“We finished the look off with a blue velvet ribbon that I got at a local vintage store” says Eliot. Any ribbon will work, though—just tie the base of the pony in a bow so that it covers the elastic. Finally, polish ends with Oribe Gold Lust Nourishing Hair Oil ($55; amazon.com). Slick a pea-sized amount in hands and rub together to evenly distribute the formula, then grab the ends and rub between fingers for piecey-ness.