1. Use a Mirror
Sure, sometimes you need to pull your hair into an impromptu pony when the temperature has you feeling like you're trapped in one of Dante's circles of hell. But if you want the look to seem more polished, celebrity hairstylist Richard Collins recommends using a mirror with a built-in light. Of course, a mirrored light always proves useful when doing your makeup, so it's worth the investment.
2. Mind Your Neck
As someone who has styled ponytails for the likes of Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Benson, Collins knows the key tricks to keeping hair smooth and free of awkward bumps. "A common mistake is not getting the ponytail tight enough at the nape of the neck when doing a high pony," he says. Be sure to tie an elastic firmly so that gravity doesn't leave your pony looking saggy at its base.
3. Figure Out the Look for You
Balmain may have popularized the slicked-back, sky-high pony, but the look may not be for everyone. "A little softness around the hairline can be very flattering," says Collins. A high ponytail will help define your cheekbones, but a low pony can evoke a carefree romanticism. And if you want to be a little funky, try an '80s side ponytail.
4. Dip, Pull Back, and Straighten
Think of it like a three-step dance move that produces the ultimate ponytail. "When securing your ponytail, bend your head back a little," says Collins. "Then, when you straighten your head you'll see that it's very tight at the nape of your neck."
5. Bring in the Products
Before you call in the product artillery, ask yourself: What kind of vibe do I want my pony to put out into the world? Want a messy-cool "I Woke Up Like This" look? Add a bit of volume powder before pulling back your hair. If it's a sleek, straight look you're after, use a polishing pomade to brush your hair up, and a shine spray to finish it off.
6. Make Sure the Tie Is Right
Collins swears by Smoothies, the metal-free (and painless) ponytail holders. "They have the best stretch," he says. "If you have thick hair, don't be afraid to use two."