Follow These Steps to Create a Sleek Long Ponytail

No matter your natural hair texture.

How to Create a Sleek Ponytail on Every Natural Texture
Photo: Getty Images/InStyle

A sleek ponytail on natural hair is what I like to call a ‘staple hairstyle’ — it’s a trusted go-to.

If you're having a bad hair day or just want a style that you don’t have to fuss over, a ponytail definitely wins. But apparently, (and much to my dismay) a regular ponytail isn’t going to cut anymore, it’s all about a sleek, extra-long braided ponytail.

Jada Jenkins, Sam Villa ambassador, Mizani artist and owner of L'amour de Rose Salon, says an extra-long ponytail is a great protective style for those with fragile textures, and it can be elevated by sleeking it out, sub sectioning it for longevity, and refining the hairline.

Below, we asked Jenkins and Yummie, founder of  Yummy Extensions and Kosa Professionals, to share how to create a sleek, braided ponytail on all hair textures.

Step 1: Identify Your Hair Texture

4A texture hair is composed of medium-sized, loosely packed curls that aren’t as interlocked. To create a ponytail on 4A hair, you can start with damp, moisturized hair, this will make styling easier, says Yummie. “A long ponytail should take the least amount of time to do on 4A hair because it’s easy to detangle and retains moisture.”

4B hair has densely packed curls that are tighter than 4A. Unlike 4A hair, 4B hair usually experiences a lot of shrinkage — up to 50-75% of the hair’s actual length. To achieve a sleek ponytail on this texture, it’s important to start off by blow drying the hair straight to stretch it.

“4B hair is more prone to breakage so make sure you apply a heat protectant before straightening and pre-prep your hair with oils to make it easier to slick back,” says Yummie.

4C hair has tight, small coils. The great thing about this texture is that it can hold a style for a long time, but it is more prone to breakage, so you’ll need to apply a lot of moisture and sealants to prevent the hair from breaking. If you have this texture hair, Yummie advises using hair oils and hair butter to prep and seal the hair before styling your ponytail.

Step 2: Straighten Your Hair

To straighten your hair, start off by applying a heat protectant, like Mizani Press Agent, says Jenkins. “This helps with silking out the hair, protecting the curl pattern and giving the style longevity, especially if you have higher texture hair.”

Next, smooth out the hair out using Sam Villa’s Signature Series Sleekr Professional Straightening Iron. For this step, it’s important to be mindful of your hair texture. “Make sure you’re not applying too much heat,” says Jenkins. “The amount  of heat you apply should be based on the texture of the hair and whether it is fine, medium or coarse. Hair is like fabric. The way you regulate the temperature on an iron when ironing satin, silk or denim, is the same way you should adjust the temperature on your straightener based on your hair type. The more fragile your hair is, the lower the temperature of the hot tool should be.”

“If your hair has a higher texture type that doesn’t necessarily mean it can handle high heat,” she explains. “4C hair that’s fine will need a lower temperature. 4C hair that is coarse will need a higher temperature. We call this density — you’ll either have fine, medium or coarse texture.”

Step 3: Section The Hair

Part your hair into three sections: side, back and side. Leave face framing wisps out and apply Mizani Edge Taming Hair Gel to each section. “Sub -sectioning helps to smooth the hair,” says Jenkins. “It also helps the ponytail last longer and prevents it from getting too tight. Too much tension can cause breakage and a tender, sensitive scalp.” After you’ve sectioned your hair, apply edge control around the hairline and base. “Remember that when working with natural hair, any product that is too wet can possibly convert the hair back to its original state, which you don’t want, especially after spending time straightening it.”

Step 4: Create Your Ponytail Base 

Use a tail comb to clean up the partings and comb through the hair to remove bumps and lumps.  “Secure the back section into a ponytail then switch to a Sam Villa Artist Series Polishing Paddle Brush to polish and pull back one side of the hair, then secure it to the back ponytail with an elastic,” explains Jenkins. Repeat the same steps with the hair on the other side.” 

Be mindful not to pull your ponytail too tight, says Yummie. “Slicked back ponytails are trendy and beautiful but if you pull the ponytail too tight, you can cause breakage and thinning aound your hairline,” she explains. “Some ways to prevent this include using mousse to smooth the hair back rather than pulling it tight and using a hair tie that isn’t high-grip or rubber band texture, as this can get caught on the hair and create friction that pulls on strands.”

Step 5: Freeze the Ponytail 

“Finish off the ponytail with Mizani Humidity Resistant Mist Flexible Hold Hair Spray, then freeze the style by applying low heat from a Sam Villa Artist Series Professional Blow Dryer to the area,” says Jenkins.

You can also set the ponytail by  covering your head with a scarf or black styling strips, says Yummie. “Wrap the strips or scarf around your head, and let the product set for about 10 minutes. If there are any stray pieces, use mousse to brush them down.”

 Step 6: Smooth Out Your Baby Hairs 

Next, smooth out the wispy pieces and baby hairs with a straightener, add a little bend to face framing pieces for a softer finish.

Step 7: Add Hair Extension to Your Ponytail

Add a long piece of extension —  you can use a ponytail extension like Yummy Extensions Raw Curly Ponytail, or braiding hair. If you’re using braiding hair, loop an elastic band halfway through the hair to secure it to your ponytail. “Leave the sub section of attached hair out and place on top of the head for later,” says Jenkins.

Step 8: Create a  Three Strand Braid

Create a traditional three-strand braid, weaving the extension and your natural hair together. “If the ends of your hair stick out, tuck them under the extensions,” recommends Jenkins.  “For a longer ponytail length, add more extension while braiding, this can be done by hooking and splitting a section on the pointer finger and adding to the braid. Finish braiding when you have  the desired length.” 

 Step 9: Seal the End of the Braid

To seal the end of the braid, take two pieces of hair from either side of the end of the braid and tie them in a knot, then wrap the hair around and tie another knot to lock in the braid. Add hot water to seal further.

 Step 10: Cover the Elastic Holding Together the Ponytail

Take the top section of hair that you set aside and spray it generously with hairspray. Smooth it out  with a paddle brush and wrap it around the base of the ponytail to cover the elastic band.   Spray hairspray every couple of wraps for extra hold.  “Tuck the end of the hair into the base of the ponytail using a tail comb,” says Jenkins. “Spray again and freeze by applying low heat from a blow dryer to the area.  No pins needed!”

 Step 11: Own It!

Own your ponytail! Jazz it up by adding embellishments, swirling your baby hairs and slicking them down, the choice is yours. Whatever you do, make it your own. Jenkins says she likes to apply Mizani Sculpting Paste at the end to define the hairline and add detail.

How Long Does a Long Braided Ponytail Last?

Typically, ponytails can last 7-10 days. After that, it’s best to take out the style and allow your hair to breathe. To help maintain the ponytail, Yummie advises wearing a silk or satin scarf around the base of the ponytail when going to sleep, this allows the hair to stay sleek and flat. 

 On top of the silk scarf, Jenkins recommends wearing a silk or satin bonnet. “The bonnet will help keep the braid intact and out of your way while trying to sleep. Silk or satin is important as both allow the hair to keep in moisture and not dry out,” explains Jenkins.

This is All Natural. From the kinkiest coils to loose waves, we're celebrating natural hair in its many forms by sharing expert tips for styling, maintenance, and haircare.

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