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Originally published Wednesday, February 23, 2011 at 1:18 PM

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Ponytail primer: More than pulling back hair

The no-fuss ponytail has hit the runways in New York.

Los Angeles Times

Have you noticed all the ponytails on this season's red carpets?

Actresses such as Hailee Steinfeld, Amy Adams, Jenna Fischer and Jennifer Lopez have been sporting the sweptback hairstyle that leaves the face as the main attraction and keeps the possibility of flyaway hairs sticking to lip gloss at a minimum. The no-fuss ponytail has also hit the runways in New York, where models' hair in the recent BCBG show was slicked back into medium-height ponytails.

This sleek style works whether you're wearing an evening gown (in fact, it's a nice juxtaposition to an embellished or somewhat complicated gown a la Marchesa marabou or Chanel sequins) or your everyday cropped white jeans, cashmere sweater and ballet flats.

But getting the look isn't as easy as it might seem, so I asked celebrity hairstylist Charles Dujic to break down the basic steps of nailing the perfect ponytail. Dujic coifs the hair of Olivia Wilde, Sharon Stone, Cheryl Hines, Kaley Cuoco and Jennifer Morrison, to name a few. He offered us his easy tips for doing your own ponytail, sans arm fatigue.

1. The blow dry and finish: Get the texture of your hair the way you want it before you start. Whether you're going for sleek or a more textured, wavy look, prep the hair first by blow-drying it with a round brush for volume, flat ironing it for super straight or using a curling iron if you want a wavy texture.

2. Product use: Hair products are essential in getting your hair to behave. If you are going for a Barbie-style ponytail, add some type of volumizer at the roots. Dujic likes the Fekkai full volume foam to add lift at the roots. Work it into the root area of damp hair and then blow-dry with the head flipped over.

After it's about 90 percent dry, take sections on top and on the sides of the head and smooth out with a round brush, blowing in an upward direction to keep the lift at the roots. Then finish blowing out the rest of the hair in the same manner for smoothness. For a sleek ponytail, add a little Moroccan oil to damp hair before blow-drying. This will calm down any flyways and frizzles and give a great sheen to the hair. After blow-drying, add a little bit of spray for style retention. (Dujic prefers Bumble and Bumble Spray de Mode.) Then flatiron section by section to give the hair that super-polished, slick look.

3. Technique: Putting the ponytail in place is next. Have elastics in the tone of your hair color on hand and ready. Dujic prefers the kind that are like bungee cords — they have little metal hooks on each end. You should also have a few matching mini bobby pins and hairpins and a good cushion brush, such as a Mason Pearson brush, to get a smooth, sleek finish.

If doing the tighter ponytail, put a very small amount of serum or Moroccan oil on your hands and rub them together so it almost disappears. Then gather your hair as you brush it into a ponytail just below the crown. Make sure that your head is tilted upward and not down, with your chin slightly raised. This will prevent a sag of hair below the elastic. Once hair is gathered, wrap the elastic snugly around the ponytail as close to the head as possible. "This is where I like the bungee-style elastics because the hooks on the ends allow you to wrap around very close to the base without disturbing the hair in the ponytail," he says. "It also allows you to get the most secure fastening."

Next you can take a small strand of hair from the ponytail and wrap it around the elastic band to create a polished finish. Take a tiny bobby pin and push the end of that strand under the base of the elastic and finish with a tad of hair spray. If you find that the top of your head has a little lump after you are finished, you can take the tail of a comb and insert it just in front of the lump and glide it back toward the base of the ponytail. Most of the time, this will fix any slight irregularities in the smoothness on top.

What kind of ponytail should you wear? "The most modern placement of a ponytail is just below the crown in the center of the head," Dujic says. "And a low ponytail is a very classic look, and a high ponytail usually reads very young."

Who knew a ponytail could say so much?

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