How to Get the Perfect Slicked-Back Ponytail Every Time

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A woman with a ponytail
Author Name: Beth Rush
Date: Tuesday May 21, 2024

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A slicked-back ponytail is simple if you have the right products, tools and know-how. Whether you want to capture those clean girl aesthetic vibes or just want something new to try with your hair, we’ve got you covered. 

A Sleek Ponytail Is the Base of all Clean Girl Hairstyles

Ever heard of the clean girl aesthetic? These girlies are put together, professional and glowing. You could say it’s because of their dewy foundation, nude lips or love for neutrals, but their hair has a lot to do with it — it always looks freshly brushed and there’s no one strand out of place.

If you want to learn how to do clean girl hairstyles, you’ll first need to master the slicked-back ponytail. Whether you want to put your hair in a braid, a bun or a half updo, the base of almost every style is a sleek pony. 

What You’ll Need for the Perfect Slicked-Back Ponytail 

Products are key for achieving the perfect slicked-back ponytail. While you can technically make yours look sleek without them, they definitely complete the look. Whether you have straight or curly hair determines which ones you’ll need. 

Hair Products and Tools for Curly Hair

You’ll want a round detangling brush, a soft brush and an edge brush to manage your curls and get flyaways to cooperate. We recommend a fine and wide-tooth rat tail comb to simplify parting and sectioning. Also, you’ll need a spray bottle, a hair dryer, hair ties and hair clips. 

Products-wise, you’ll generally want hair gel, freeze spray, edge control and finishing spray. While you don’t necessarily need styling glues or sprays, they’ll help you get that slicked-back look. Naturally, you can use products to highlight your loose curls or coils in your ponytail. 

Hair Products and Tools for Straight Hair 

A detangling brush, a boar hair brush and a fine-tooth rat tail comb will help you section and mold your hair into a tight, sleep ponytail. Depending on how long and thick your hair is, you might also need multiple bobby pins, hair ties and clips. 

Straight-haired girlies generally only need a few products to slick back their hair. Hair wax, oil, shine serum, spray and leave-in conditioner are all good choices. If you want to use more than one — like argan oil and a hair wax stick, for example — go right ahead. 

How to Get a Slicked-Back Ponytail in Four Steps or Less

Getting a slicked-back ponytail is more complex than a regular messy ponytail, but still pretty easy. Generally, there are five steps you need to follow — we’ll get into hair type specifics later.

1. Divide your hair into sections.

The best way to achieve a sleek ponytail is to divide your hair into sections — one in the back where you want your ponytail height to be, one on each side of your face and one on each side of your middle part. While you should generally have at least five, you might need less or more depending on your hair’s thickness and length.

2. Detangle your hair.

Getting your ponytail to stay slicked in place requires a lot of tugging and brushing, so you want to detangle your hair before starting. Go over each section of your hair with a round or flat detangling brush to remove any knots or tangles. 

3. Brush your sections back.

We recommend tilting your head up slightly to get gravity’s help when brushing your hair back. It can be a big help for when you’re trying to get a middle part to look good when pulled back. Use your soft brush to slowly coax every strand into place, following closely behind with your hand to smooth down any flyaways caused by movement or static.

Be careful with how taut you make your ponytail — you can damage your hair and even recede your hairline if you tug on it too much. We recommend using deep conditioning treatments or giving yourself a break with a loose pony every once in a while.

4. Smooth any flyaways.

The key to a slicked-back ponytail is uniformity — you don’t want a single strand sticking out of place. You want to make your hair as flat as possible to achieve the sleek look you’re going for. Use bobby pins, finishing spray, edge control and hair clips to tame any flyaways or loose baby hairs that won’t cooperate. 

Tips and Tutorials for Sleek Curly Hair Ponytails

Naturally, slicking down natural, curly hair takes a good amount of time, effort and patience. If you want to tame your locks, you’ll probably have to use plenty of gel and spray. While we’ve seen plenty of beauty influencers swearing by freeze hairspray, you can definitely find a tutorial that sticks to spritz and minimal glue.

Jaelah Majette, a vlogger who’s well known for documenting her natural hair journey, can give you step-by-step instructions in her voiceover video on how to detangle, section and slick your curly hair. She has a combination of products — styling gel and freeze spray— she swears by that’ll make the whole process much more manageable. 

Tips and Tutorials for Sleek Ponytails With Bangs

You can still achieve a killer slicked-back ponytail with bangs. Whether you want to hold them in place with hairspray, leave them out, curl them or make them stand out is up to you. If you have long hair, consider 60s-inspired swoop bangs for a classic take on the clean girl aesthetic. 

The fashion and beauty influencer Sagonia Lazarof can take you through the steps to get a perfect sleek ponytail with swoop bangs. You’ll need hairspray, a soft brush, a styling comb, hair ties, bobby pins and a straightener to follow her tutorial. 

Tips and Tutorials for Sleek Straight Hair Ponytails

You’ll want to try this hairstyle after going a few days without washing your hair to make it easier to style. Consider going for a middle part to simplify sectioning and brushing — you’ll deal with fewer bumps and snags this way. 

Sloan Byrd, a popular influencer and beauty vlogger, recommends using leave-in conditioner and hair oil to make your hair easier to tame and give it that sleek look. Once she introduces the products and tools she uses, it takes her just over five minutes to finish her look — making it the perfect go-to style when you want to capture the clean girl aesthetic but are in a rush. 

Capture That Clean Girl Aesthetic With a Slicked-Back Ponytail

Once you’ve put your hair in a slicked-back ponytail a few times, it’ll become second nature to you — you’ll probably be able to get it up and looking great in a few minutes, tops. At that point, you can branch out to other clean girl hairstyles like braids, buns and updos.

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