How to Get the Messy Ponytail of Your Dreams in Just Four Steps

Victoria Moorhouse
How to Get the Messy Ponytail of Your Dreams in Just Four Steps
Photo: Tom Medvedich.

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Let’s be real: That “I woke up like this” hair can seem a little hard to pull off, especially if you’re not exactly sure how to do a messy ponytail right. Loosely brushing your hair and wrapping a hair tie around a ponytail is not going to get you that Blake Lively look. There’s a chance that you could end up a frizzy mess instead of getting the casual-chic vibe you were hoping for. You don’t want to go into work or brunch looking like you rolled directly out of bed, especially if you spent precious moments in the mirror trying to create this tricky hairdo. But it’s actually incredibly easy to make disheveled locks work for you. You just need a few tools and a few minutes to do it.

To inspire your messy hair game, we’re showing you just how hot messy hairstyles can be with a tutorial series of five gorgeous styles that look better with a bit of a disorder. To kick things off, try your hand at this pretty messy ponytail how-to created by Judy McGuinness, Senior Stylist at Mizu Salon in New York City.

We’ve also given you some hair product suggestions if you don’t have some of the tools McGuinness uses in her tutorial.

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MORE: 30 So-Pretty (and Non-Boring) Ponytails to Try This Summer

Messy Ponytail How-To

Photo: Tom Medvedich; Design: Candace Napier

Step 1 of Perfecting the Messy Ponytail

Messy Ponytail How-To

Photo: Tom Medvedich/Design: Candace Napier.

Hair that has more of a grip is better, so McGuinness advises to create this style with day-old hair or locks that have more of a messy texture to them. If your hair doesn’t already have a wave or an undone curl to it, McGuinness says to loosely curl 3-inch sections of hair with a curling iron. You should end up with big curls as opposed to tight tendrils. To give hair a lift, McGuinness suggests spraying salt spray at the root for additional volume.

Our Pick: Remington Pro 1″-1.5″ Pearl Ceramic Conical Curling Wand

Remington Curling Iron

Courtesy of Remington.

Our Pick: Not Your Mother’s Beach Babe Texturizing Sea Salt Spray

Not Your Mother's Beach Babe Texturizing Sea Salt Spray

Courtesy of Not Your Mother’s Beach Babe.

Step 2

Messy Ponytail How-To

Photo: Tom Medvedich; Design: Candace Napier

Begin to pull your hair up and gather it at the top of the crown of the head.

Fasten it into a high ponytail. If there are fly-aways, don’t sweat it. You should embrace them and let them be. McGuinness says the messier the hair, the better!

Our Pick: Goody Women’s Hair Ouchless 2 mm Elastics

Goody Women's Hair Ouchless 2 mm Elastics

Courtesy of Goody.

Step 3

Messy Hair How-To

Photo: Tom Medvedich; Design: Candace Napier

Take a 1-inch section of hair from the ponytail and wrap it around the base of the pony to hide the elastic.

Messy Ponytail How-To

Photo: Tom Medvedich; Design: Candace Napier

Step 4

Messy Ponytail How-To

Photo: Tom Medvedich; Design: Candace Napier

Finish off by spraying a texture product on the lengths of the hair to give it more movement.

Our Pick: amika Un.done Volume & Texture Spray

amika Un.done Volume & Texture Spray

Courtesy of amika.

Playing with this style only gives it more of the mess you want, so feel free to twirl, scrunch, and massage your tresses all day! Your messy ponytail will look imperfectly perfect.

Originally published July 2015. Updated July 2020.

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