Ariana Grande is known for her killer tracks, her four-octave vocal range, and her ponytails. Of late, her hairstyles have been infused with a ‘60s energy, accessorized with Jackie Kennedy-approved pillbox hats and that decade’s take on sci-fi. And to say we want in on Ari’s ponytails is an understatement.
If anyone knows how to fix a dramatic pony exactly as Ariana likes it, it’s Josh Liu. Having started his career in celebrity public relations, he jumped ship in 2015 and retrained as a hairdresser. Before he knew it, Josh was invited to accompany Ariana on the Dangerous Woman tour. He continued to work with her through the Sweetener and Thank U, Next albums, and is now behind the hair for Ariana’s AG6 Positions-era.
Even as her aesthetic has slightly shifted during the last three years, Ariana and Josh have made her ponytails a constant. The stylist says the reason ponytails continue to be popular – and not only for Ariana – is their ease. “It’s such a low maintenance style. It’s out of your face, you know it looks cute, and you can wear it in between washes,” Josh says. “In fact, ponytails are often easier when your hair hasn’t been washed, as your natural oils help with the sleeking process. A good ponytail really lifts and awakens the face, accentuating your beautiful self!”
Naturally, this isn’t just a case of dragging your hair back into a bobble and running out of the house. An Ari-worthy pony takes a little more care and precision. Prepping the ponytail is “crucial”, says Josh. “To get the best ponytail possible there are a few factors you have to get right: the product, the brushes, and the hair tie.” Prep is important, but deciding where to place the ponytail can also greatly impact the finished look. Josh describes Ariana’s high ponytail as “flirty, girly and sexy,” whiles those looking to emulate Bella Hadid’s hair should go for a slicked-back “fashion, fierce, strong” pony. Opt for a lower style fastened at the nape of the neck if you want to look as chic as Zendaya.
We asked the man who wields the hairbrush for a step-by-step guide to recreating Ariana Grande’s pitch-perfect ponytail at home.
If you have super-straight hair skip to step two.
“It’s super important to start by detangling and then smoothing out your hair if you have wavy, curly or kinky hair with a proper blow-dry, or using straighteners. I recommend using the T3 Lucea ID Flat Iron, with a special focus at your root area to make it super smooth and easy to sleek your hair up.”
“Put your hair up loosely in a ponytail in the general direction you want the ponytail to sit. I then recommend applying products to sleek-up the hair. I don’t like my ponytails to feel overly hard or crunchy. Instead, I prefer to layer products with a small bristle brush. I recommend using the vegan boar bristle brush from Diane and then smoothing up the sides. Then, use an edge control to make sure you get it super sleek and combine it with a firm flexible gel and a light spray of extreme-hold hairspray. If you have wavy or curly hair, I recommend avoiding water-based products as that may revert back to your hair texture.”
“I then undo the loose ponytail I initially put up and use a nylon boar bristle brush. I recommend the Popular Brush by Mason Pearson to gather everything together to do the final smoothing and get out any bumps. I add more product as necessary. Be patient, the sleeking process takes a while, but is necessary for it to be perfect.”
“The most important part: the hair tie. Your choice has to be strong, stretchy, and durable enough to prop your ponytail up and last all day. I swear by The Hair Tie by Útiles Beauty. If you don’t have a strong hair tie, you likely won’t be able to create a strong or tight enough base and it will sag throughout the day. I recommend looping the hair tie twice around your hand and then sliding it over your ponytail, then pull the loops as tight as possible, and then continue looping as tight as you’d like. I average about eight loops around my base. If you want more height, you can always tie on another one or two more hair ties, for an extra propped-up lift.”
Now, it’s time to get working on the volume in your lengths. “I recommend adding dry shampoo or some texture spray, then start teasing the base of your pony, working your way from the bottom upward. Lock each section in place with an extreme hold hairspray. For added security, lock the hairspray and tease in place by massaging a tool like the T3 Singlepass Curl iron against the teased and hairsprayed section. Gently brush out the uppermost layers of each section as you go, but not too much, as you don’t want to brush it completely out.”
“For those who have fine or shorter hair, in order to get the volume and length I recommend adding a ponytail wrap for a quick fix. If you have the length but not the fullness, you can always add a few clip-ins to supplement your hair. I recommend Luxy Hair, as they are nice and full and have great color options for ponytail wraps (20” long and 16” short), and clip-ins (20” and 24” sets).” Ariana, is that you?
This post originally appeared in British Vogue.
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