Why a Little Gym Sweat Makes the Best Ponytail

Why a Little Gym Sweat Makes the Best Ponytail
Why a Little Gym Sweat Makes the Best Ponytail

By Liana Satenstein. Photo: Patrick Demarchelier.

A few weeks ago, after hitting a high-intensity workout class in Tribeca, where the body-sculpting protocol included a fiery hell of repetitive jump squats and push-ups, I headed home exhilarated and exhausted. Too shaky to wash my sweat-sopped hair, I took a shower sans sudsing up my scalp and passed out cold on my pillow. If spending the next eight hours in my perspiration-slicked ponytail was admittedly a little gross, there was an unexpected silver lining: When I woke up the next day, my hair had never looked better.

Suddenly, my ponytail had morphed into a bouncy sculpted shape with just a bit of slept-in wave—and it wasn’t a post-workout anomaly. A few days later, it happened again and before long, I’d started making a habit out of the process by brushing my hair back tightly before Spinning or boot camp class, then going to bed without washing it that night. Further attempts to re-create the look on clean hair proved that I wasn’t imagining things; it couldn’t be cheated with hairspray.

To find out why exactly the sweaty ponytail works, I called up hairstylist James Pecis, who has perfected the look—even styling models’ hair at the recent Fall 2017 Nina Ricci show to mimic hardworking rodeo girls by making their hairlines subtly damp and hot. “Part of it is that salt and water is a hair product in itself,” says Pecis over the phone, pointing out that the natural ingredients in sweat are essentially re-created and bottled in traditional setting sprays. The not overly clean look, he notes, also works well with topknots. “It’s that twisty thing—having it wrapped up [high] like that,” he says. “When you have that slight dampness and the salt and the oils dry, then you take [your hair] down, and you have beautiful waves.”

If daily dance cardio classes don’t seem like the most practical styling tool, there’s a way to approximate the look. “You can go up to 80 percent dry with the blow-dryer,” which will emulate the same humidity levels found in the gym, he explains. Then add in a mist of product—Pecis says that both sugar-water spray and beer “set the hair” like a sweat session—and twist it up. For a more straightforward styling product, he recommends Oribe Matte Waves after taking a shower. “It gives a bit of tackiness and mold,” adding that leave-in conditioner also works. “It makes your hair wavy the second day.” Endorphin-boosting workouts aside, that sounds like the next best failsafe feel-good solution.

This story originally appeared on Vogue.

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