By Mary Smith
French braids. Dutch braids. Fishtail.
You probably recognize all of those types of braids. For some of you, you’ve already mastered the art of different ways to style your hair. For some of you, YouTube and Pinterest only go so far. The cool thing about braids is that you can wear them for prom, banquets, and everyday styles. They’re super easy once you get the hang of it!
A lot of times I get asked how I learned to braid my hair. I’m just going to tell you right now that I did not successfully use a tutorial. What I really did was play around with three strands of hair until it looked like something other than a bird’s nest. Adding hair, subtracting hair, no matter what… it shouldn’t look like a messy bun.
I’ll just show you a couple of quick ways to braid, and then I’ll add in some tips that I use to make my hair a little more put together. As a high school student, it’s all about the quickest braids and styles that I can do before leaving my house. My go-to braid is the dutch braid, which is basically an inside-out french braid. This means that the braid is on the outside, and is very visible. Surprisingly, this is easier for me to do to my own hair than a french braid.
This is the first braid that I learned to do on my own hair, which is surprising because I thought that I was doing a French braid for a long time. The trickiest thing about a Dutch braid is going under instead of over when you’re adding hair. You can also use Dutch braids for bangs.
Start at the hairline, taking three small sections of hair to braid start with. Cross the hair under the middle strand on each side, picking up new sections of hair as you go. The most important detail of Dutch braiding is remembering to go under, because this makes the braid visible.
French braids are some of the most common braids and easier for beginners than a three-strand Dutch braid. Start at the hairline, taking three small sections of hair, and braid one braid like you would normally. However, after you braid the three sections once, start adding in hair… only cross the strands over the middle strand. Your braid should be on the inside. French braids can also be done for bangs, but if you have dark blonde or light brown hair like me, Dutch braids are easier to see. Basically, for a French braid, you are doing the opposite of a Dutch. If you learn either the French or Dutch braid, you can easily pick up on the other–simply do the same thing in the opposite way.
Fishtail braids are probably the easiest braid and the best braid for beginners. This braid was not my first braid, but because it only involves two strands of hair, a lot of people learn how before they learn French or any other three-strand.
To braid a normal fishtail braid, first find your starting point on your hair/someone else’s hair. If you decide to start where you would start a normal three strand braid, at the nape of your neck, we’ll discuss that method in a second. Usually the best place to start is right at the crown of your head. For a guide, take your index fingers and run them from the tops of your ears all the way back. From here, you will have to add in more hair, but it looks great. Pick up the chunk of hair that you just created at the crown (as if you were putting it in a half-up ponytail) and divide it into two parts. Pull little sections of hair from each side of the remaining hair that’s down, crossing it over the top and pulling it diagonally to the other side as you go. Once you reach the point where you cannot add any more hair, use little sections from the two sections and cross them over the top to the opposite side.
If you decide to simply fishtail without adding in all that extra hair, simply pull all of the hair into a ponytail and divide it into two sections. From here, take a single piece from one side, preferably on the underside of the section, and pull it over that section and join it with the opposing section. Then do the same for the side you just added hair to. You will master the fishtail in no time!
If you just can’t seem to master three-strand braids or the fishtail, but you still want a cool effect, try the pull-through.
To do the pull-through braid, you will pretty much need clear elastics (see tips below). The pull-through braid can be done with bangs, as a crown braid, or as a side braid. For beginners, I recommend the side braid, because it’s easiest to see what you’re doing.
To start this braid, simply pull your hair into a side ponytail. For the simple side ponytail, it doesn’t matter if you use a regular hair tie or a clear elastic. Then, split your ponytail in two (top and bottom half, don’t split it like you would for a fishtail). So essentially, you have a top section and a bottom section. Tie off a small “bubble” on the top section. Split the little “bubble” of hair into two parts, and pull the original bottom section through this hole. Repeat all the way down.
Tips & Tricks
One of the main tips that I recommend is a method of pulling the hair apart to make the braid look thicker. This is called a number of things, but I’ve usually heard it referred to as “pancaking.” Just grab the ponytail where your braid is secured and pull (very, very gently) to give the braid the appearance of thickness. This is especially useful if you have thin hair.
Another tip that I recommend is using clear elastics instead of regular ponytail holders. While I do still use the regular hairbands for ponytails, side ponytails, and buns, they’re just too chunky for me to use at the end of delicate braids. I’ve purchased clear elastics from both Wal-Mart and an actual beauty supply store and I find that there isn’t a difference, so brand name doesn’t really matter. Clear elastics are especially useful in the pull-through braid.
I also like to wrap my hair around my ponytails to hide the regular hair tie. This creates the illusion of your hair being tied up with…gasp…your own hair. This always seems to amaze people that haven’t heard of it before. All I do to create the look is take a small section of hair from my ponytail, tease the end of it, hairspray it to ensure that it has enough texture to stay, wrap it around, and secure it. To make sure that it stays in place, I either bobby pin it under the ponytail or use a clear elastic at the end. Both methods work fairly well.
Additionally, hair products that I recommend are…
Not Your Mother’s Beach Babe Sea Salt Spray (creates texture and smells amazing…works well for crimping hair and making braids stay better)
Aussie Mega Hold Hairspray (not too harsh and also smells amazing, holds without getting stiff)
Aussie Instant Freeze Hairspray (more harsh but does the job)
Anything by Tresemme, including their heat protectant…
And of course, everyone’s favorite, Batiste dry shampoo (I use this to also create texture and volume).