While we can all appreciate the aesthetic of a good fishtail or French braid, the truth is that not all of us have the time, energy, or know-how to whip up a complex twist at a moment's notice.
If you love the look of braids but consider yourself braid-challenged, let me introduce you to the foolproof bubble braid. These easy-to-achieve plaits consist of fluffed-out sections of hair divided by hair ties. And unlike other pigtails, this is one Insta-worthy hairstyle you don't need to be a pro to perfect. Why? The name itself is a bit of a misnomer.
"Bubble braids are essentially a modern and playful update to standard ponytails, so it's way easier to achieve than a traditional braid," says Miko Branch, hairstylist and CEO of Miss Jessie's. "This look typically consists of a high ponytail, with strategically placed elastics tied throughout, which encourages hair to puff out and appear like a bubble." Translation: If you can do a ponytail, you can do a bubble braid.
The super playful style isn't just popping up all over the 'gram—they've also been ruling this year's awards season, from Doja Cat at the Grammys to Priyanka Chopra Jonas at the BAFTAs. In other words, it's the A-list hairstyle of the year. Not only will it make you look like you put way more effort into your hairstyle than you did, it's also an ideal hack for hiding slightly questionable, second-day (or third, no judgment) roots.
"Bubble braids are great not only because they work for most hair types, but they can also be styled in different ways," says Branch. "Some of my favorite bubble braid styles are pigtails, which can either sit at the side of or towards the back of the head, or as a single bubble braid in the back with hair pulled through over and under, which adds some fun dimension."
Another bonus? Just like with regular braids, bubble braids are a great way to achieve heatless curls the next day. However, since elastics can cause strain and tension on the hair (contributing to breakage), Branch recommends preparing hair with a leave-in conditioner first, like Miss Jessie's Leave-In Condish ($23; amazon.com). "Once hair is damp, apply a styling gel or styling lotion to tame frizz and promote hold while the style is secured. After leaving them in for a few hours, you should be left with beautiful heatless curls."
Interested in trying the low-maintenance, high-glam hairstyle? See below for a step-by-step tutorial, courtesy of Branch.
First, prepare your hair with a styling cream to set a uniform and frizz-free foundation that is perfect for styling. This lightweight formula will help to hold the style, and also make it easier to tease out for increased volume as a last step.
Place your hair into a slicked back ponytail at your desired height, and secure with an elastic at the highest point and as close as possible to the scalp.
Wrap another elastic hair tie a few inches down your ponytail. Elastic placement will largely depend on the length of the hair, and keeping equal distance between each bubble is the best way to ensure a great end result.
Once all elastics are placed, use your fingers to tease and pull at each section. This will loosen the hair between elastics and create multiple “bubbles,” with the option of customizing your look depending on how voluminous or teased you want them. Optional: To add some dimension, pull out some wispy tendrils around your face.
Finish with a lightweight hairspray to tame flyaways and create extra staying power.