How to French Braid Your Hair in 5 Easy Steps
Unlike your high school French class, creating a French braid is uncomplicated. According to Los Angeles hairstylist Glenn Ellis, there are only two differences between a French and a classic, three-strand braid: First, the French braid starts at the crown of your head (whereas a classic braid usually starts above the nape of your neck). Second — and this is what gives it its dreamy silhouette — is how you continuously weave more hair into it as you move from the top of your crown toward your ends.
Once you've mastered how to create a single French braid, Emmily Bowman, founder of mobile hair-braiding company Braidbabes, suggests trying more unique ways to wear it. Consider twisting your braid into a bun, wearing two as pigtails, or weaving them into half-up hairstyles.
But before considering more complicated styles, learn how to create a French braid on your own hair in just five steps. Beginners, you’ll ace this lesson, as there’s little finesse — and zero conjugation — involved.
Meet the experts:
Emmily Bowman is the founder and CEO of Braidbabes, a mobile hair-braiding company based in Buffalo, New York.
Glenn Ellis is a Los Angeles-based hairstylist with clients including Olivia Wilde, Sara Paulson, and Meg Ryan.
Ryan Trygstad is a hairstylist and co-owner of Mark Ryan Salon in New York City.
Nathaniel Hawkins is a New York City-based hairstylist.
How to French Braid Your Hair
Tools You’ll Need
A hair elastic
Step 1: Prep your hair.
The first step to French braiding is as easy as it gets: "Comb your hair so that it's tangle-free," says Ellis. And don't worry about washing it beforehand, as unwashed hair provides the best hold for braids, according to Bowman. However, if you insist on washing your hair before styling, she recommends spritzing the Puff.Me Dry Texturizing Spray by DesignMe from your roots to your ends to give your hair the grit it needs to hold the French braid's shape.
Step 2: Section your hair.
Then, "beginning at the hairline, gather your hair into a triangular section that includes hair from just above your temples and extends towards the crown area," Ellis says. After that, separate this large section of hair into three smaller ones which will be the strands you'll use to braid.
Step 3: Start your braid.
Take the left section of hair and cross it over the center, as you would with a traditional three-strand braid. Repeat this step with the right section. After completing these initial crossovers on both sides, you can start incorporating hair from the outside of the braid to begin weaving your French braid, says Bowman.
Step 4: Grab hair as you go.
Continue the same method, but start adding small sections of hair from both sides. "It's important not to take more hair than you can manage as you always want to be in full control of each step," says Ryan Trygstad, hairstylist and co-owner of Mark Ryan Salon in New York City. Nathaniel Hawkins, a New York City-based hairstylist, suggests picking up half-inch sections of hair to keep the braid balanced.
Mastering the hand positioning can be one of the most challenging aspects of French braiding. While everyone has their preferred approach, you might find it helpful to hold all three strands with one hand strategically. Doing so will free up your other hand, allowing you to pull more hair into the braid evenly and efficiently.
Repeat this braiding technique until all of the hair from both sides of the braid is added, says Bowman. Then, continue with a classic, three-strand braid like the one you started with.
Step 5: Secure your braid.
Leave about two inches of hair unbraided and secure with an elastic, says Hawkins. If you want to hide your elastic band, wrap a small strand of hair around it and secure it by tucking the end of the strand underneath the hair tie or with a bobby pin. Finish with hairspray.
French Braid Ideas
1. Single French Braid
Content creator Aurora Lovestrand says she likes to gently pull each plaited section of her French braid outward. This loosens the braid and gives it a more laid-back vibe.
2. French Braid Pigtails
You might have worn French braid pigtails as a teen, but who says you can’t embrace them as an adult? Keep your hair out of your face as you run errands (and do other grown-up tasks) with this style, which expertly hides its elastics beneath hair the way Hawkins suggested.
3. Loc'd French Braid
Content creator D Bella created this “loc’d French braid,” which weaves locs together into one singular plait. To get the look, she divided her hair into two equal parts (not three) and took small sections of strands from the outside of each section before crossing them over to the opposite side. Okay, this is technically a fishtail braid disguised as a French braid. The creator went with this technique because she deemed it a more practical choice for her thick locs than the traditional three-strand method.
A step-by-step guide to creating a Game of Thrones-inspired braided hairstyle:
4. Loose French Braid
For an ethereal French braid like this one, hairstylist Nika Belyanko recommends avoiding tight pulling of the braid strands while weaving. Instead, she suggests leaving the strands loose to achieve a relaxed effect.
5. Double French Braid Ponytail
This double French braid ponytail by hairstylist Reem Niameh is perfect for everyday and formal events. Her secret to getting the look involves two simple steps: first, using a crimper before braiding to add volume and texture to the roots, and second, applying wax throughout the hair to create a sleek and polished finish. To complete the look, Niameh curled the ponytail and face-framing pieces of hair for an added touch of elegance.
6. Half-Up French Braid
This hairstyle might seem like it’s for braiding experts, but if you look closely, it’s actually just a loosely woven, half-up French braid on long hair. Gently tug on the braid after you’ve created it to loosen it further and create even more movement.
7. Jumbo French Braid
Want to be able to admire your French braid in the mirror? Sweep the plait to the side of your head.
8. French Braid on Short Hair
This look by content creator Kayley Melissa is proof that you don’t need long hair to wear a French braid. She goes on to say that it’s quick and easy to create and gets “a lot of love.”
More hairstyle inspiration:
57 Gorgeous Black Braided Hairstyles That Will Inspire Your Next Look
Originally Appeared on Allure