Wondering how to braid your own hair? Braided hairstyles can seem intimidating… like you might need three (or more) hands to nail the look. But don’t fear, these five easy braid tutorials can help take you from braiding newbie to braiding maven in no time.
Prepare Your Hair For Braided Hairstyles
It’s a good idea to prepare your hair before braiding to set yourself up for success. Here are some tips:
- Start with second-day hair (meaning one day after you washed it). Freshly cleansed hair tends to be slippery, which may cause pieces to slide out of the braid.
- If you have squeaky clean hair, spray on a scalp tonic or saltwater to add a little grip.
- Brush out your hair to remove any tangles.
- Apply a conditioning spray to smooth out any stray hairs.1
How Long Will This Take?
If you’re learning how to braid your own hair, odds are that you’ll want to know how long the process will take before you start. The answer is that it completely depends on the type of braid you are trying.
Braiding your hair can take any amount of time — from a minute for a single classic braid, to several hours for a style like box braids. If you’re attempting an intricate style, allow yourself plenty of time so you don’t feel rushed.
How to Braid Hair: Braided Hairstyles for Beginners
1. The Classic Three-Strand Braid
A classic braid involves three strands of hair woven together to form a plait. If you’ve never braided hair before, this is where you should start. It may take a little practice to get your fingers used to dividing, holding, and tucking hair as you go.
- Step 1. Gather your hair into a low ponytail, and divide it evenly into three sections: a right section, a middle section, and a left section.
- Step 2. Hold the left strand in your left hand and the right strand in your right hand. Let the center section hang loose.
- Step 3. Cross the right section over the middle section. What used to be the middle section is now the right section.
- Step 4. Now, cross the left section over the middle section. The left section becomes the middle section.
- Step 5. Continue this pattern until you reach the end of your hair, alternating sides. Be sure to always bring the outer pieces in over (not under) the other strand of hair.
- Step 6. Once you reach the bottom, secure your hair with a hair tie.
2. The Fishtail Braid
Fishtail braids are delicate and perfect for a romantic or bohemian hairstyle. They look complicated, but (psst) they are actually pretty simple to pull off, which makes them a great choice for a special occasion. Here’s how to do a fishtail braid yourself.
- Step 1. Brush out your hair to remove the tangles.
- Step 2. Spritz your hair with a scalp tonic to add volume.
- Step 3. Pull your hair back into a ponytail and secure it with a disposable hair elastic or rubber band (you’ll cut this off later, so use one you don’t mind throwing out).
- Step 4. Divide your ponytail in half into two smaller sections.
- Step 5. Grab a small, half-inch section of hair from the outside of the left section.
- Step 6. Pull this piece over the left section into the right section, taking care not to twist your hair as you bring it across.
- Step 7. Now, separate a half-inch section of hair from the outside of the right section.
- Step 8. Pull this piece across the right section over to the left section.
- Step 9. Continue with these steps until you get to the bottom of your ponytail.
- Step 10. When you’re finished braiding, secure the ends with a second elastic, and snip the original hair elastic off with scissors.
- Step 11. For a more romantic, relaxed look, gently tug on the sides of the braid to make it slightly messy looking.2
3. The French Braid
A classic French braid is a hair stylist standby for a reason: it’s refined without being overly fussy, and it suits all sorts of events. Try a slick, tidy French braid for a sophisticated look or a messy French braid for a more casual, romantic look. Here’s how to braid your own hair into a French braid.
- Step 1. Start with unwashed, second-day hair (or apply a texture spray).
- Step 2. Separate your hair at the crown of your head into three equal sections. If you want to try a side French braid, pick up your sections on the side of your head instead.
- Step 3. Pick up the left section and cross it over the center strand, just as you would with a standard braid.
- Step 4. Pick up the right section and cross it over the center section.
- Step 5. As you move forward repeating these steps, use your index finger to pull in new half-inch sections of hair just outside the braided section.
- Step 6. Stop braiding when you have about two inches of hair left unbraided. Secure it with an elastic.3
4. The Dutch Braid
A Dutch braid is similar to a French braid, but in reverse. While French braids lay close to the head, Dutch braids sit up higher off your scalp. This look is especially fun for braided pigtails. Here’s how to do Dutch braided pigtails. (You can also follow this for a single Dutch braid. Just do it once).
- Step 1. Divide your hair into two even ponytails. Secure one section with an elastic, and move it aside.
- Step 2. Grab the section without the elastic and separate it into three even sections.
- Step 3. Follow the steps for a French braid, but take the hair under instead of over the middle strand. So, you’ll grab the left section and take it under the middle section.
- Step 4. Grab the right section, and take it under the middle section.
- Step 5. As you go, grab small pieces of hair outside of the braid and incorporate them into the sections.
- Step 6. Continue until you near the end of your hair, and secure it with an elastic.
- Step 7. Now, repeat these steps on the other side of your head.4
5. Box Braids
Box braids are standard three-strand braids that are created by neatly sectioning off squares (or boxes) on the scalp. Tension is used to help prevent flyaways. With this style, extensions are typically woven in to protect the natural hair and add length.5
Many people opt to have a professional do this style for them, as it can take several hours. But if you have the patience and the right supplies (and the upper arm strength to hold your arms up for that long), you can do this yourself. Here’s how:
- Step 1. Prepare your hair with a scalp tonic and conditioning spray. Your hair may be up in these braids for weeks or months, so it’s a good idea to pre-treat your locks before you start.
- Step 2. Divide your hair into your desired number of sections. Use a clip to keep the sections you aren’t currently working on out of the way.
- Step 3. Pick up your first section, and divide it into three pieces.
- Step 4. If you’re using extensions, pick one up and split it into two parts: one large and one small.
- Step 5. Fold the smaller section over the larger one to create three even hair strands.
- Step 6. Hold the extension loop to your scalp with your index finger, and match up one strand of extension hair to one strand of your natural hair.
- Step 7. Braid your hair in a standard braid, incorporating the extensions all the way to the end.
- Step 8. Repeat these steps until your entire head is covered in box braids.6
How To Fix (Or Avoid) Common Issues With Braided Hairstyles
Your Braid Looks Inconsistent
One of the most common braid problems is an uneven, crooked braid. To avoid this, make sure you are consistent with the width of each section, the amount of tension you apply, and the braid pattern. Even a little change-up from the 1-2-3 braiding pattern can make your braid look wonky, so try to stay consistent.7
Your Hair Puffs Out
This is a common problem: you finish your braid only to let go, and you notice a puff of hair at the nape of your neck. What likely happened was that you were holding the braid up and away from your neck when you were braiding it – so the bottom section ended up longer than the others.
To fix this, take your hair out (yep, sorry you’ll have to do it over). This time, be sure to let your hair fall straight down and braid it how it lays naturally, instead of pulling it up so you can see it.
Your Layers Pop Out Of Your Braids
If you have layers in your hair, there’s a chance that shorter hair may poke out of a braid. To avoid this, take a longer section of the strand next to the layer and add it to the layered strand. This should help give you length and help you tuck in the layer.8
You Braided Your Hair, But Now It’s Frizzy
With a style like box braids, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Before you start, make sure your parts are perfectly straight so hair isn’t crossing between sections. Applying a good conditioning spray during the process – or after if you see frizz the next day – may also help tame flyaways and frizzy hair.
Your Braids Don’t Stay Put
If you love the romantic, loose braid look, you may be tempted to create a very loose style from the get go. The problem is that very loose braids may fall out easily. A better idea is to start with a tight braid, and then gently pull on the sides to loosen it up.
One Strand At A Time
Learning how to braid hair can seem intimidating, but the best way to learn is to just jump in and start practicing. The act of braiding hair itself can be a meditative, creative project. Enjoy the process. If it looks good in the end, great. If it doesn’t look quite right, you can always take down your hair and start again. With each braiding session, you’ll just get that much better.