The braiding ninjas on YouTube may make braiding your own hair look seamless, but for those of us with less-than-stellar skills, it can be hard enough to do a traditional side braid. To make braiding your own hair easier (and less intimidating) we sought the help of experts, or “braidologists” as we like to call them, to offer up their must-know tricks. Your next bad hair day will surely thank you.
“Make sure when first starting out to braid, you do it without looking in a mirror,” suggests Michael Boychuck, celebrity stylist and owner of COLOR Salon in Las Vegas. “It’s best to get the feel of how to braid your hair without looking at what you’re doing. Once you get the hang of where your hands should go, you can take your braiding to the next level.”
“Don’t braid your hair wet because it will be too heavy,” says stylist Kaylee Pak of John Barrett Salon. “When your hair is wet, it extends at least 15 times more than when it is dry. You don’t want to weaken or break your hair.”
“When braiding hair, I always start by spraying both roots and the length of the hair with dry shampoo,” says celebrity hairstylist Brian Magallones of Exclusive Artists Management. “My favorite is Klorane Dry Shampoo with Oat Milk ($19.79, drugstore.com). Clean hair can be too sleek and slippery to braid, so the dry shampoo gives hair the perfect texture to work with.”
Refrain from Product Overload
“Don’t overdose on products because your hair will be too stiff,” says Pak. “When you have too much product, you can’t put your fingers through your hair—to French braid, for example—and it is harder to separate [each strand].”
Jazz It Up
“Use a fine-tooth comb to tease hair at the crown to add volume and grip,” says stylist and braid specialist Erika Arzate of EDEN by Eden Sassoon. “It makes the style look more elegant.”
“If a three-strand braid is too difficult, create a rope braid with two strands,” says Arzate. “Twist two sections, and then join them together by twisting in the opposite direction. Use a clear rubber band—they’re so fine and thin, they look like they’re almost not there.”
Tighten the Fishtail
“Remember to keep the pieces you are taking from each side small,” says Dana Tizzio, stylist at Butterfly Studio Salon. “[And] keep the tension tight the entire time, or else it will loosen and you’ll have to start over.”
Structure First, Mess Up Second
The secret to perfect the messy braid is to first create a perfectly structured braid. “You want to start with the braid more secure and clean, and once done, you can pull and stretch the braid as desired, pulling our random hairs, loosening and roughing up the texture a bit,” says Magallones.
*This story was originally published on WomensHealth.com by Shannon Farrell.