Share on Facebook

A Trusted Friend in a Complicated World

5 Quick and Pretty Braids Every Woman Should Know: A Step-by-Step Guide

Never have a bad hair day again.

1 / 5
01-Basic-Braids-Every-Woman-Should-Know--A-Step-by-Step-GuideMatthew Cohen/

Classic three-strand braid

The classic three-strand braid is actually quite simple and super versatile. We got Jean Oh, a stylist at Nunzio Saviano Salon in New York, to show us how it’s done. (Don’t miss these effortless hairstyles that are perfect for work.)

Step 1: Detangle hair

The first step is to use a brush or wide-toothed comb to detangle strands—hair is much easier to braid when it’s smooth and knot-free.

Step 2: Divide hair into three equal sections.

Split hair into three sections (A, B, and C).

Step 3: Cross the sections

Hold the right section with your right hand and the left section with your left hand. “Cross the outside strand over the middle; interchanging right and left side. Example A over B, C over A, B over C,” explains Michelle Lee, co-owner and master designer of Salon Eva Michelle. Continue this over-under technique—tightening as you go—until you have braided to the desired length.

Step 4: Secure with an elastic band

Once you’ve braided to the desired length, secure with a non-rubber hair elastic. (Master these 15 hairstyle terms before your next salon visit.)

2 / 5
02-Basic-Braids-Every-Woman-Should-Know--A-Step-by-Step-GuideMatthew Cohen/

French braid

The always elegant French braid is a timeless, classic—and an easy hairstyle for lazy days.

Step 1: Detangle hair

Use a brush or wide-toothed comb to detangle strands.

Step 2: Apply product (optional)

If starting with wet hair—particularly if strands are straight, thin or fine—Lauren Burks, founder of Braid Bar STA, recommends applying a volumizing mousse. Blow-dry before braiding. If starting with dry hair and your strands are squeaky clean, spritz in some texturizing spray, like Garnier Fructis Style De-Constructed Texture Tease, to give it more grip, making it easier to braid.

Step 3: Part out starter section

Starting at your hairline, gather tresses—including the hair above your ears—into what will become your starter section. Divide this section into three equal pieces; these will make up the beginning of the braid.

Step 4: Cross the sections

Start the first section like a three-strand braid, crossing over one time on each side. This locks in and gives you a foundation.

Step 5: Add more hair

As you cross the next sections, add hair to the outside strands and cross the middle. Keep your hands close for a tighter braid. Continue adding hair each time you cross over. Pro tip: Try to add the same amount of hair each time for a balanced braid. “The smaller the added hair, the tighter the braid; the bigger the sections, the fuller the braid,” explains Lee.

Step 6: Secure with an elastic band

When there is no more hair to add, continue with a traditional three-strand braid and secure with a non-rubber hair elastic.

3 / 5

Fishtail braid

Step 1: Pull hair into ponytail (optional)

According to Sarah Potempa, celebrity hairstylist and founder of Beachwaver, the easiest way to learn a fishtail is to brush hair back into a low ponytail and secure it with a hair bungee. This will create a stable base for your braid.

Step 2: Divide hair into two sections

Separate the ponytail into two smaller, equal parts.

Step 3: Cross sections

Gather one small (half-inch) section from the outside left and cross it over to the right. Repeat on the right side, crossing over to the left. Continue alternating sides and adding pieces until there is no more hair to add.

Step 4: Secure with an elastic band

Secure braid with a non-rubber hair elastic. If you started with a hair bungee to start, you can remove it now.

4 / 5
04-Basic-Braids-Every-Woman-Should-Know--A-Step-by-Step-GuideMatthew Cohen/

Waterfall braid

“The waterfall braid is a simple and chic way to elevate your hairstyle, and it works really well to keep hair out of the face, and frizz-free,” says Potempa. (These are the best products to fight hair frizz.)

Step 1: Smooth strands

Bricel Cury, Lead Stylist at DreamDry, suggests apply a smoothing serum to help tame fly-aways before blow-drying hair smooth.

Step 2: Create a side part

The waterfall braid works best with a deep side part. This enhances the cascading effect of the braid.

Step 3: Section strands

Starting at your hairline, create a 2-inch wide, triangle section, splitting it into three even pieces (A, B, and C), as if starting a French braid.

Step 4: Complete your first braid sequence

Start by crossing the section closest to your hairline (A) over the middle piece (B), placing your thumb in between both sections. Grab the bottom section (C) and drop it in-between the two sections being held with your thumb.

Step 5: Add more hair

Once the first braid sequence is complete, begin to add more hair. To do so, grab a new, equal-sized piece from near your part. This piece (D) will become your new top section. Cross it over the middle (C) to continue the braid. Continue braiding by incorporating new strands, repeating the process until you reach the back of the head.

Step 6: Secure with bobby pins

Secure the braid behind your ear with bobby pins.

5 / 5
05-Basic-Braids-Every-Woman-Should-Know--A-Step-by-Step-GuideMatthew Cohen/

Dutch braid

The Dutch braid is often referred to as an inverted braid, because it’s basically a French braid, but in reverse. It’s equally good on hot days to beat the heat. Here are 7 other no-heat hairstyles when it’s too dang hot outside.

Step 1: Divide hair into three sections

Like the French braid, you’ll need to begin with three strands of hair from the front of your head.

Step 2: Cross the outside over middle

Cross the outer left strand (A) under the middle section (B), then the right strand (C) over the new middle (A).

Step 3: Add more hair

After doing one pass under for the right and left, start adding hair to each outer section before crossing under the middle. Continue the process until there’s no more hair to add. Pro tip: Keep hands closer for a tighter braid. The smaller the sections, the tighter the braid. The bigger the sections, the wider the braid.

Step 4: Secure with a hair tie

Secure first braid with non-rubber hair elastic.

Lindsay Cohn
Lindsay is an avid traveler who has visited 45 countries across six continents. At, she covers both domestic and international travel. When she's not writing, you can find her doing yoga and adding to her ever-growing list of future adventures.