The Birchbox Guide to Braided Hairstyles

Jan 27, 2016
The Birchbox Guide to Braided Hairstyles

There’s a reason why we’ve worn them since elementary school. Braids are the most versatile hairstyle out there—they hide bad hair days, withstand the sweatiest of spin classes, and dress up a regular bob. Whether you're a beginner or an experienced styler, follow the tutorials below to master some of the most popular (and statement-making) plaits.

The 3-Strand Braid

Let’s start with the basics. After securing hair with a clear elastic, find two strands from the middle of your pony and pull them to create lift at the crown before braiding with the classic three-strand technique.

The Classic French Braid

Before you attempt a crown or waterfall braid, you'll want to master the french braid, which starts with three strands of hair at the crown of your head and slowly gathers additional strands as you make your way to the ends of your hair. (Once you have it down pat, put your skills to the test with a more advanced style.)

The Dutch Braid

Though it might look complicated, the Dutch braid is easy to master. And because these inside-out braids give the illusion of thickness, the style is a great alternative for those of us with finer hair. Once you've gotten the hang of the Katniss-inspired technique, you can incorporate it into a pretty updo like this Dutch braid twist.

The 4-Strand Braid

The four-strand braid looks just as good—if not better-—when messy, which makes this style is especially good for curly or wavy-haired textures prone to flyaways. Styling tip: Tying off each of the four strands with a clear elastic before you start braiding will make it easy-breezy.

The 5-Strand Braid

Have extra-long hair? Use the technique you mastered with the four-strand braid for this five-strand version (the extra piece of hair will make your braid shorter, faster). Keep track of each strand by repeating the braiding pattern out loud to yourself: Under, over, under, over!

The Fishtail Braid

Like a fresh pair of Flyknits, fishtail braids are dressy-casual—they can be worn anywhere and last through everything— and the messier they are, the better they look. Follow this tutorial to learn how to style a basic version, and if you’re looking for fishtail-inspired updo, try this fishtail braid bun.

The Reverse Fishtail Braid

Once you’ve accomplished the regular fishtail braid, update your technique with this reverse version. The trick: Pass sections of hair under each other instead of over.

The Fishtail Braid Updo

Transition your everyday fishtail braid into nighttime look with this simple updo. You can also pin the pigtails on top of your head for a modern milkmaid look.

The Waterfall Braid

Waterfall braids are a piece of cake with a little practice. Even better, this style doesn’t discriminate between short and long lengths.

The Crown Braid

In addition to being a summertime necessity for those with waist-skimming hair, the crown braid is essential for anyone who needs her hair completely out of her face for the day. Unlike ponytails, this style needs little adjusting and leaves no loose ends behind. Pro tip: Adding a little texturizing spray will give you the grip to create a no-slip style.

The Half Up Crown Braid

When you want the elegance of a crown braid with romantic, loose hair around your face, this half-up version is the answer. Since it doesn’t actually go all the way around your head, it also works for shorter lengths.

The Triple Braid Updo

This style may seem elaborate, but it's actually just three basic braids pinned into a pretty design. Since there is no right way to style this look, get creative with where you pin your braids to create your own unique plait.

—Kirby Reynolds

Birchbox E. We're the editors behind Birchbox articles, videos, and social channels. When we're not trying products or perfecting beauty techniques, you'll find us scouting out New York's top cookies and cocktails.