Most of us think of a braid as the end result of our styling. But what if it was just the beginning? Instead of waking up and doing the work, give yourself a plait or two before you hit the sack. "For waves in the morning, braid your hair when it's wet," Potempa says. "Just make sure your hair isn't soaked. Damp strands will dry better and faster." In the morning, loosen the braids and shake out your hair. If you want, spritz on some texture spray for added oomph.
Love a braided style, but aren't dexterous enough to get a three-strand twist to work? Tie yourself up in some knots, says Potempa. Split your hair into two sections, knot them, and then pull 'em up. "Keep your knots looser to create a larger-looking braid," Potempa says. When you're done, you can either tie it with an elastic or let your hair hang. Since it's knotted, it will pretty much stay put.
Amping up a simple braid doesn't mean you need to put in a ton of extra work. Just pop in some extra hair. Potempa explains: "Women with a solid hair color, especially if it's dark, could stand to add some lighter extensions to their hair." Her reasoning? Darker hair makes it harder to see the intricacies of the plait you worked so hard on. The extensions can either be a few shades lighter than your normal color, or a rainbow hue. Go nuts!
If the knotted route isn't your cup of tea, but you're still not down with the whole three-strand situation, you can go for two strands. Just split your hair into two sections and wrap them around one another. "When you wrap the two sections together, make sure they're staying wrapped around themselves," Potempa says. It will definitely take a few tries, but the result is a cool-girl braid that's ultra-modern.
Also known as a Dutch braid, the difference between this and a regular ol' French is in how you weave. For these, you simply pull the strands of hair underneath one another instead of over one another. It's as simple as a French, but with a fun twist.
For an easier grip and tighter braids, Potempa suggests starting with small sections. "This will make things easier to manage at first," she says. "It will also help the braid start closer to the root." Pick up pieces as you go, and then tie it all with an elastic.
Ever noticed how perfect your braid looks when you start from a ponytail? But when you try to wing it sans elastic, the whole thing goes sideways? Well, there's an easy fix for that, according to Potempa: Start by securing your hair with a thin, clear elastic; braid it however you like; and then snip off the elastic when you're done. Voilà — that was easy, huh?
We love the idea of a hairline braid. They're clutch for gym sessions when you've forgotten your headband, and even better for hiding your awkward, half-grown-out bangs. But if you have issues getting a three-strand braid to lay flat against your noggin, Potempa says go for a two-strand. "It's so easy to do, and will keep the hair off your face," she says. You can do one, or twist two and have them meet in the middle. Simply pin when you're done, and you're good to go.
Potempa's most repeated tip is to say a mantra. "It's so important for people who have trouble braiding," she says. "It keeps your fingers from getting confused." For a three-strand braid, you'd say to yourself: "Right, over. Left, over. Right, over. Left, over." And so on, until your beautiful braid is done.
Photographed by Winnie Au, Hair by Sarah Potempa, Makeup by Jamie Dorman / ABTP, Nails by Isadora Rios / ABTP, Styled by Emily Holland, Modeled by Ashley / Wilhelmina, Modeled by Anastasia / Wilhelmina, Modeled by Olga / Wilhelmina, Modeled by Manuela / Wilhelmina.