Let's just get this part out of the way: This "braid paste" is a essentially a matte-finish texturizing cream. Calling it a braid paste is purely a marketing strategy. But, you know what? Marketing strategy or not, this stuff does what it claims to: It makes braiding clean, slippery hair really easy.
Also, the hold is strong enough so that you can mess up the braids and they'll still stay put. I'm not trying to have perfect, grade-school style plaits, but I also don't want to look like I slept in my braid either. The perfect balance of artfully disheveled hair tends not to stay put — unless this stuff is used. I've been working it into my hair, braiding, and then digging my fingers into the braids to loosen them up. I've also been using a trick that hairstylist Adam Maclay taught me of rubbing my hair between two fingers to create frizz. Because this paste gives your hair serious grip, braids can get that just-about-to-fall-apart look without ever falling apart.
The only downside? This stuff doesn't feel all that great to the touch. So, you can't really work it through all of your hair and just braid some parts. Be sure to only use it on the parts you want to braid — unless you're going for a look that's literally untouchable, in which case, more power to you.
Oscar Blandi Braid Paste, $25, available at Oscar Blandi.