How To Create A Waterfall Braid In 3 Easy Steps

Photo: Christian Vierig/Getty Images.
Whether you're prepping for a formal occasion, like Zoom prom, or just want to amp up your everyday hairstyling skills, mastering a waterfall braid is a productive isolation project. Like a souped-up French braid, the waterfall pattern is a delicate three-strand weave that starts at the hairline and falls — nay, cascades — down and around your head, creating the prettiest built-in accessory. In fact, even through a laptop screen, it looks way more impressive and intricate than it actually is to create.
Ahead, find your step-by-step guide to crafting a waterfall braid, from the prep to the anatomy (waterfall vs. French braid), and the detailed strand-over-strand breakdown for you to practice on your own hair.

Prep The Hair

According to Garnier celebrity hairstylist Millie Morales, when attempting a waterfall braid, you want your hair to be dry, detangled, and prepped with enough grit that the braid holds in place without hairspray. "Carefully brush your dry hair from root to tip to remove any tangles before you start braiding, which will make the process much easier," Morales says. Next, you'll want to grab a styling product, either a dry shampoo or a leave-in conditioner, depending on your hair texture.
"If your hair is fine or straight, I would recommend using a little bit of dry shampoo, which will help add volume at the roots and hold the braid in place without having to layer on too many products," Morales says. "For curly hair, you want to instead add a bit of conditioning cream, like Garnier Whole Blends Leave-in Treatment, to define your curls while preventing frizz and giving your hair a bit of slip."
While prep varies, celebrity stylist Jonathan Colombini notes that the following process of waterfall braiding will not differ based on your texture. "The steps for braiding are the same, no matter your hair type," he explains. "Though the end result may vary based on your specific texture and how tight or loose you chose to make your braid."

Approach It Like A French Braid

If you already know how to create a French braid, you're more than halfway to a waterfall braid. "Just like a traditional French braid, you’ll be using three pieces of hair in a reoccurring pattern," says Colombini. "The only difference is that with a French braid, you’re using the same three strands for the entire braid, where a waterfall braid is going to weave horizontally across the head with one of the three recurring strands of hair falling out of the pattern, which creates the 'waterfall' effect."

Go for a smooth and polished look, like the above photo example by California-based braider and blogger, Braids by Natalie. Or, try a looser, boho-style look, adding beachy waves, like the below image, styled by UK-based bridal hairstylist Mon Aime.

Your Step-By-Step Guide

Like learning how to create any kind of braid, the key is twofold: practice and patience. The step-by-step breakdown starts with parting your hair and grabbing three small strands around your hairline, exactly how you would begin a side French braid. "In a normal braiding fashion, you’ll take the three strands in two hands, and loop the outermost strand into the centre, but you'll drop the piece now on the outside," explains Colombini. "Then with the third piece, in your other hand, loop over the piece you’ve dropped — this creates the waterfall effect."
Since you’ve purposefully dropped a piece of hair out of your braid, you have to replace it. "You'll now want to gather another piece, equal in size to the falling strand," Colombini continues. "It’s easiest to pull the new piece with your right hand from the top crown of the hair. Then, repeat these steps until you've reached your desired result, which can be tight or loose, wrapping all around your head, or just a small section."
For a seasoned braider, this how-to may may sound relatively simple, but for a novice, a visual assist might be helpful, at least to watch another person go through the steps. We recommend checking out YouTube, where you'll find plenty of video tutorials — like this one by hair blogger Margiey Akinyi — to show you exactly how it's done.

More from Hair

R29 Original Series