Braiding Tips For Girls Who Can't Braid

Photographed by Ali Gavillet.
Ah, the braid. You can't scroll through Pinterest without seeing at least six dozen tutorials: fishtails, milkmaids, Dutch, French. Our big issue? No matter how many times we attempt these "oh-so-simple" how-tos, we can't get our fingers to weave the styles we want.
So, what do we do when our braiding skills need all the help they can get? We practice until our plaits are perfect — and call in the pros for backup. To help us in our quest, we tapped Mia Santiago, a stylist at Sally Hershberger Uptown. Then, we asked five of our staffers to give their dream braids their best college try.
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By the end of the day, we walked away with more knowledge on the topic than you could ever ask for. Click through to correct your braiding mistakes. If we could do it, so can you — pinky-promise.
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Photographed by Ali Gavillet.
Mistake #1: Skipping The Product When You Need It
Our social media editor Larissa Green wanted to learn how to plait her natural hair without committing to full-on box braids. So, two tight braids were a good trade-off. And, while her first attempt was good, Santiago saw an error: "She didn't use any product in her hair," she said. "For braids like this, you have to add a serum, so it smoothes and shines."
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Photographed by Ali Gavillet.
She started by blowdrying Larissa's hair, and then combing it out to stretch the curls. "This will allow you to handle the hair a bit easier," Santiago said. Next, she added a smoothing serum (try Kérastase Elixir Ultime) and worked it in from root to tip. "The biggest mistake you can make with natural hair is adding water before you style it," she said. "This will only cause it to grow."
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Photographed by Ali Gavillet.
Santiago parted the hair down the middle and began braiding. For easier control and a flatter braid, she suggested folding each section under the one before it — not on top. Then, she twisted the bottoms of the braids over one another and set the hair with pins.
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Photographed by Ali Gavillet.
To tame flyaways, you can finish with a styling wax, like 24K Superiority Complex Texturizing Balm from Sally Hershberger. Santiago said this type of braid can be hard to pull off on your own at first — but just keep practicing.
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Photographed by Ali Gavillet.
Mistake #2: Fearing Texture
Our curly-haired fitness and wellness editor Bari Lieberman wanted the perfect fishtail. We have to say, Bari's first go at this tricky plait was pretty good. However, Santiago felt it needed a bit more texture.
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Photographed by Ali Gavillet.
A genius trick for side-braiding? Section wisely! "If you're doing a braid that will go down one side, use a clip to move all of your hair," Santiago said. "It will keep everything tight and prevent your fingers from slipping." You can leave in the clip the entire time you're braiding.
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Photographed by Ali Gavillet.
Instead of trying to deal with larger sections of hair, Santiago said to take smaller sections from the back and pull them into the plait. "Keep your hands separated during the braiding," she advised. "It will keep things from getting tangled."
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Photographed by Ali Gavillet.
Finally, add some texture! Once she finished the braid, Santiago pulled it apart to make it more dynamic. "If a few pieces come loose, don't worry about it," she said. "It will add to the cool texture."
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Photographed by Ali Gavillet.
Remove the clip, and give yourself a little smile. You just made a fishtail, lady!
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Photographed by Ali Gavillet.
Mistake #3: Parting Your Hair In The Wrong Place
A boho crown braid was all Kelly Godzik, our brand-experiences production assistant, wanted to learn to create. Santiago said that while her attempt was solid, the braid was a little loose — and the part was off. "She pulled her hair just a little too deep from one side," Santiago said. "It resembles a bit of a comb-over. Moving the part just an inch will make a world of difference."
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Photographed by Ali Gavillet.
So, that's what Santiago did. She moved the part over a touch, and then clipped away the back section, leaving only the section she'd be plaiting.
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Photographed by Ali Gavillet.
You may be tempted to make a super tight braid, but Santiago said to ease off. "Braid it against the scalp until you run out of hair right above your ear," she said.
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Photographed by Ali Gavillet.
Once you're done, you can either leave the tail of the braid loose or pin it under your hair.
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Photographed by Ali Gavillet.
Behold: a perfect boho braid that's easy to pull off.
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Photographed by Ali Gavillet.
Mistake #4: Making Your Braid Too Loose
Assistant market editor Rachel Besser wanted a cool-girl undercut braid, but her first attempt was a little loose. "She didn't pull enough hair in, and it isn't tight enough," Santiago said.
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Photographed by Ali Gavillet.
Santiago first clipped away the hair she wasn't using, as she'd done with the other braids.
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Photographed by Ali Gavillet.
Then, Santiago misted down Rachel's roots with water to make them more pliable. To give the braid more grip, she added a thickening mousse from tip to tip. You can try Thickening Full Form Mousse from Bumble and bumble.

"The trick is to braid along the natural curve of your head," Santiago said. "Keep the plait tight, and continue braiding down off your scalp once you run out of hair there."
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Photographed by Ali Gavillet.
Once you're done, remove the clip and allow your hair to fall naturally over the undercut braid.
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Photographed by Ali Gavillet.
For added texture, Santiago curled the rest of Rachel's hair.
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Photographed by Ali Gavillet.
Mistake #5: That Little Neck Pouf
Christine Arzeno, our director of editorial operations, had a straightforward request: "Teach me how to do a simple, behind-the-head braid." Santiago said that Christine's braid had the typical mark of a beginner — that slight pouf on the nape of the neck. "But, luckily, it's an easy fix," she said.
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Photographed by Ali Gavillet.
First, Santiago spritzed Christine's hair with some water, getting it damp, but not super wet.
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Photographed by Ali Gavillet.
Then, Santiago added Shu Uemura's Touch of Gloss serum from the mid-shafts to the ends. "This will keep the pieces of her layers from poking out," she said.
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Photographed by Ali Gavillet.
Next, Santiago advised Christine to tip up her chin before she started braiding. "This will help you get rid of that little pouf that happens on the base of the neck," she said. Then, braid as usual.
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Photographed by Ali Gavillet.
The result: a runway-ready braid that's elegant and beautiful.
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Photographed by Ali Gavillet.
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