Braiding Hacks That Will Make Your Fishtails Even More Awesome

Photographed by Winnie Au.
If you want people to think you're a certified hair genius, learn how to fishtail-braid. Even though fishtails are less complicated than three-strand braids — fewer sections, people — for some reason, they garner childlike wonder and praise. (Just look up the approximately one million photos tagged #fishtail on Instagram.) Well, we're about to take it one step further. We asked braiding pros for the tips and techniques that take their fishtails from basic to downright dreamy. We promise: Even the most fumbling of fingers will be able to reach braid nirvana.
Muck Up Your Mane
According to hairstylist Casey Geren, super-clean strands are the kiss of death for a successful fishtail. "Dirty hair is better, because it adds the perfect, messy texture," he says. If you're going in with clean locks, no worries. Mist all over with dry shampoo or texturizing spray to give strands grit. Bonus: It will make your sections easier to manipulate. Say Snip-Snip
If you have trouble starting a fishtail braid, secure your hair into a ponytail with a small elastic first, says hairstylist Mia Santiago of the Sally Hershberger Salon. "When the braid is finished, you can simply cut the tie and still have a secure braid," she says. Mind Your Sections
A clutch fishtail braid is all about making the sections the right size. Geren says you should pull no more than a half-inch from the sides at a time to get the perfect plait. It sounds counterintuitive, but the smaller the sections you take, the more rotations you will make, and the bigger the braid will actually appear.
Photographed by Winnie Au.
Go Next-Level
Braid guru Sarah Potempa has a pretty cool hack for a 3-D braid, but it will definitely take a little practice. The basic fishtail technique (in which you grab a piece from the side or back) applies, "but instead of just pulling it across, you split that section in half, and cross one part over the front and one part under the back," she explains. The result is a cool, double-sided braid. Imperfections Equal Perfection
Geren says there is no such thing as a messed-up fishtail. "These braids should have texture," he says. "So if you mess up while braiding, just keep going." He says the imperfections will add a fresh, youthful feel to the style. If you really mess up and there's a piece poking out where it shouldn't be, use a small, U-shaped pin to hook the hair back into the braid, or spray it into place with hairspray. Give It A Squeeze
Santiago has a cool tip for adding bulk to your braid. Before you tie it, pinch the bottom of the braid with one hand, and the middle with another. Then, still pinching, slide your fingers from the middle of it up about an inch or two. "This will help loosen the braid," she explains. Then, tie it like you normally would. Finish Early
If you braid to the very bottom of your hair — where it's the thinnest — your plait will also look thin. Instead, secure your elastic with three to four inches to go. You can pass a flat iron over the ends to make them extra-polished.

Like this post? There's more. Get tons of beauty tips, tutorials, and news on the Refinery29 Beauty Facebook page!

More from Hair

R29 Original Series