Hi, and welcome to week 2 at the SunQuist Braid Bar, and to this week’s Braid of the Week. This week, we are doing two simple french braid styles. We will start with the basic braids and start working our way to more specific and niche hairstyles over time. Included in this article is a half-up side French braid, adding a rocker ponytail, and more importantly a lot of background on how to braid, French Braids vs. Dutch Braids, and lastly, a few of my tips and tricks for braiding I have found on my path to starting a store dedicated to sun care for your hair.
Step-by-Step – Half-Up Side French Braid
This braid is, for certain, my everyday, go-to braid for all activities. If my hair is relatively clean, and I’m happy with the straightening I’ve done during that wash cycle, I will just start with the Half-Up Side French Braid in the morning. If I’m not, I’ll skip straight to step two for the Side French with Rocker Ponytail.
- If your hair is really clean, you may want to start with spraying some dry shampoo all around the roots.
- Start with your hair parted off center near your natural part.
- Gather a small strand near your forehead on the larger side of your part.
- Separate the strand into three equal parts and start to execute a French braid.
- As you are gathering sections of hair to incorporate into the French braid, try to gather small, equal portions and keep the braid closer to the part.
- As soon as you reach the back top of the head (I try to make my last incorporated section the bottom section right in front of my ear), finish off the braid by a standard 3-strand braid and attach with a small clear elastic band.
- If you want to give the look a little more volume, gently pull out (pancake) the braid before attaching the clear elastic band.
Step-by-Step – Side French with Rocker Ponytail
Although I like half-up styles, this updo is possibly even cuter, and in my mind is a braid versatile enough to be worn to brunch, during the day, to the gym, or even to a bar, or out at a club depending on how far you go with doing up the ponytail. I’ve also found that I can make this last two days if the half-up side French braid is tight and not pancaked the first day.
- Start with the Half-Up Side French Braid above.
- Straighten the ends of your hair if needed.
- Use a second mirror to look at the back of your head and be sure there are no holes or thin spots. If there are, take a comb and gently tease the hair in that area.
- Use a normal ponytail holder to attach a mid-head ponytail.
- If your braid is sticking out at a weird angle in your ponytail, remove the clear elastic after doing the ponytail.
- To get a little more rocker volume, pick up the top half of the ponytail, and use hair spray to spray underneath.
- Still with the top half in one hand, lightly tease the hair underneath to create a poofy look
- As always, use some hairspray to keep the look in place, or just some protective finishing spray if you’re heading outside at all.
Background on French vs. Dutch Braids
I started SunQuist, my store that sells hair care with UV protection, about two years after getting into braiding myself (for more on why, please read my first blog post on the braid bar here). At first, the only braids I really felt confident on were French braid styles in nature, although I found very quickly that the Dutch braid is truly as simple - the only difference is whether the outside piece goes above or below the center strand. They are both very easy – if you know how to braid, you will be able to master the French and Dutch braids without a doubt.
A Super-Simple, Written Explanation on How to Braid
For those of you who were never taught how to braid, or for those girls who didn’t grow up with older sisters, teammates, or moms with long hair, I thought I’d include very simple explanation of how to braid. If you are grew up in the 80s and 90s and made friendship bracelets like me, you can probably skip this section. Let’s assume you have three strands named 1, 2, and 3.
Switch 1 and 2 by placing strand 1 over strand 2. 2 is now 1, 1 is now 2.
Switch 2 and 3 by placing strand 3 over strand 2. 3 is now 2, 2 is now 3.
Switch 1 and 2 by placing strand 1 over strand 2…you get the picture
The braid will look like this:
Note that you can also achieve the same effect by placing the outer strand underneath the middle strand each time.
How to French Braid or Dutch Braid
In order to do either a French Braid or a Dutch Braid, all you do is add a strand of hair from the same side to the outside strand that you are about to switch with the middle.
Some people are more visual learners so here are some really good tutorials on the French Braid and the Dutch Braid.
Braiding “Short Hair” and “Thin Hair”
I have noticed that in almost all the youtube videos available for braiding, there is definitely a lack of help for women and girls with thinner and/or shorter hair. This is for a few reasons – thick, long hair is both easier to demonstrate with, and it looks cool. I have shoulder length hair which is rather thin in texture, so I’m hoping that I can start building out a collection of pictures (and eventually videos) that show those of us with “short hair” how to make the most of it. Because my hair isn’t down most of my back, and I’m not wearing extensions, I’m going to find someway to end the braid in either a ponytail, a messy bun, or I will pin the end of the updo underneath to avoid the rattail look small thin braids have.
Pancaking the Braid (making you appear to have fuller hair)
One other tip, which I will include in most of my tutorials, is to be sure to gently pull out the sections of the braid without pulling them out (pancaking the braid). This will make you look like you have a lot more hair than you do, and the style will look a lot more mature.
A Note on Dirty Hair
There is a huge trend right now: don’t wash your hair! The “nopoo” method is dedicated to this movement and I agree. I definitely had to build up to this, and it sounds gross, but overwashing your hair will drastically reduce the ability to get your hair to hold its style. If you do wash your hair, use some dry shampoo to add some stickiness or texture to it before braiding. Also, you will reduce the amount of hairspray you’ll need at the end of process.
When to Braid, when not to Braid
Typically, this is how my week goes in order to get maximum good hair days while still protecting my hair:
Day One: Shampoo and condition my hair – blow dry and maybe straighten
Day Two: Freshen up with a straightener if I leave it down, or just braid a half-up approach like the Half-Up Side French Braid
Day Three: Modify the Half-Up with a full updo like the Rocker Ponytail or Full Updo Braid
Day Four: Messy Bun or Curly/Messy Updo
I also workout a ton – recently I’ve been getting into hot yoga 4-5 times a week, which means a heavy amount of sweat. I’ve read and heard a lot of things about how it is still better to just let the hair dry off, but in my experience that just turns into a salty crimpy mess. What I do is rinse my hair off with water, and then use a bit of leave-in conditioner for days 2 and 3, and then shorten my cycle to washing my hair every 3 days instead of 4. If I still feel the need to wash my hair more, I will be sure to use a product that protects the hair from heat as well as the sun.