Today’s edition of Fun with French Braids is one for tips lovers.
That’s because we’ve got 29 of ‘em for you.
It’s mostly a collection of little known techniques we came across and wanted to share.
Even better, this article is the perfect complement for our look into ways to hold your hair while French braiding that also reveals other must know tips and tricks. If you haven’t read that one yet you should definitely check it out when done here if where to put your fingers when has left you flustered and unbraided.
Anyway, for many how to French braid the back of your hair is such a frustration.
I feel you.
So real quick here’s how to French braid the back of your head. Section out the hair around the crown of your head. Split that into three sections. Start a three strand braid. Once started you’ll want to add a chunk of hair from the right side of your head to the strand on that side and braid it in. Repeat with the strand on the left side then move that over the middle strand braiding it in. Just add a new bit of hair like this every time you move an outside section to the middle.
Having an overview like that can help. But sometimes knowing a little hack or two can make all the difference when going for a notice me style.
If you agree keep reading to get LOTS of hacks and useful little ideas you likely haven’t thought of. I know I hadn’t. The idea is to help you hit the ground braiding with tricks like these:
Quick Section Navigation
- How To Start A Side French Braid
- How To Get Volume In A French Braid
- How To Practice French Braiding On Yourself
- Why Bigger Sections Are Like Braiding Training Wheels
- How To French Braid Fine, Slippery Hair
- 13 Quick Tips You’re Going To Need At Some Point
How To Start A Side French Braid
Problem: Common complaint, “I don’t even know where to start!”
The Fix #2: Not knowing how to get started holds too many back. This video patiently demonstrates how to begin a side braid.
Spoiler Alert for those wanting to know how to begin a side French braid it typically starts with a smallish triangle section just at your hairline.
Divide that into three sections.
Do a three strand braid WITHOUT adding hair to get it started.
Then begin to add chunks on from each side as you start your French braid.
If you’re having problems getting your braid started at the hairline maybe it’s because you grabbing sections that are too big when first starting out.
Bumpy Braids Avoidance
Problem: Sometimes my braids have lumps, bumps or don’t look as smooth as I’d like.
The Fix #5: Try to smooth out each additional strand added as you go so it blends seamlessly with the existing hair. This way you’ll do what you can to insure there are no bubbles or bumpy lumps in your braid.
How To French Braid Your Own Hair To The Side and Control Where It’s Heading?
Problem: When doing side braids, sometimes your braid runs down behind your ear. Other times it goes towards the back of your head. What gives?
The Fix #11: Actually how you hold hands determines the direction of the braid. If you hold them lower the braid will tend towards down somewhere behind your ear. Higher and the braided hair will be directed more towards the back of your hair. With practice you’ll be able to direct it where ever you want it to be.
How To Get Volume In A French Braid
Problem: Wimpy looking thinner braids that aren’t red carpet ready don’t a braidy-lady make.
The Fix #26: If you want to know how to make your French braids look thicker here’s the big idea. You make it look fuller, more dynamic by gently pulling it apart a little. Even those with thinner hair can instantly plump up twerpy plaits by “pancaking”.
Never heard of it? In a sentence it means to gently tug or stretch out the links of your braid from the center and edges to create a fuller looking result.
Actually we have a more detailed explanation of how to pancake for maximum affect that you really should check out if you want to know more.
How To Practice French Braiding On Yourself
In all honestly creating pretty plaits just come down to practice.
It’s the universal answer given when someone asks “How do you get better at French braids?” like on Reddit.
The reason practice matters is you want to develop a braiding rhythm, the finger dexterity and ability to do it by touch. All three of those only come with repetition.
Practice enough and then one day it will just click.
So whether it’s when you’re watching NetFlix or something on Hulu or just before you turn off the lights at night the more you practice the faster you’ll get good at it. Plus with more practice the faster you’ll get good at doing it.
Practice Cures Technique Imperfection
Problem: Wishing for a handful of magic beans that will turn you into a braiding ninja overnight?
The Fix #12: As much as you may want it there sadly really is no “one simple trick” to make you a braiding whiz.
Practice. Practice. Practice.
Yes, it can be a whole lot frustrating and more than a little tedious.
But the truth is we all have to start out bad at this in order to get good.
It helps too if your initial goal is not perfection. It’s to simply practice.
So even if you feel like you’re messing up continue to go through the motions.
You’re only going to get better with practice that involves making mistakes.
Accept that. Learn from them. And keep at it until you can do this by a sense of touch alone.
Here’s one idea that might make it easier.
Why Practice With Hair That’s Damp
Problem: Arrrgh. Your hair falls out of the French braid faster than you can braid it in!
The Fix #25: When it comes to braiding some find that damp hair is better behaved hair. This may be especially true of fine, thin locks. So you may have an easier time holding things together, depending on your hair type naturally, if you practice braiding while your hair is damp.
Spritz it down.
Towel it off if you got carried away.
Comb it out.
Give it a little shake to loosen the locks up.
(Optional) If need be wait 15-20 minutes to air dry a bit.
Then have at it. You may be delighted to discover that damp hair is way easier to manage.
Switching gears, some think you get a tighter looking braid by pulling the hair tight. That’s actually incorrect. A compact looking braid is more the result of the size of the sections you’re adding in.
Here’s some more ideas on section size.
Bigger Sections Are Like Braiding Training Wheels
Problem: It takes so long to do a braid, doesn’t it?
The Fix #8: Sometimes. But this is why beginners are often better off working with bigger sections. You still get the necessary practice but the braid is done faster. (Saving your arms.) Once you have mastered the technique and your fingers readily get into a flow then you can start to refine things to produce different looks by going for smaller sections.
Sectioning Hair For Braids
The rule to remember is the sections make the braids.
Smaller sections mean a tighter looking one.
Larger sections mean the braid will look loose to really loose.
Again just don’t go confusing that, as some do, with pulling the braid tight. Holding the braid tight is not required to get the braids to appear tight.
Section Size Makes the Braid
Problem: Many want a tight braid but end up with a saggy outcome. How come?
The Fix #7: As just mentioned section size determines how the finished braid will look. The size of the sections you pick up to add in is going to make all the difference is how the finished product looks. Bigger ones will result in a looser, softer looking braid. Smaller ones give you a tight one.
Worry About Section Consistency Later
Problem: If your sections are inconsistently sized your braid will look kinda wonky.
The Fix #4: Again when first starting it out don’t worry about the size of sections you’re adding. Consistency either. Some will be bigger. Others smaller. But eventually you’ll want to try to stay consistent with the amount of hair you pick up each time. This insures you have balanced, neater looking braids. Just don’t sweat it while you’re learning.
That said …
Smaller Sections Mean Bigger Glam
Problem: We want our braids to look like they were done by a pro not a three year old.
The Fix #10: It’s true. Smaller sections produce a more a professional look. So the smaller the sections you work into your braid the more polished the finished product will appear. You’ll end up with a plait that looks neater, tighter, and timeless. In other words high impact.
Getting Section Sizing Right
Problem: Grabbing new sections of hair willy nilly.
The Fix #23: The new sections not only need to be consistent, ideally smaller, but most of all the sections of new hair to be added should only be as wide as the existing strands they’re being added to. This is partially for a consistent looking braid as well as to avoid a bulging braid that you sometimes get when the new sections are too big.
Mushing along. Do you feel your hair is too slippery to French braid?
Just washed hair.
Those situations can make for a struggle for beginning braiders because they can leave you with hair that is so slippery as to be almost braid resistant.
So here’s …
How To French Braid Fine, Slippery Hair
Problem: It’s no secret fine stick straight hair can be a bear to braid. But that doesn’t mean you still can’t braid it.
The Fix #19: For silky or super slippery strands there are several hacks to use to help it get a grip.
If you spritz things with a little water the braid will hold together better as you’re working it.
Another idea? Using a little gel or pomade can also add a bit of texture to help you better control what’s going on with the braid.
Some find if they start with a mist of hair spray the braid holds together better than if they don’t.
Finally go with the old standbys like texturizing spray or dry shampoo for some grittiness your locks lack naturally. Especially on clean hair. It can really help give you some texture to work with without weighing your hair down.
Only Consider Braids For Second Day Hair
Problem: No desire to use lots of products to fix your slippery hair situation?
The Fix #13: In that case for fine hair, I would try braiding second day hair (maybe after a light dose of dry shampoo so it’s not greasy) only.
13 Quick Tips You’re Going To Need At Some Point
Now certified braidologists know using the right French braiding technique makes all the difference in the outcome.
Unfortunately there are more than one or two things to know about your approach to French braiding that aren’t exactly obvious. But the difference they can make will be.
Next let’s explore some quick hitters which can be lifesavers.
The Rx For Braids Gone Limp
Problem: When you release it the braid sags and goes it go all limp and lifeless.
The Fix #6: The problem is if your hands are not on directly on your scalp you’re creating slack. When released so is the slack. So yeah it all comes down to the distance between your fingers and your head. The idea is to keep your hands as close to your head as possible when braiding. A saggy braid suggests hands several inches away.
Pain in the Neck?
Problem: You have to live with a literal pain in the neck whenever you French braid your hair.
The Fix #27: There’s another trick that can help you avoid braid pain. All you do to avoid that is once you arrive at the ear tilt the head forward. That’s it! This little trick prevents the braids from being too tight at the nape which taken to extreme can cause Traction Alopecia leading to hair loss and who wants that?
Avoid A Saggy Bottom
Problem: What to do then you have just a little bit of hair left to braid. How do you finish off the braid so it doesn’t sag?
The Fix #3: If you suffer from a braid that is always bulging at the bottom first tilt your head forward. This will let you keep the braid tight against the back of your head WITHOUT putting unnecessary stress on the hair there at the nape of the neck which can be uncomfortable.
Note too in the video how close her fingers are to the base of the braid as well as how close the braid is to the head.
Tilting your head forward is a big key. It will insure things look nice and tight without stressing the hair at the nape of your neck.
Tying Up Loose Ends
Problem: Towards the end of the braid it loosens up.
The Fix #14: As you reach the end of the braid do what you can to keep a firm grip on the braid so you don’t lose it now. You’re holding a lot more hair at this point in the braid than before. That may take more effort to maintain control.
Braiding Hair With Layers
Problem: Layered hair with chunks you may think are too short to braid. That’s because those pesky little short pieces stick out unexpectedly.
The Fix #28: The clever move to make here to contain the short stuff is to give your sections a little twist.
Running Short of Hair?
Problem: What do you do if you find yourself running out of hair on one side or the other?
The Fix #15: If you start to run out of hair from one side make it a point to grab more generous pieces on the side with plenty and smaller ones on the side you’re running out of hair on. This will let you keep things looking even without running out of hair to braid.
Short Finish or Variation Two of Running Short of Hair
Problem: What about when doing your three strand braid to finish up the process and one of the three sections ends up being much shorter than the other two?
The Fix #17: Rather than end up with only two strands to braid borrow hair from one of the two longer ones to lengthen the short one and continue braiding.
Aching Arm Saver
Problem: Braiding hair in the back can be such arm killers.
The Fix #20: With longer hair once you run out of hair to add you can bring the braid to the side and finish off with a three strand braid without killing your arms.
What Happens When You Braid Wet Hair?
Problem: Fighting to keep your hair braided and your sanity intact.
The Fix #22: One recommendation. Wet it down. It is sometimes easier to braid wet, rather than just damp, hair because the hair are more manageable.
How To Braid Tight To The Scalp
Problem: Bulging braids that are too loose.
The Fix #29: As the video so clearly shows the problem is the hair being braided was held too far away from the scalp. So try to braid as close as you can to the head. Rather than holding the hair up and away from your head keep your fingers just off the scalp.
Best To Braid Hair Without Looking In A Mirror?
Problem: With a mirror everything is backwards. That can confuse your fingers. Which is why it best to just learn to braid without using one.
The Fix #21: While it sounds crazy if you’re having trouble why not see if not using a mirror helps? Reason being when using a mirror it’s all backwards – you know that mirror image thing? Not to mention it’s hard to see fine details no matter how good your mirror setup is. It’s better to learn to do this by feel.
I always found NOT using mirrors worked better because they only confused me about which way I was going.
Quick Accent Braid For Added Flair
Problem: Running late but want to do something cute yet quick with your hairstyle?
The Fix #18: Braid up a simple three strand braid on one side of your head. When you’re somewhere past half way braided, grab the middle strand and scrunch up the braided hair towards your scalp. Tie off the end. Secure it with a bobby pin and hide that under the rest of your hair. Viola! Perfect little accent.
You’re right. This isn’t a French braiding hack.
But it was such a simple yet classy way to dress up your hair that was so darn clever I just had to include it. Besides it’s readily available to anyone who can do a simple, easy-peasy three strand braid. That’s you, right?
Two Braids Are Easier Than One
Problem: There’s just so much hair to hold and braid!
The Fix #9: This is why two side braids might be better for beginners. Use a middle part to divide your whole head of hair into two halves. Tie off one so you don’t accidentally grab hair from that side. Then proceed to braid first one side then the other starting off as shown in the video clip above.
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I have been wanting to learn how to braid my hair for years, and with the new Air Force regulations change I had a huge push to figure it out! I stumbled on this post while deployed, and it was the most beneficial thing I have seen/ read! I even knocked out two side braids while at work! So excited to rock this look every day from now on! Thank you so much Ms. Tori!
Good for you, Megan. So glad to hear this helped you. Thanks so much for letting us know! All the best.
Awesome! My girls track team would like to thank you, we just went through this list so that we could all pull off the french braid look for divisionals. Turned out great! Thank you.
This made my day and almost made me cry! Hope your team did great while looking great! 🙂