I love braids! I get my hair braided at least once a year and rock the look for months at a time. Braids work for every hair type, and when done correctly, they can really be great for your scalp and serve as “protective styling” for your hair. Best of all, braiding is timeless; its history can be traced back 5,000 years! There are literally thousands of different ways to braid your hair, but today we'll take a peek at some of the most common styles and some you can do on your own.
The Milkmaid/Swiss Braid
This style of braid is as functional as it is pretty. Ideal for little girls, it will keep the hair out of the way and stylishly crown your head. Achieving this look is simple: Part your hair down the middle, and braid the length into two pigtails. Cross them at the crown of your head, and secure the braids with a bobby pin. Presto, you're done!
This style of braid is unique because instead of using three sections of hair, you will be using two. This braid is fun for a messy look and can be pulled off rather quickly. To begin, separate the hair into two large sections, then take a small section from the left and cross it into the right, repeat this on the opposite side. Continue to the end of the hair, and secure the braid with an elastic band.
The French Braid
The french braid is a go-to look for you super busy girls! Simple and elegant, this braid can be worn with a t-shirt and jeans or your favorite dress for a special occasion. Section the hair on the crown of your head into a “v” shape, and divide it into three parts. Begin a normal braid, then begin to add in the hair from the opposite side of your head. Continue braiding and gathering the hair together until you've reached the nape of your neck, then the braid hair as usual to the end.
The Dutch Braid
This style of braid is almost identical to the french braid, except the outside section of hair will cross under the center section of the three, instead of over. The result is an inverted braiding pattern.
Single braids are my favorite braiding style because you can continue to style them once the braiding is done! Up-do, ponytail, a braid made from braids! Beyonce and Solange Knowles turned heads last summer while wearing their single braids in retro beehives! The possibilities are almost endless! You can add length to your hair with this style quite easily by braiding in extensions (and the same thing can be done with color).
Aside from looking fiercely fabulous, this style also protects to your hair and allows it to relax while it is braided. The only downside about this style is (unless you're an octopus), that type of braiding will be monumentally difficult to pull off on your own. I go to the salon to have mine braided, and it takes about four to six hours, depending on how quickly the stylist works that day.
However, aside from the other benefits, if you opt to have extensions braided into your natural hair, you can wear this style for months at a time because the braids won't fray. I've worn single braids for as long as seven months.
Unlike popular belief, this style is not hard to wash, in fact, because your hair is contained, it will stay clean for longer periods of time, so you will only need to pay special attention to your scalp. Wiping your scalp with witch hazel between washes will keep those oil glands at bay and hinder dandruff.
Braiding Do's and Dont's
As mentioned before, braiding can be an incredibly healthy alternative to other styling techniques, but here are some things to keep in mind while creating and wearing these styles:
Brush your hair out thoroughly before beginning to braid.
Continue to wash your hair regularly (every other day at the most).
Braid your hair while it's wet. Hair is more likely become damaged or broken when styled wet.
Use uncoated elastic bands/rubber bands to secure hair. Uncoated elastic bands can pull at the hair and break it off.
Braid too tightly. Your scalp will probably be a little sore after your hair is freshly braided, but do not braid so tightly that your scalp is being visibly pulled by the strands. It is possible to develop traction alopecia from too tight braids.
Neglect washing your hair. Dirty hair does not hold braids better than clean hair, and it is damaging to leave hair unwashed.
Use beeswax to help the braids remain in place. Do not use beeswax while braiding. While it does offer better hold for certain styles, it is extremely difficult to remove, will build up in the hair, and improper removal can result in hair breakage. If you want to achieve a stronger hold in your styles, apply a non greasy styling product such as Let's Jam! or hairspray.
For braiding how-to videos on a wealth of styles and variations, be sure to visit Braids 101 at beautylish.com!