As much as we covet big bombshell waves and ornate fishtail braids, we’d be lying if we said these hairstyles were effortless for everyone to achieve. Between wrangling with hot tools or trying to get that criss-cross pattern just right, playing the role of stylist can be frustrating to the point where your mood and energy plummet before even leaving the house.
Fortunately, bubble braids are trending more than ever, and they are a low-fuss, high-glamour style that doesn't require a skilled hand to get the look just right. We tapped Matrix Ambassador Sharon Spellman to tell us more about the buzzy look. From how to bubble braid your mane to professional product recommendations and 20 style ideas, here’s the 411 on everything bubble braid hairstyles.
What are bubble braids?
This adorably easy hairstyle features pulling hair into a traditional ponytail, then tying spaced-out elastics (preferably ones that match your hair color!) down the length of the tail and gently pulling each section of hair apart to create the appearance of fluffed-out bubbles.
Are bubble braids still trendy?
Bubble braid hairstyles have been around for quite some time, but they really took off in 2020 as a way to fancy up your ‘do with minimal skill or effort required—perfect for when salons were temporarily closed. The trend tends to dip during the holidays but spikes back up in the spring and summer, especially when women are looking for cool and stylish looks for proms, weddings, festivals, and more.
“Bubble Braids re-emerge every spring and summer because hairstyles from the ‘90s are iconic and timeless!” adds Spellman.
Are bubble braids good for your hair?
While bubble braids are a great hairstyle to keep your hair secured and in place (not to mention they can also help you achieve flawless heatless waves), too-tight hair ties or elastics still risk creating tension on hair that contributes to breakage. One secret to minimizing the damage is experimenting with gentler hair ties, such as silk scrunchies or spiral hair ties, which won’t tug as harshly on strands. In addition, you can prep your hair with a professional hair product that aims to reduce breakage, especially if your hair falls on the fragile side.
“My favorite thing to do when creating tension with the elastics is to use Instacure by Matrix to help prevent breakage,” says Spellman.
Infused with B5 and liquid protein, Matrix Instacure Anti-Breakage Porosity Spray nourishes the hair as it fills in over-porous areas, effectively smoothing and rebalancing the cuticle while restoring elasticity and strengthening hair against future breakage.
How do you do a bubble braid?
If you’re wondering how to bubble braid your own mane, you’ve come to the right place.
“[Bubble braids are] an easy style that anyone can achieve with just a little bit of practice,” says Spellman.
For the classic, no-frills bubble braid hairstyle, follow this quick how-to:
Prep your hair.
Like any great hairstyle, bubble braids will only be as good as the foundation they’re created on. Selecting your prep products based on your hair type will ensure you get the best results possible, whether you want to create volume, manage frizz, or add hydration to your bubble braids. Here are a few suggestions if you’re unsure where to start.
Fine, Straight Hair
After washing, prep your damp hair with Redken Root Lifter Volumizing Spray Foam before styling. This foamy spray formula adds more thickness and body at the root to help your bubble braids withstand the gravity that can cause them to fall flat.
Medium, Curly, and Wavy Hair
Fending off frizz is the goal when you have wavy or curly hair. Biolage Professional Smooth Proo Shampoo provides humidity control and anti-frizz smoothness by encapsulating hair in a protective shield. Follow it up with the matching Smooth-Proof Conditioner to keep hair manageably smooth and a leave-in conditioner like Smooth Proof Leave-in Cream for Frizzy Hair to maintain your bubble braid’s flyaway-free look.
Thick, Coily Hair
For stunning bubble-braided coils, hydration, and definition are the names of the game. Kérastase’s Curl Manifesto Bain Hydratation Douceur Shampoo, Curl Manifesto Fondant Hydratation Essentielle Conditioner, and Curl Manifesto Gelée Curl Contour Gel-Cream will keep your ringlets shapely and moisturized, making the styling process a breeze.
Make a ponytail.
Now that you’re primed and ready, you can officially begin crafting your bubble braid hairstyle.
Brush your hair back into your preferred height of a high, low, or side-swept ponytail to create the base of your bubble braid.
Pro tip: If you have freshly-washed hair, which can be slippery, spray a texturizing spray onto your ponytail to add grit. Matrix Vavoom Freezing Spray Extra Hold slays as a hairstyle primer. By adding volume and texture, it’ll give strands grip when creating updos, so nothing slips out of place.
Place your elastics.
Tie your elastics, scrunchies, or coils in uniform intervals down the length of your ponytail. Depending on the length of your hair, the placements will vary from person to person.
“Make sure you take clean and neat sections throughout and [find] a good balance between equal parts of the bubbles so they’re parallel on each side of the head [if you’re creating pigtails],” explains Spellman.
Once you secure each tie, gently pull apart that section of hair to fan it out. This contributes to that bubbled-out effect.
Set your look.
You’ll want to set your bubble braid hairstyle with hairspray for the ultimate staying power.
For reworkable styles, we often turn to Redken’s Brushable Hairspray. Formerly known as Fashion Work 12 (and with the same award-winning formula), this spritz features flexi-hold polymers that allow for a pliable, brushable hold for up to eight hours—perfect if you like to get a few hairstyles out of one wash day.
How long do bubble braids last?
Armed with the right products and techniques, properly-styled bubble braids can last you for about a day or two. However, due to their need for lots of elastics, they’re not meant to be left for days on end. As we mentioned earlier, giving your hair a break from tight hair ties is important to minimize breakage.
On the few occasions you’d like to sleep with your bubble braids, we recommend doing so on a silk pillowcase to help preserve your hairstyle. Certain materials, like cotton, can create friction between your hair and pillow, roughing up strands so that you’re more prone to bedhead come morning. Contrarily, smooth silk fibers allow your hair to glide freely over your pillowcase, extending your hairstyle and all the hard work that went into creating it.
Dry shampoo is always a good idea to help your next-day hair look revitalized. Matrix Refresher Dry Shampoo offers maximum oil absorption and cleaner-feeling hair, allowing you to restyle unwashed hair–saving time and increasing style longevity.
Do bubble braids work on all hair types and lengths?
One of the best things about bubble braid hairstyles is their versatility. Spellman loves them because they work on all hair lengths and patterns and can be done as voluminous plaits, half-up hairdos, or small accent pieces. Bubble braids also pair well with extensions if you crave extra length.
Now that you’re up to speed on all things bubble braid hairstyles, you can confidently try one of these looks at home using salon-level products. Or, kick back and relax and let your stylist take the reins on creating the look for you! Whatever path you choose, take inspiration from one of our favorite looks below.
The 20 Best Bubble Braid Hairstyles to Try Now
Y2K Mini Bubble Braids
We love how Y2K trends are coming back in a big way, and they’re especially fit for big outdoor events like prom, graduations, and weddings this summer. This nostalgic bubble braid tutorial from Sharon Spellman, hairstylist and Matrix brand ambassador, has it all: scrunched hair that’s not crunchy, baby pigtails, and retro butterfly clips.
Butterfly Boho Bubble Braids
Speaking of nostalgic hair accessories, here’s a different way to add butterfly clips to your bubble braid hairstyle, courtesy of hairstylist Bradley Leake. Perfect for wavy hair, this one involves lightly twisting hair bubbles while you fan them out to create more of a fishtail look (with half the effort!).
Low Bubble Braid
As simple as it comes, a low, sleek bubble braid is a fun and straightforward way to take a classic ponytail to the next level. Hair’s best accessory for this look will be its structured megawatt shine, which you can score using a high-hold, shine-enhancing gel such as Matrix Controller Gel.
Glittery Double Bubble Braids
Whether prepping for festival season or leaning into the fairycore hair aesthetic, you’ll want to keep these glitter-dusted bubble braids at the top of your list.
Tucked Bubble Braids
If you’re looking for a way to keep your bubbles off your neck on a hot day, tuck the ends of your braids into your elastics to create fanned-out, low messy buns on each side.
Bubble Braid Mohawk
Mini Embellished Bubble Braids
There’s no such thing as too much color, especially regarding hair accessories. Whether running errands or hitting happy hour, pairing different colored elastics with bright hair clips exudes effortless spring vibes and helps your bubbles stand out.
High Bubble Braid
Prefer your bubble braid hairstyle to look more genie than princess? Look no further than this high ‘do. Above, Sunnie Brook, Biolage Professional global ambassador and celebrity stylist, gives a quick bubble braid tutorial using her go-to styling product, Biolage Professional Finishing Spritz Hairspray.
Half-Up Bubble Braid Ponytail
This is not your former middle school hairstyle! Kick your traditional half-up ponytail up a notch by making it a bubble braid instead. Sometimes, the smallest changes can make the biggest difference.
Bedazzled Bubble Braids
Blinged-out hair cuffs fashionably ensure your bubbles don’t lose their volume throughout a long night. Plus, they’ll add a reflective sparkle that bounces off your mane and enhances shine.
Wrapped Bubble Braid
You can thank a certain petite, chart-topping pop star for our mounting obsession with wrapped ponytails, and it was only a matter of time before the idea infiltrated bubble braid hairstyles. Wrapping pieces of hair around the elastics creates a 3D effect that instantly elevates the whole look.
For smoothness worthy of the red carpet, we recommend prepping your locks with Redken’s Spray Smooth Anti-Frizz Spray with Heat Protection.
A childhood hairstyle that has luckily matured along with us are pigtails—and there are endless ways to style it into adulthood. This pair of bubble braid pigtails underscores the style’s aptitude for reinvention.
Bubble Space Buns
No need to block off time for a hairstyle change in between events! Quickly transition your bubble braid pigtails into space buns by simply wrapping your bubbles around their elastic base. Bobby pins will be all you need to complete the pigtail glow-up.
High Wrapped Bubble Braid
If you want more volume at the crown, consider a wrapped bubble braid that begins cascading down from the top of your head. This style is a little bit more involved, so consider leaving it to a seasoned pro—be sure to bring this photo!
Bubble Braid Side Accent
Who said bubble braids weren’t possible on short hair? Creating a bubble braid on one side of the head and pinning it back sweeps hair away from the face on hot days and dresses up a blunt bob in a pinch.
Bubble Braid Tendrils
How about framing your face with two bubble tendrils instead of one single side accent? They’ll jazz up an all-down hairdo and are a functional way to conceal grown-out curtain bangs.
French Braid Bubble Pigtails
Taking a cue from a French braid, French bubble braid pigtails involve adding new sections of hair as you continue to work down the length of your strands. When done correctly, a French braid-inspired bubble braid will sit close to your scalp and use your entire head of hair.
One thing we love about bubble braids (among many others) is their ability to give the appearance of thicker hair. If you have thin or fine hair, pancake your bubble braid to the extreme by lightly pulling hair out even more than the traditional style requires. The horizontal width makes hair look more plentiful overall.
To give fine hair more staying power, consider making a bubble braid hairstyle on day two or three hair and topping the look off with a texturizing spray. Redken Beach Spray is one of our favorites. This non-sea salt spray adds a tousled texture to strands without drying them out.
Waterfall Bubble Braids
Now that you know how to do bubble braids, here’s a whimsical hairstyle that takes them to the next level for summer soirées. This bubble look starts as a classic half-up style, but then it uses small sections of the half-down hair to create a braid around where each elastic would be. Paired with rainbow-spun strands, this style knocks it out of the park. Or should we say, the festival?
A mousse, such as Pureology Style + Protect Weightless Volume Mousse For Color-Treated Hair, is best for prepping and volumizing dyed hair if you do take the look outdoors. Its sunflower seed, UV filter, and vitamin E fight color-depleting environmental effects while ensuring lasting shine.
Loose Bubble Braid with Flowers
This bubble braid is so effortlessly undone that you may almost miss it. We love the combination of a loose halo braid, messy texture, delicate wisps, and strategically-placed flowers for a gorgeous garden party-inspired look. Subtle pink and lavender streaks make it even more outstanding.
Browse Hair.com for more professional advice and inspiration to take your summer hair looks to the next level.