Chalk it up to the glittery clamshell bras or the iridescent tails, but we’re inclined to think the mermaid core aesthetic ultimately boils down to the good hair. And what better way to channel the mythical sea creature than to rock their signature fishtail braid?
Whether they’re falling in love on land or wooing sailors in the deep, mermaids always seem to make time for hair care. Their blonde, red, and dark brown hair is inarguably luxurious. With that in mind, we’d like to give you a crash course on how to fishtail braid, courtesy of Redken artist Hannah Matthews Moore. After all, it’s the closest you can get to the fishy fantasy without actually getting in the water!
What is a fishtail braid?
Hard to learn but easy to master, a fishtail braid is a plaited style that resembles overlapping fish scales. The main difference between a fishtail and a classic three-strand braid is that you work with smaller sections of hair taken from an evenly-parted mane as you weave your braid.
How do I keep my fishtail braid from falling out?
As much as we love the look, feel, and smell of just-showered hair, second or third-day hair is ideal when learning how to fishtail braid. Unwashed hair has some extra grip that helps keep it from unraveling throughout the day.
If you’re reading this with a towel wrapped around your head, don’t fret! A texturizer like Redken Dry Texture Spray can help you fake “dirty” hair by reintroducing some of that grit. Apply it before braiding, then keep your look on lock by giving hair a few spritzes when you’re done styling.
Who can wear a fishtail braid?
Every hair type can absolutely rock a fishtail braid. However, those with tighter curls and coils may need extra prep work to prevent their hair from tangling amid all the crisscrossing. We recommend misting a formula like Redken’s One United Multi-Benefit Leave-In Conditioner onto dry curls before styling. Its Cationic Complex features positively charged ingredients that bind to the hair to condition, detangle and improve hair’s manageability.
How do you do a fishtail braid step by step?
We’re so glad you asked! Here’s a quick tutorial on a classic, no-frills fishtail braid from Moore.
Step 1: Separate your hair.
Split your hair vertically into two even segments. If you’re still getting the hang of how to do a fishtail braid, you can tie your hair into a low ponytail before dividing it in half. If you’d like to see what you’re doing, create a side ponytail to see your braid more easily in the mirror.
Step 2: Start your braid.
Grab a small section of hair (the smaller the section, the tighter your fishtail braid will be) from the outside of the right section, crossing it over to the inside left, a.k.a. the center of your braid.
Continue the above pattern on the opposite side of your hair. Take a two-inch segment from the outside left section of hair and cross it over to the inside right.
Step 3: Braid to the ends of your hair.
Continue crisscrossing pieces of hair until you get to the ends. You can use a clear elastic to secure your braid or gently tease the end of the tail with a fine-tooth comb to keep it from coming undone.
Step 4: Pancake your fishtail braid.
A technique called pancaking adds extra volume to your braid and helps it look effortlessly undone. To do this, pinch or pull the sides of your braid just enough to make it appear fuller but not so harshly that it begins to unravel. Top the look off with some more texturizing spray or hairspray, if desired.
Now that you’re clued in on how to fishtail braid, you’re ready to make a splash! We curated 18 of our favorite two-strand fishtail braid ideas for you to try this swim season and beyond.
18 Fishtail Braid Ideas to Try Now
Mermaid Fishtail Braid
Although the mermaid fishtail may sound like some kind of reflective cardboard getup you’d buy from a costume store, it’s actually a gorgeous braid style suitable for festivals, cosplay, Halloween, and more.
Having trouble learning how to do a fishtail braid? Opt for a faux-look instead, inspired by content creator Emily Schaffer. We love finishing the style with a few face-framing tendrils to give off Y2K hair vibes.
Half-Up Fishtail Braid With Scarf
A scarf is a straightforward way to dress up a half-up fishtail braid. Best of all, many of us already have one hanging around, just waiting to be used. Peep our article 3 Ways to Style a Hair Scarf Without Any Slipping to learn scarf styling tricks from the pros.
Fishtail Braid Ponytail
Here’s a style beloved by all your favorite celebrities. The fishtail braid ponytail is versatile, especially if you have long layers and find that standard styles usually don’t last all day. Start by combing your hair from roots to ends, ensuring there are no tangles.
Next, shape a high ponytail at the back of your head and tie it off with an elastic that matches your hair color. Divide your tail in two, using the same braiding technique to pass small strands between your pieces of hair. When you’ve reached the end of the tail, secure the style with another hair elastic. The longer the loose ends of your ponytail, the more polished the style will look.
Twisted Fishtail Braid
A slight upgrade on the standard fishtail braided ponytail, this twisted approach makes the most of super long hair by ensuring every inch makes a statement. Just start by twisting a section of hair away from your face, pinning the loose spiral in place before tying off your ponytail and beginning to finish your ‘do.
Fishtail Braid Bun
Searching for an ornate bridesmaid hairstyle? Show this stunning updo to your hairdresser. You’ll reap all the benefits of a textured fishtail braid without hair falling in your face, going flat, or getting frizzy.
Rose-Embellished Fishtail Braid
Bring on the romance! A few sprinklings of tiny roses, and you’re all set for a garden party or an afternoon of high tea.
Fishtail Braid Half Ponytail
To begin this look, you’ll want to create volume at the crown of your head. Using a brush, backcomb your hair and hairspray it to ensure you don’t have a deflating balloon situation halfway through the night.
Once your bump is in place, smooth over it and create a loose half-ponytail hairstyle. Divide your strands in half and fishtail braid until you run out of hair, tying the style off with a hair elastic. If this look doesn’t feel secure enough to you, feel free to put a hair elastic in before you begin braiding.
Fishtail Braid Headband
If you’re feeling ambitious, we’ve got a more complicated fishtail braid for you to try. Be warned, though—you’ll need a few practice runs in front of a mirror before taking this look out into the real world. Start with a deep, very straight part.
Choosing two medium-sized strands from your hairline. Begin with a regular fishtail braid, crossing your strands over several times. Then, begin adding small pieces of hair from the plait, picking them up, just like you would for a French braid. Continue braiding until you’ve reached just above your ear.
Side Fishtail Braid
We love the juxtaposition of two varying braid textures here, which reminds us of the yin-yang hair trend. This jumbo two-strand braid transitions into a side-swept fishtail braid that hangs loosely over one shoulder for a flirty summer look.
Pink Fishtail Braid
We’ve said it once, and we’ll say it again: pink hair never goes out of style. It’s the perfect shade to complement an already-whimsical look, such as a fishtail braid.
Inverse Fishtail Braid
If you can create a lovely fishtail braid, you can certainly manage the inverse version. Start in the same way, dividing your hair into two sections. Instead of crossing your small strands over, you’ll feed them under the plait.
Begining on the left side, pass a piece of hair to your right hand. Then, repeat the step by passing a strand of hair from your right to your left—always going under. Hold the braid tightly and focus on choosing small sections. That’s how you’ll separate a Pinterest-worthy fishtail from its fellows.
Fishtail Braid Pigtails
You’ve tried box braids and braided pigtails, but have you given the fishtail braided pigtails a shot? Start with a very straight part from your hairline to your neck, dividing your locks into two sections. Tie off one, and begin braiding the other.
Following our headband braid tutorial, you’ll want to add small strands to the braid as you go. Cross over (never under), tightening the braid as much as possible. When you reach your neck, tie off the plait and start on the other side.
When both braids are finally complete, tie them off and pancake the braids as much as you’d like.
Fishtail Braid Crown
This style may look complicated, but we’re pleased to announce it’s actually not. Follow our tutorial for fishtail braid pigtails, continuing each braid until the very end of your lengths. Secure each side with a no-show elastic.
Starting with your left-hand braid, wrap it up and over the top of your head. Pin it into place, then start on the other braid. Wrap it just behind the first one, pinning the whole style until it’s stable. For a festival-inspired take on the style, pull out face-framing strands along your hairline. Don’t be afraid to clip in extensions or weave a colorful ribbon through your hair.
Triple Fishtail Braid
Once you’ve mastered the fishtail braid, you may find yourself with a bit of a braiding ego. It’s nothing to be ashamed of! Show off your hard-won braiding finesse with this three-fishtail braid updo, which will require extensions for added length and thickness. The trick here is that both the braids on the sides are standard fishtails, while the center braid is inverse.
Need an extra touch before you’re satisfied with your work? Add fresh flowers or greenery (even a hair clip would do!) and show off your art.
Fishtail Braid Updo
There’s no rule saying that the braid has to be the focal point of every look! We’re all for versatility, so casually let everyone know how good you are at fishtails by including a small one in your next chignon or at-home updo. It’ll help add a touch of bohemian edge to any style you try!
Zipper Fishtail Braid
For a super sleek result, braid your fishtail tightly down the length of your hair and skip the pancaking step. A few spritzes of Redken’s Shine Flash Hair Spray gives you a glass-like finish similar to the one pictured here.
Pinned Fishtail Braids
Not getting along with the hair around your face or trying to stretch your blowout for one more day? We feel you. Make the most of your mane by trying matching pinned fishtail braids, which should take you less than ten minutes to finish off. After creating a sharp center part, braid away from your face and pin your braids in place.