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Channel your inner stylist and learn how to French braid hair with just a few steps and tips from the pros.

How To French Braid Your Hair: The Complete Beginner's Tutorial

Channel your inner stylist and learn how to French braid hair with just a few steps and tips from the pros.

If you’re anything like me, you’re not very gifted in the hairstyling department—particularly when it comes to . If there’s one that’s been my go-to since childhood, it’s the French braid. No hairstyle is quite as universally loved as the classic French braid. For starters, you can wear the style super simple or done up for any special occasion. The braid can leave your mane with gorgeous , make appear more dimensional, and is one of the most stylish ways to keep your hair off your face at the gym. Need I say more?

Not quite sure how to French braid your hair the right way? Don’t stress—you’ve come to the right place! We teamed up with Cassi Pinder, a L'Oréal Professionnel artist, to break down the tips and tricks you need to create the perfect French braid in no time.

What is a French braid?

Unlike a traditional braid (where you work with one section of hair at a time), a French braid involves adding new sections of hair as you braid down the length of your strands. When done correctly, a French braid will sit close to your scalp and use your entire head of hair.

Think of the French braid as a starting point for all braids. Once you master this look, creating any other braided hairstyle will feel like a piece of cake.

Good hair day by @annette_updo_artist

What is the difference between a French braid and a Dutch braid?

You’ve probably confused French and before, so let us break things down for you! A Dutch braid follows nearly the same technique as the French braid, but with a twist. Instead of crossing your left and right sections over the center section, you cross them under. This creates the look of a more prominent, thicker braid with an almost 3D effect.

Good hair day by @michaelacomajova

How do you French braid step by step?

Ready to learn how to French braid hair? Keep scrolling for a step-by-step guide.

What you’ll need:

French braids may appear intricate, but you don’t need to be a braiding pro to make this look your own. And the best part—you won’t need any fancy tools you don’t already own to create it. All you’ll need is a hair tie, a boar bristle brush, and a few trusty styling products to get started.

Begin with second-day hair.

While we love the look and feel of freshly washed hair, it’s not ideal when you’re creating certain styles. Clean hair tends to slip and slide, especially when styling braids. We recommend beginning with second-day hair to ensure your French braid stays in place all day. If you’re worried your roots look too oily with second-day hair, apply a few spritzes of like Pureology . The product helps to instantly refresh and extend the style of your hair without drying it out. (Plus, it has Pureology's exclusive AntiFade Complex with full spectrum UVA/UVB sunscreen—so you can avoid the dreaded scalp sunburn.)

If you recently shampooed your hair, don’t worry. You don’t need to wait an entire day to start your French braid. is perfect for adding a bit of grip to your ‘do. We love the Matrix . This professional product is the key to the right amount of morning-after grit and texture. It’s perfect for adding hold to soft textures and with volumizing styles.

Detangle your strands.

We know how frustrating it can be to find knots and in your hair once you’ve begun braiding. Be sure to pass your boar bristle through your locks and remove any snarls before you begin styling.

Section off your hair.

Now that your hair is completely prepped and ready to go, it’s time for the fun part. Pick up a section of hair from your hairline, the crown of your head. Depending on how neat you want it to look, you can use your fingers or a comb to part the section. Now that you’ve sectioned off the hair you’ll need to begin braiding, you’re finally ready to start your French braid.

Take the separated segment of hair and divide it into three even sections—left, middle, and right.

Cross the hair over.

Pick up the section farthest to the left. Cross it over the middle and combine it with the right section. Repeat this step, this time beginning on the right and crossing over to the left.

Add additional hair to the braid.

Cross the left section over the top of your braid. This time, you will pull additional hair from the left and add it to the segment. Next, cross the right section over the middle, also adding more hair from that side.

Pro tip: Be sure to keep your braid as tight as possible. If you’re going for an undone look, you can always loosen the braids once finished.

Once you master this technique, you’ve got the French braid down pat. Continue alternating these steps on each side of your head until you reach the nape of your neck.

Finish off with a three-strand braid.

If you’ve reached this step, you’re all done French braiding. When you have about two inches of hair left, switch to a three-strand braid technique until you get to your ends.

For a refresher, here’s how to do a standard braid: Form three even sections and pass the left strand over the middle strand. Then, cross the right section over the middle section. Repeat these steps until you reach your ends. Use a hair tie to secure the end of your braid.

Pancake your braid.

Folks with fine hair—we understand your struggle. While you dream of achieving voluminous braids, the end result usually isn’t as full-bodied as you’d like. Luckily, we have the pancaking technique to thank for giving thinner strands the illusion of a thicker braid. Simply tug on each side of the braid gently with your thumb and pointer finger to expand it for instant fullness. While we love this technique for thin hair, it’s also perfect for anyone who loves the look of an undone, tousled braid.

Complete the look with hairspray.

Now that you’ve almost made it to the end, there’s one more crucial step to ensure your French braid is set—adding a few spritzes of to lock in your look. If you plan on wearing your French braid all day, we recommend a high-hold hairspray like the Redken . This extra strong hold anti-humidity hairspray holds hair in place for 24 hours without residue or flaking.

Once your style is locked in, congrats! You’re officially a French braid pro.

How to sleep with a French braid.

Not quite ready to part with your French braid after a night out? Don’t despair. We have a few tips and tricks to ensure your braid looks just as stunning the next day. Overnight French braids are also one of our favorite ways to achieve gorgeous, heat-free . If you know you’ll sleep with your French braids in, run a dime-sized amount of styling paste like the Redken through your hair before you style. This will help shape your style and lock it in overnight.

After a night of tossing and turning, your waves may not always come out as flawless as expected. If you want to touch up your ‘do a bit before you head out in the morning, grab a curling iron or wand and your favorite heat protectant spray. We love the Redken . This lightweight, thermal heat protection hairspray is perfect for use with flat irons and curling irons up to 450 degrees Fahrenheit to protect your hair, add shine, and reduce frizz.

Apply a few spritzes of the heat-protectant spray before you begin styling. When creating loose waves, the bigger the section of hair is, the better. Hold your wand facing downward, and wrap the section around the iron for a few seconds. Release the hair and tousle it with your fingers to loosen the wave. Once you’ve achieved your desired look, spritz on a bit of to lock in your style.

Beginner-friendly French braid hairstyles

Let’s be honest—French braiding may seem like a puzzle at first, but don’t worry, you’ll crack it with practice. In the meantime, here’s a secret—fake it ‘till you make it! There are some awesome hairstyles out there that give you the French braid look or use a similar technique, so you can rock those while building up your confidence.

“French braid” ponytail

Want the polished look of a French braid but short on time? No problem. This super easy tutorial will give you the coveted French braid look in a flash. And no one will ever know it’s not a “real” French braid!

Good hair day by @cynthiadhimdishair

Fake French braid accents

This quick hairstyle is perfect for the days when you want your hair out of your face, but still want to look cute. Watch the tutorial to see how to use elements of the French braid technique to get the style without the hassle of a full French braid.

Good hair day by @jessiestylist

Fishtail braid

Alright, here’s a little secret: the fishtail braid may not be a French braid technically, but it gives you the same sleek and woven look you love. Instead of the usual three sections, a fishtail divides the hair into two, with a small piece of each section passed over to the other section and repeated down to create the braid. The end result is a head-turning style that looks far more complicated than it actually is.

Easy French braid hairstyles

Once you’ve mastered the French braid, you can incorporate the technique into lots of different hairstyles. From elegant updos to boho-inspired side braids, these hairstyles will not only elevate your look but also showcase your braiding skills in a simple yet elegant way.

Upturned accent braid

This style works regardless of hair type or length and requires minimal skill and effort. Start with a deep side part, then French braid from above your cheekbone, bringing the braid up towards the part line and pin it in place. Not only is this style effortlessly chic, but pulling the braid away from your face also helps accentuate your stunning bone structure.

Crown braid

Get ready to feel like royalty. It may look intricate and fancy, but it’s actually a breeze to achieve. Simply create a single French braid around your head and pancake the braid for a fluffy, voluminous finish.

Good hair day by @kaelamishae

Side waterfall braid

Mermaid vibes, anyone? A waterfall braid is like a half-French braid, where only a section of your hair is braided, and the rest cascades down like a beautiful waterfall. We love applying a few spritzes of Pureology before styling to get that irresistible, ocean-kissed texture that completes the whole beachy, carefree vibe.

Discover more tutorials from our favorite professionals on . Want to book an appointment with a pro? Use our to find a stylist near you.

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