If you’re anything like me, you’re not very gifted in the hairstyling department—particularly when it comes to braiding. If there’s one plaited look that’s been my go-to since childhood, however, it’s the French braid. No hairstyle is quite as universally loved as the classic French braid. For starters, the style can be worn super simple or done up for any special occasion. can leave your mane with gorgeous overnight waves, makes peekaboo highlights 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, L'Oréal Professionnel artist, to break down the tips and tricks you need to know for creating 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 continue to braid down the length of your strands. When done the right way, 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.
What is the difference between a French braid and a dutch braid?
You’ve probably got French braids and dutch braids confused 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 bigger, thicker braid.
How do you french braid step by step?
Ready to put your French braiding skills to the test? Keep scrolling for a step-by-step guide.
What you’ll need:
French braids may appear to be intricate, but you definitely don’t need to be a braiding pro to make this look yours. The best part is, 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 that your roots look too oily with second-day hair, you can always apply a few spritzes of dry shampoo like Redken Pillow Proof Blow Dry Two Day Extender. The product helps to instantly refresh and extend the style of your hair with no dulling residue.
If you recently shampooed your hair, don’t worry. You don’t need to wait an entire day to start your French braid. Texturizing spray is perfect for adding a bit of grip to your ‘do. We love the Matrix StyleLink Texture Builder Messy Finish Spray. This professional product is the key to a smooth, anti-frizz finish and windswept, airy texture. It’s perfect for adding hold to soft textures and taming flyaways with volumizing styles.
Detangle your strands.
We know how frustrating it can be to find knots and tangles in your hair once you’ve already begun braiding. Be sure to pass your boar bristle brush 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 divvy it up 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’re going to 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 you’re 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 reach your ends. 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.
Ladies with fine hair—we understand your struggle. While you dream of achieving full, voluminous braids, the end result usually isn’t as bodified 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 hairspray to lock in your look. If you’re planning on wearing your French braid all day, we recommend a high-hold hairspray like the Redken Control Addict 28 Extra High-Hold Hairspray. 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 share 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 waves. If you know you’re going sleep with your French braids in, run a dime-sized amount of styling paste like the Redken Shape Factor 22 Sculpting Cream Paste 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 Iron Shape 11 Heat Protecting Thermal Spray. 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 so it’s 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 hairspray to lock in your style.
Looking for more expert styling tips? Use our salon locator to book an appointment at a salon near you.