Bed-head tresses aren’t the only approach to a relaxed summer hairdo. Braids of all sizes and complexity are becoming a go-to style for a sexy, bohemian look that works whether you’re on the red carpet or running weekend errands.
They’ve been showing up on the likes of Nicole Richie, Rachel Bilson and Sienna Miller, and we’ll likely be seeing more of the style, says Maria Roszak of the Andy Lecompte Salon in West Hollywood, who creates an intricate fishtail braid on many of her clients. “A lot more women are coming in and getting a braid done for an event or special occasion, rather than a blowout.”
The French and fishtail styles look effortless when they’re done well, but they can be slightly tricky to master. So we asked Roszak and her fellow Lecompte stylist Scott Cunha for tips. In general, they advise, let a braid reflect your mood -- it can be messy and loose for a more beachy, casual look or pulled taught for something more polished. Their step-by-step, do-at-home techniques for two styles are below. Try them yourself, or make it easy and enlist a friend.
French braid to the side
“This style works best on dirty hair so you can easily grab pieces without them slipping between your fingers,” Cunha says.
“If you’re starting with clean hair, then run a light pomade or texture cream through it first, so it’s easier to work with.”
Cunha recommends Leonor Greyl Eclat Naturel anti-frizz cream for its light and non-greasy feel and the manageable texture it gives hair.
Step 1: Part your hair down the middle or side. Separate a 1-inch section at the front of the head.
Step 2: Divide the inch-wide section into three roughly equal sections.
Step 3: Start braiding. Alternately pull each outer section under the center one, rather than over. Braid each piece one time to create an “anchor” at the scalp.
Step 4: Then, each time you pass an outer section under the center, pick up small strands from the hair just outside the section and pull them into the braid as you go -- that holds the braid close to the head.
Keep it as tight as possible to avoid a loose or buckled look. Angle down so that the braid starts to follow the natural shape of the head.
Step 5: Keep going until you are satisfied with the length of the braid, then secure it with a small elastic band at the end.
“This style works best on someone with medium to longer hair,” Roszak says. “Hair should be a few inches past the shoulders to try this.”
Step 1: Make a clean part on top of your head, either down the middle or slightly on the side. From there, pull hair into two sections at the nape of the neck and angle the sections to the side of your head so that you can see and hold the hair you’re working with.
Step 2: Start by separating a very small strand of hair from under the right-hand section and pulling it around and over that section to join the left-hand section. Pull both sides tight. Then pick up a small strand from under the left section and pull it around and over to join the right side. As you repeat this process, you’ll be wrapping small strands inward over the thicker sections to create the intricate-looking braid.
Step 3: Continue until you’ve created an entire “fishtail.” (You can also stop with a shorter length of braiding.) Secure with a small elastic band.