Introduction: Hair Braiding for Absolute Beginners

About: Making and sharing are my two biggest passions! In total I've published hundreds of tutorials about everything from microcontrollers to knitting. I'm a New York City motorcyclist and unrepentant dog mom. My wo…

Welcome to the world of braids, the craft project you carry around with you on your head!

I believe that braiding your own hair can be a great creative outlet! Not only are braids extremely practical for securing your hair during physical & outdoor activities, but you can use braids to express your personal style for any occasion, dressed up or down. I've even used braids to make new friends, since they are great conversation starters!

In this Instructable, you'll learn how to braid your own hair for the first time. We'll go over the basics of braiding and put in some practice. Pull up to your mirror and let's get to it.

This Instructable is part of my beginner braids series. If you like this lesson, try the rest!

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Step 1: Optional Supplies

To get started learning to braid, you really just need some hair, a mirror, and dexterity in both hands. Everything else here just enhances your results!

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A brush helps smooth your hair as you work. I prefer bristles made from natural materials like boar hair or wood, which help move oils from your scalp down the shaft of your hair. A comb is useful for creating clean sections by parting your hair at the scalp.

Upon completing your braided style, hair elastics and bobby pins are used to secure everything in place. I like tiny clear elastics for most braids. When shopping for bobby pins, try to find ones that match your hair color!

Occasionally it will be necessary to temporarily secure a section of hair so it doesn't get in your way. Many types of clips are good for this task! Pictured are smooth duck bill clips, which I like because they won't get caught or mess up your in-progress style.

Braided hairstyles are great for less-than-squeaky-clean hair, but to spruce up your oily roots between washes you may want to try a spray-on dry shampoo. When applied around the front and crown areas and rubbed in, it absorbs excess oil to eliminate that greasy scalp look. Dry shampoo can also add volume to your style, even if it's not dirty! You can make your own dry shampoo from cornstarch (use solo on lighter hair) and unsweetened cocoa powder (mix both for darker hair). Check out Jessy's Instructable for a complete recipe!

Lastly, depending on your hair type, you may want to use hairspray, styling paste, and/or conditioning oil to prevent and combat frizz and flyaways. I have fine, dry, wavy hair that typically requires all the anti-frizz help it can get! My haircare routine involves washing twice per week, seldom use of hot tools, and applying argan oil to the ends every day. I'm careful to avoid breakage by detangling gently. Hair is more elastic and fragile when wet!

Step 2: Grab a Section

Grab a section of hair at the front of your head. It's not particularly important exactly where or how much hair is included. I recommend picking a section from just to the right or left of your center part. If you want to be precise, use your thumb to draw a line on your scalp starting at your temple and extending up towards the top of your head until you reach the part.

Tie the rest of your hair back with an elastic (or use clips if it's too short) to keep it out of the way while you braid. Brush the section away from your face to smooth it out. This first braid is just for practice, and it's easier to see if it's right in front of your eyes. Later on you'll learn to control the direction of your braids, but don't worry about that for now!

Step 3: Create Three Sections

Use your fingers to divide your hair into three sections. Position two of these sections in your left hand, and the third in the right hand.

Step 4: Cross Over

Move the section in your right hand over its neighbor, and swap which hands are holding them. The right section becomes the center section, and the former center section is now on the your right.

Next, move the left section to cross over its neighbor to the center position. Try to keep tension in all three sections; there shouldn't be any slack.

Step 5: Criss Cross

Again bring the rightmost section to the center position by crossing it over it's neighbor, and then likewise with the leftmost section.

Repeat these alternating criss crosses for the length of your hair.

Admire your work! You've successfully interleaved your hair into a braid for the first time!

Step 6: Secure With an Elastic

When you run out of hair or the sections become radically different sizes, use a tiny elastic wrapped many times to secure the tail of your braid.

Step 7: Let's Reflect

Cool, you made it through your first braid! Do you notice anything about it that you'd like to improve? How about the fact that it sticks down into the middle of your face?

When you sweep your braid to the side, it makes an odd-looking lump. This is a result of the way the hairs were pointing when you started the braid.

Want to know how to fix it? Gently undo your braid and brush out any tangles, and let's start again.

Step 8: Sweep to the Side

This time, use your fingers or a brush to sweep your hair to the side of your face, and divide it into three sections. The easiest way to get uniform, neat looking sections is to use your fingernail or a comb to draw the dividing lines along your scalp, parallel to the direction you'd like the braid to travel.

Start another braid by positioning two sections in one hand and one in the other, then alternate crossing outermost sections to the center.

Turn your head slightly as you work, and keep your hands pulling the braid off towards the side.

Step 9: Balancing Act

Practice this crossing-over braid to develop your muscle memory. Work your way up to braiding without looking in the mirror. Reflect on each braid and try to improve it each time.

Keep your first few stitches (pairs of criss crosses) close to the scalp to avoid sloppy slack near the braid's origin.

Got all that? Successful braids required you to multitask and balance many contributing factors. Practice making small braids in your hair during moments of down time, like in waiting rooms, checkout lines, and while watching TV.

Step 10: Next, Try...

You can use this technique to create a basic braided hairstyle with two small braids, or scale up the required arm strength with a single strand braid at the back of your head.

Thank you for following along! I'd love to hear your feedback and questions in the comments.

If you like this project, you may be interested in some of my others:

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