7 Fancy Braids for Dummies

I am many things -- a good cook, a decent artist, a fair-to-middling linguist -- but coordinated I am not. Sure, I can hit a tennis ball with some power and can carve my way around a ski slope, but basic hand/eye coordination has never been my forte.

That's why I suck at applying makeup. And also why I'm beyond hopeless at trying my hand at any of those newfangled braids that are all the rage these days.

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For most people, being utterly inept at things like creating a smoky eye or waterfall braid is no big deal. As a beauty editor however, it's alternately humbling and humiliating. This is why I surround myself with the best people in hair and makeup and pump them for tips on how to best fake being less of a lost cause.

Take these easy-to-follow tips for recreating eight of the coolest new braids out there. They're succinct, thorough, and simple enough for even me to achieve -- and that's saying a lot.


Level: Easy
Step 1: Spray hair with texturizer. (Try FEKKAI COIFF Bouffant Lifting & Texturizing Spray Gel, $23).
Step 2: Part hair in the center; then clip up the top section so it's out of the way.
Step 3: Separate the rest of hair into two pigtails just below your ears. (Optional: Secure each pigtail with a clear elastic.)
Step 4: Split one pigtail into two equal sections. Grab a thin piece of hair from the outside of one section and cross it over the front to join the other section. Repeat with the other section. Continue braiding from the outside in, pulling hair taught as you go.
Step 5: Secure the braid at the bottom with another clear elastic. (If desired, carefully remove or cut off the top elastic.)
Step 6: Repeat on the other pigtail. Set both braids with strong-hold hairspray.


Level: Easy
Step 1: Prep detangled, damp hair with smoother and volumizer. (Try PANTENE Pro-V Medium to Thick Hair Solutions Straighten and Smooth Creme, $5.99, and Flowing Body Mousse, $3.99.)
Step 2: Blow dry hair straight with a paddle brush and part it to the side.
Step 3: Gather hair into a low-side ponytail and secure with a clear elastic, leaving out a half-inch-wide piece.
Step 4: Wrap the loose piece around the ponytail to conceal the elastic. Secure with a U-shaped bobby pin and set with strong-hold hairspray.
Step 5: Braid the ponytail and secure at the end with another elastic, concealing it with a piece of hair from the end of the braid.
Step 6: Secure with hairspray all over, smoothing flyaways with hands.

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Level: Easy
Step 1: Prep clean, dry, tangle-free hair with shine spray. (Try FEKKAI Brilliant Glossing Sheer Shine Mist, $23.)
Step 2: Part hair down the middle and make two equal-sized pigtails, leaving out some pieces (or your bangs) in the front. Secure with clear elastics.
Step 3: Tightly braid each pigtail, securing them at the end with another elastic.
Step 4: Wind each braid into a bun and pin into place. Set with hairspray.
Step 5 (optional): Accessorize it! Put on a floppy hat. The buns double as a glam support system.


Level: Intermediate
Step 1: Boost volume by applying dry shampoo to the roots of day-old hair. (Try FEKKAI Au Naturel Dry Shampoo, $23.) Spray the rest of hair with texturizing spray and smooth a bit of styling wax over select pieces.
Step 2: Part hair in the middle and make two ponytails, one at the nape of your neck and one just above it. Leave out a few long strands in front.
Step 3: Accessorize it! Secure each ponytail with a clear elastic and tie a long piece of suede or leather rope around each elastic. (You can get the rope at a fabric store.)
Step 4: Do a loose fishtail braid on each ponytail, including the rope with each piece that you wrap forward. Secure each braid with another elastic and tie the rope around the ends.
Step 5: Wrap the two braids around each other. Secure with another elastic or piece of rope.
Step 6: Pin the loose hair in front back over the top of the braid. Set with strong-hold hairspray.

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Level: Intermediate
Before getting started, prep hair with heat protectant. (Try PANTENE Heat Protection and Shine Spray, $5.99.) Then divide hair into four sections, curl them with a 1-inch curling iron and pin them up. Once hair cools, release, and brush it with a paddle brush. Then work dry shampoo through it with your fingers. Now, you're ready to style:
Step 1: Make a center part and divide hair into two equal sections. Tie an elastic around one section to keep it out of the way.
Step 2: On the loose side, French braid hair from the very top of your head to the nape of your neck.
Step 3: Once you reach the nape of your neck, do a fishtail braid and leave a few inches of hair unbraided at the ends. Secure with a clear elastic.
Step 4: Release hair on the other side and repeat.
Step 5: Using fingers, knead your hair lightly up top, pulling out a few pieces for a more carefree look.
Step 6: Comb any flyaways back with your fingers using hairspray or a de-frizzing cream.


Level: Intermediate
This isn't technically a braid but it looks like one. To replicate it:
Step 1: Apply texturizer to damp hair and blow dry it straight, brushing the hair forward.
Step 2: Part hair deeply to one side. If you have bangs, sweep them across your forehead and to the side. Set with hairspray. (Try FEKKAI Coiff Sheer Hold Hairspray, $23.)
Step 3: Secure hair into a ponytail at the nape of your neck, leaving a few strands loose on one side.
Step 4: Split the ponytail into two sections and tie into a knot. Pin into place with U-shaped bobby pins. "When pinning from underneath, pin upward at a 45-degree angle and cross it with another bobby pin for more security," says Huntington Beach, Calif.-based stylist Cara Rousseau.
Step 5: Take the loose strands and pin them one by one in a sweeping fashion across the back of your head. Set with hairspray.


Level: Advanced
Step 1: Blow dry clean, conditioned hair straight. (Try PANTENE Pro-V Nature Fusion Moisture Balance Conditioner, $4.99.)
Step 2: Take a section of hair at the back of the crown of your head. Start French braiding it toward your right ear. Stop and pin it just above your ear.
Step 3: Take another section of hair beneath that braid, near the nape of your neck. Start French braiding that up toward your right ear. (Tip: Braid away from your scalp -- as opposed to tightly against your scalp -- for a loose, more voluminous look, says Rousseau.)
Step 4: Join the second braid with the first and continue French braiding across your hairline in front (like a headband), then down around the back of your head.
Step 5: Tuck the end of the braid in and pin to conceal it. Set with hairspray.

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