How to French Braid Hair

French braiding your own hair is not as complicated as it may appear. It only takes patience and practice to master this timeless hairstyle.

Once you have learned to make a simple French braid, there are many variations that will let you customize the look for any occasion.

* Preparation

Brush or comb your hair before beginning your French braid. You want to make sure there are no knots or tangles that will make it difficult to separate your hair into sections while you work.

You will need to know how to make a regular braid before learning to French braid.

Make sure you have a hair elastic ready to secure the finished braid. It may help to wear the elastic on one wrist to keep it handy.

You will be working on the back of your head, which means you do not need a mirror to French braid your own hair. Positioning two mirrors so that you can see the back of your head while you work may seem like a fine idea, but it is likely to be more confusing than simply learning to braid by touch.

* French Braiding

1. Begin by combing back a centered section of hair at the crown of your head. You can experiment later with the width of this starting section for different looks, but for now, pull back the width of hair about as wide as the distance between the outer edges of your eyes.

2. Divide this section into three even sections and braid the hair until the braided section is about one inch in length.

3. Pick up another small section of hair on the RIGHT side of your hair (just below the section you are braiding) and add it to the section of hair you are holding in your RIGHT hand.

4. Pick up another small section of hair on the LEFT side of your hair (just below the section you are braiding) and add it to the section of hair you are holding in your LEFT hand.

5. Continue your braiding for another pass or two. The thinner of the three sections (that has not had hair added to it) should be in either your right or left hand.

6. Repeat steps 3 and 4. (Adding more hair to the sections in both your right and left hands)

7. Continue your braiding, pausing after every pass or two to add more hair to the sections in both your right and left hands.

Note: The idea is to pick up enough additional hair as you work so that all of your hair is woven into the braid by the time you reach the end. It will take practice to learn how much hair to pick up to make this come out evenly.

8. When you reach the end of the braid, and all of the hair has been braided in, secure the end with the elastic band.

* Variations

Once you have mastered the French braid, you can make slight adjustments that will vary the outcome. Here are a few variations to try:

1. Tucked French Braid

French braid your hair while spacing the added sections so that all of your hair will be included by the time you reach the base of your head. Continue braiding to the end of your hair. Tuck the braid below the base of your head straight up under the space created at the bottom of the last added sections in the French braid. Secure with bobby pins.

2. Reverse French Braid

French braid your hair as usual, except while braiding cross each section of hair UNDER each other instead of OVER. This will result in a braid that appears raised running down the length of your French braid.

3. Two French Braids

Divide your hair into two even side-by-side sections. Secure one side in a ponytail to keep it out of the way. French braid the other side. Remove the ponytail and French braid the second side. You can position the French braids close together straight down the back of your head, or further apart.

French braiding your own hair is a simple skill that takes some patience and coordination. When first learning, it may take a long time to complete your French braid and your arms may get tired. With practice, you will be able to braid more quickly and have beautiful results.