How I discovered braid hairstyles for curly hair
When I was like nine, I joined the Girl Scouts. And in the handy dandy guide book that explained how to earn badges, and the secrets of the cookie sale (#priorities) was a page on how to braid hair.
Naturally, I wanted to learn so I practiced…on my straight-haired American Girl Doll.
The result? I’m an adult woman who can only successfully braid her friends’ hair, not her own.
There is a lovely human who works at DevaCurl, her name is Morgan, and she has beautiful, MAJESTIC curls. Which she braids ALL THE TIME.
She wears braided styles, she does braid outs, she’ll do braided buns, regular double braids.
You might recognize her from this post on the DevaCurl IG, here.
Basically she’s the braid queen.
And finally I was like, “MORGAN TEACH ME YOUR WAYS.”
You’re probably wondering – why are you so obsessed with learning how to braid? Well, it’s kind of the most versatile curly hair styling skill you could have.
Think about it – you can use braids to create a protective style, you can use braids to set your hair (sometimes called a braid out), and you can create so many gorgeous braided curly hairstyles.
Essentially, if you were going to master only one curly hair styling technique – it should probably be braids.
So, I asked Morgan to spill her secret tips and tricks, and now, we’re sharing it allllll with you. You’re welcome.
The basics of how to braid curly hair
So first things first, Morgan always braids her hair when it’s wet. Can you braid on dry curly hair? Yes. But it’s harder. More on that later.
She says, “If I’m doing a braid out, I like to cleanse with Buildup Buster so I have a fresh start.”
Makes sense, especially if you’re going for a style with a very defined part. Nobody wants to see flaky product buildup.
“Then I condition with Heaven in Hair and leave about 80% in.”
Why? Because Heaven in Hair works amazing as a leave in, and if she does that she actually doesn’t need to use a styler.
Then she gets right to work on detangled, dripping wet hair. This allows her to elongate and stretch out her curls as much as possible, so once her braids have dried she’s maximized her length and minimized shrinkage.
“For my braid out I like to do three braids, I get more volume that way, but I do two when I’m feeling lazy.”
For the sake of for ease, do this in front of a mirror.
Step 1: Sectioning Your Curls
Pull all of your hair back, then visually divide your hair into sections. Morgan uses a comb to separate her part. Then she takes the section by her ears and does a quick two strand twist. She repeats the process on the other side.
Why the twist? It helps hair maintain moisture while you’re working on sections, this keeps it from drying out and frizzing while you work on the other braids.
Step 2: Smoothing Your Hair
Next, make your hair as smooth as possible in the middle section by finger combing your hair back. You want your hair to look as straight as possible. Take a very small section near your hair line and divide it into three, then begin braiding.
Now Morgan actually recommends avoiding a French braid – at least for a braid out. Because when she releases her curls she ends up with more of a zig-zag pattern than a curl.
Instead she uses the dutch braiding technique aka the same technique used for cornrows. Same process – just different names. These braids when finished have more lift on the scalp, as opposed to French braids that lay flat against the head.
See how the braid is lifted up, rather than flat?
Step 3: Braiding
So how do you do a braid? You simply overlap each of the three mini sections you’ve created, one section of hair at a time.
For a Dutch Braid/Corn Row, the middle section goes OVER the outside sections.
Move each section of hair to the middle position at least once, and then for your next cross over, add more hair to the outside piece.
Overlap the middle piece over that section, then repeat with the outside piece on the remaining side. Continue down your scalp until you run out of pieces to add.
Then braid your hair to the itty bitty ends and secure with a thin hair tie.
How to French braid curly hair
For French braid curly hair, start the same way you did with the Dutch braid. Section and smooth your hair, take a small section of hair near your hairline and start braiding. Only, at the placement the Dutch braid braids the strands UNDER each other, the French braid crosses strands OVER each other. i.e., when you cross a strand from the outside to the middle, move it over the middle strand and pull tight. Add small sections of hair each time you cross an outer strand to the middle.
How to fishtail braid curly hair
More braid styles for curly hair! When you start the process for a fishtail braid, either choose to do one braid or divide your hair in half for two, and smooth like you did in step two for the Dutch braid. Pull your hair into two sections. With your right hand, take a small piece of hair from the outside of the right section and cross it over to become part of the left section. Then, with the left hand, take a small piece of hair from the outside of the LEFT section and cross it over to become part of the RIGHT section. Repeat over and over until you run out of hair. (Then do it again if you’re doing two fishtail braids.)
In case you’re wondering, yes, this is your arm workout for the day.
Things to keep in mind:
- When you’re adding hair into each section, the smaller the sections you add, the more “curls” you’ll have when you release the braid.
- If you finger comb your sections as you braid them in, you’ll have fewer fly aways.
- Make sure you pull as tight as you can while braiding (but don’t pull so hard that it hurts). The tighter the braid the more formed your curls will be.
- To keep your ends of your braid from looking frayed, when you secure your hair with a tie loop the ends in the hair tie as shown here.
How I did tackling curly hair with a braid
Now after Morgan’s lesson, I tried this myself. Please note I am an extremely uncoordinated human being.
My braids were loose at my scalp, but tight on the ends. The sections were definitely not perfect. But post-braid out, my hair still looked good.
When braiding for a braid out your technique doesn’t have to be perfect to get a good result, but the more you do it, the better you get at it, and the better your results will be.
And if you get REALLY good like Morgan, you can wear your braids out of the house as a style, and release them two days later. And then wear your hair out for two to three days.
Check out how she styles her hair:
She simply completes her three braids, then wraps them into a bun, securing in place with a tie. GENIUS.
Now what about if you want to braid on dry curly hair?
It’s possible, but you’re going to have some challenges.
Braiding on dry curly hair takes longer, because sectioning the hair is harder.
You have to work through all of the tangles. And in the process you’ll probably tear through a few and cause some damage.
If you’re going to do this, be sure to use a product to give your hair some extra slip, like No-Comb Detangling Spray. This will speed up the process and it will also help fight frizz.
Braiding dry curly hair is also “bumpier” aka its harder to get the curls to stay smooth without the help of a styler. If you’re going to go this route, consider using a styling cream or a gel, adding product into each small section as you go to help hold the curls in place as you braid.
There’s also a technique used by some curly girls with tighter curl patterns, when girls will actually blow out their hair first and then braid it.
The purpose? Stretching their curls. If you’ve got a super tight curl pattern this can definitely help you maximize length, but keep in mind that using heat on your hair and stretching it can definitely make it more fragile. If you go this route, consider using a reparative mask, like Deep Sea Repair to deep condition your curls post-braid out.
Have you ever tried to braid your own curly hair? If so share your best tips and tricks in the comments below!