I hate to admit it, especially as a beauty editor, but I completely suck at braiding. I blame my mother, who never French-braided my hair when I was a kid. (I also blame her for my addiction to dark chocolate and tendency to use big words when I’m mad—hi, Mom!)
Now, my profession requires me to scroll longingly through gorgeous braid styles on Pinterest and YouTube, unable to master them no matter how many times I scrutinize the step-by-step instructions. Let’s just say if “braiding” were a section on the SATs, I would not have gotten into college.
As you can imagine, it really makes me feel like a dunce when braid tutorials promise to be “ridiculously simple” and “perfect for beginners” yet I’m still unable to wrap my mind (and fingers) around their execution. Maybe I’m wrong, but a triple-fishtail upside-down waterfall-plaited topknot hairstyle does not sound simple to me.
Fortunately, easy braids (like, actually easy) do indeed exist, and I’ve gathered the best ones here—no French braids, no triple fishtails. Just pretty, deceptively simple braids that even I, the world’s worst braider, can manage.
These sporty braided double buns are perfect for fast-approaching summer days. They're quick, easy, and gentle on natural hair.
1. Part your hair down the middle.
2. Run a moisturizing oil or gel through your hair from root to tip to nourish and slick down your strands for a sleek look.
3. Starting at the front of one side, take a one-inch lock of hair and braid it.
4. Gather the rest of your unbraided hair from the same side, and tie it up with the braid at the back of your head. Let it poof out naturally into a fun, textured bun.
5. Repeat on the other side.
This braided updo looks posh enough to wear to a wedding or ritzy dinner event. Little will your fellow guests know the style takes no more than five minutes and a kindergartner’s skill level. (Check out the video tutorial where Lindsay from Maven Beverly Hills breaks down each step.)
1. Part your hair in the middle, then divide it into two even sections.
2. Braid each section regularly, and secure the ends with a clear elastic. Lightly tug the loops of the braids outward to make them fatter.
3. Next, flip the braids up and over the top of your head, and secure them there with bobby pins. (You’ll need a couple right on top of your ahead to pin the ends and a few along the rest of each braid.)
4. Free a few strands of hair so they fall around your face for a softer, messier look.
I know—it looks Pinterest-y and hard. But don’t freak just yet. This style doesn’t actually require you to braid at all—it’s a twist! You only have to handle two strands of hair at a time. And for the braid-challenged, less hair involved equals less confusion. (Watch Stephanie Brinkerhoff’s video tutorial for more assistance.)
1. Starting on the left side, grab a two-inch section of hair about six inches back from your hairline, and split it in two.
2. Cross the piece nearest to your face over the other piece. Then, drop that other piece and pick up a new piece of hair in its place.
3. Now, just like you did in the previous step, cross the new piece on the bottom over that top piece. Then, drop the top piece. This is the start to your waterfall twist.
4. Repeat these same steps, continuing your waterfall twist until you reach the back of your head. There, pin the end of the twist aside.
5. Repeat steps one through four on the right side of your head to create the same design.
6. Once you reach the back of your head on the right, combine the ends of both twists with a small elastic. Optional: Disguise the elastic by wrapping a small strand of hair around it and pinning underneath.
7. Finish off with a mist of hair spray such as R+Co Outer Space Flexible Hairspray ($29).
This voluminous side braid may seem fancy, but look again and you’ll see that it’s actually just two regular braids smashed together. (Told you these would be easy!) Visit Top Inspired for step-by-step photos.
1. Start with unwashed hair sprayed throughout with dry shampoo. (This is generally the best hair texture to braid with, as it provides the most grip.) We recommend Drybar Detox Dry Shampoo ($23).
2. Gather all of your hair to the side, and divide it into two equal sections.
3. Braid one section regularly, and secure with an elastic.
4. Next, braid the second section of hair.
5. When you get to the very end of the second braid, remove the elastic from the first braid, and layer the end of one braid over the end of the other to seamlessly combine them.
6. Secure both braids together with an elastic. Gently tug the loops of the braids outward to make them fuller. (You can even sneak a bobby pin in there to make sure the braids stick together.) Ta-da! Now everyone thinks you’re fancy.
This look reminds us of a young Britney Spears in the best way; it’s right on trend with the recent ’90s throwback obsession in beauty and fashion. Plus, it works especially well for short-haired girls.
1. Brush your hair from root to tip to detangle snarls while smoothing the hair cuticle.
2. Using a comb, part your hair in the middle, forming a clean line from forehead to the nape of the neck.
3. Starting with one side, braid down and secure with a clear elastic.
4. Repeat on the other side.
5. Add a chic black headband, whether it’s thin satin or chunky velvet.
6. Finally, we suggest completing the look with fresh, dewy skin and kohl-rimmed eyes for ultimate nostalgic impact.
Most updos that are this romantic and pretty involve way more delicate handiwork than a beginner braider has to offer—but not this one. Don’t believe us? Check out this minute-long video version of the tutorial.
1. Start by grabbing a small section of hair from one side of your head, close to your part, and braiding it. You can leave that small braid hanging for now.
2. Take another section of hair a few inches below that braid (say, from just above your ear), and create a simple twist.
3. Repeat step two—creating one braid and one twist—on the other side of your head.
4. Gather all the braids and the twists to the back of your head, and secure with a small elastic.
5. Flip the remaining hair up, and tuck it into the band created by your braids and twists. Secure with bobby pins, and behold.
Remember that crown braid we walked you through? Here’s another similar, albeit more milkmaid-esque, version.
1. Using a comb, part your hair in the middle, forming a clean line from your forehead all the way down to the back of your neck.
2. Braid each side into a classic pigtail braid.
3. Wrap one braid over your head, near your forehead, and pin it.
4. Wrap the pigtail braid from the other side under your head, near the nape of your neck, and secure with bobby pins.
5. Add bobby pins along both braids, making sure they feel tight and secure on the rest of your hair.
6. Finish with a quick spritz of medium-hold hair spray like Ouai’s Medium Hair Spray ($26).
This half-up braided crown screams Pinterest, except it doesn’t require any black magic to re-create. (Head over to A Cup of Jo for more photos of the tutorial).
1. Create a center part. Then, grab a four- or five-inch section of hair on one side of your head. You’ll use this to create half of your braid. (Leave a few strands of hair in front for a messier, more boho look)
2. Braid this section of hair, starting loosely at the top and braiding toward the back of your head (instead of braiding straight down), so the braid is at a slight slant. Secure the end with an elastic.
3. Repeat steps one and two on the other side of your head.
4. Cross the first braid behind your head so that it swoops down toward the nape of your neck. (This creates a more flattering, effortless look.) Pin it to the back of your head with bobby pins, making sure to tuck in the tail.
5. Repeat step four on the other side.
Fishtail braids are like computer programming to me: I just don’t speak the language. Luckily, this gorgeous style gives that same Bohemian effect, no genius necessary. (Click over to Free People to find more photos of the tutorial).
1. Pull your hair back into a low pony, and secure with a small clear elastic (or a thin elastic that matches your hair color).
2. Split the hair in half just above the elastic to create a little vertical opening. Then, grab your pony, and flip it up and through that opening, so it loops back around.
3. A few inches below that first elastic, wrap another elastic around the ponytail, and create another opening just above it like you did in step two.
4. Repeat the rest of step two with this new section of the ponytail, looping the pony up and through the vertical opening.
5. Use one last elastic to section off the end of the ponytail a few inches below the second elastic. Voilà—the look of a fishtail minus all the braiding.
These hidden braids paired with a classic half-up hairstyle are the perfect combination of subtle and playful. Rest assured because gone are the days of scrambling in the mirror for quick, Sunday brunch–appropriate hair.
1. This one works best with second-day hair. If your hair is squeaky-clean (aka too silky-slippery to cooperate), spritz a dry shampoo or texturizing spray throughout.
2. Section your hair into a top and a bottom layer, securing the top layer into a half-up ponytail with a clear elastic.
3. On one side, take a small one-inch section of hair at the nape of your neck and braid down. Then secure it with a clear elastic.
4. Repeat the sequence on the other side.
5. Bonus points if you finish with a gloss serum for added shine. We love Ouidad’s Shine Glaze Serum ($20) for a light-reflecting finish.
Nope, you don’t even need fancy braiding skills for this adorable updo from Lulu’s blog.
1. Lightly back-comb the hair at your crown to create volume.
2. Divide hair into three even sections, and braid them regularly. Gently yank the braids outward to make them fuller.
3. Coil each braid into a knot at the nape of your neck, and secure to your head with bobby pins.
Do you know how to tie your shoes? This braid-esque hairstyle is even easier than that—no joke. (Find step-by-step photos on Camille Styles.)
1. This unique style works best with clean hair and minimal flyaways, so start by applying a smoothing serum, like Living Proof Satin Hair Serum ($29).
2. Gather all your hair to one side, and split it into two equal sections.
3. Keeping the hair nice and neat, tie the two sections into a knot, just as you’d tie a piece of string. (We know—it sounds weird, but trust us.)
4. Grab the two tail ends of the knot, and tie another.
5. Continue tying knots until you run out of length. Secure at the bottom with a clear elastic. Gently tug on the knots to make them look looser and fuller. Mist all over with a shine-enhancing hair spray, such as Tigi Bed Head Masterpiece Shine Hairspray ($23).
This laissez-faire, French-inspired look is simple yet très chic, no? Make sure your teasing comb and root-lifting spray are on hand since this classic fishtail is pumped up with a lot of volume at the crown.
1. Create a deep side part, favoring whichever side you prefer.
2. Lift up your hair section by section, spritzing a volume spray like Phyto’s Phytovolume Actif Volumizing Spray ($30) at the root.
3. Set your part back in place and comb lightly over the top to make sure the volumizing product is set evenly throughout.
4. Tease the hair at the crown of your head, combing lightly over it, again, to make sure your hair maintains an even silhouette.
5. Gather your hair at the nape of your neck and start to braid, securing your hair with a clear elastic at the end.
Another breathtaking braid that requires zero braiding. Think of this as your first baby step to learning how to French braid. (The idea of adding more hair to the braid as you go still boggles my mind.) Watch a video version of the tutorial for even more clarity.
1. Gather two small sections of hair near one side of your part, and twist the front piece of hair over the one behind it.
2. Add a new section of hair to the front piece, as well as a new section of hair to the back piece.
3. Twist the sections as you did before with the front piece going over the back piece.
4. Continue twisting this way, adding new sections of hair to each of the two pieces as you twist.
5. Once you reach the back of your head, stop adding in new sections of hair. Simply twist the two sections normally until you reach the end, and secure with a clear elastic.
6. Repeat steps on through five on the other side of your head.
7. With both twists at the back of your head, make a little opening above the elastic of one twist. Then take the other twist, and pull it through the opening.
8. Finish off by securing the style to your head with a few bobby pins. Once it’s secure, you can remove the elastics.
1. Gather your hair into a side ponytail, and secure with a clear elastic.
2. Separate your pony into two even sections. Unlike a regular braid, a fishtail braid only involves two sections of hair. (You can do this.)
3. Take a small piece of hair from the outermost edge of one of those two sections, bring it over its original section, and combine it with the opposite section of hair.
4. Repeat step three for the other section (the one you’ve just brought that small piece of hair to). Remember to direct the small piece over its original section before combining it with the opposite one. Grab a piece, cross, combine. This is the motion you’ll repeat all the way down.
5. Repeat steps three and four until you get to the end of your hair, always keeping the braid tight by firmly pulling the two sections outward and away from one another.
6. Once finished, place another elastic around the end of the braid to keep it together.
7. Cut away the original elastic band at the top of the braid to release the ponytail.
8. To create a messier look, gently yank the braid outward, starting at the top.
9. Finish with the Oribe Après Beach Wave and Shine Spray ($39) for added texture and shine.
This story was originally published on March 21, 2016.