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 braided hairstyles 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.
Fortunately, easy braids (like, actually easy) do indeed exist, and I’ve gathered the best ones here, with help from several braid experts. Keep scrolling for 35 deceptively simple braids that even the world’s worst braider can manage.
Watch Now: 3 Easy Braided Styles you Can Actually Do
These sporty braided double buns are perfect for fast-approaching summer days. They're quick, easy, and gentle on natural hair.
- Part your hair down the middle.
- Run a moisturizing oil or gel through your hair from root to tip to nourish and slick down your strands for a sleek look.
- Starting at the front of one side, take a one-inch lock of hair and braid it.
- 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.
- Repeat on the other side.
- As you can see on FKA Twigs, this works if you have a full head of braids as well.
Milkmaid braids are a classic for a reason. Not only are they super cute, but they're also easy. "This is very suitable for people who find it difficult to weave braids," says expert stylist Millie Morales.
- Using a comb, part your hair in the middle, forming a clean line from your forehead down to the back of your neck.
- Braid each side into a classic pigtail braid.
- Wrap one braid over your head, near your forehead, and pin it.
- Wrap the pigtail braid from the other side under your head, near the nape of your neck, and secure with bobby pins.
- Add bobby pins along both braids, making sure they feel tight and secure on the rest of your hair.
- Finish with a quick spritz of medium-hold hair spray like Ouai’s Texturizing Hair Spray ($26).
It looks Pinterest-y and hard, but don’t freak just yet. This style doesn’t require you to braid at all—it’s a twist. Follow the steps from our video to achieve:
- Starting on the left side, grab a two-inch section of hair about six inches back from your hairline, and split it in two.
- 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.
- 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 of your waterfall twist.
- Repeat these same steps, continuing your waterfall twist until you reach the back of your head. There, pin the end of the twist aside.
- Repeat steps one through four on the right side of your head to create the same design.
- Once you reach the back of your head on the right, combine the ends of both twists with a small elastic. Camouflage the elastic by wrapping a small strand of hair around it and pinning underneath for a more formal look.
- Finish off with a mist of hair spray such as R+Co Outer Space Flexible Hairspray ($32).
Simple Crown Braid
Remember that milkmaid braid we walked through in #2? Here’s a similar crown braid version that looks posh enough to wear to a wedding or ritzy dinner event. Follow these tips from the video above to get the look:
- Part your hair in the middle, then divide it into two even sections.
- Braid each section regularly, and secure the ends with a clear elastic. Lightly tug the loops of the braids outward to make them fatter.
- 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.)
- Free a few strands of hair so they fall around your face for a softer, messier look.
"I like to have my hair as detangled as possible, and I recommend it, to make it is much easier and take care of it and prevent it from breaking when braiding," says Morales.
Morales is a big fan of the French braid, which she says can be done on pretty much any hair texture, from pin-straight to curly. Create this two-part French braid to impress your friends:
- 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).
- " I always recommend mixing a Leave-in conditioner with an oil and putting it on all the hair. One of my favorites is the Garnier Whole Blends Miracle Nectar Honey Treasures Damage Remedy Leave-In ($6). This product can be used for all types of hair as well as used to help hydrate the strand, repair it, give it shine," says Morales.
- Gather all of your hair to the side, and divide it into two equal sections.
- Braid one section regularly, and secure with an elastic.
- Next, braid the second section of hair.
- 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.
- 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.
Stylist and influencer Justine Marjan considers this faux fishtail bubble ponytail one of the "easiest" styles to pull off. This gorgeous style gives the same bohemian effect as the real thing, no genius necessary.
- "It looks just like a fishtail braid but is done by putting two elastics in the hair a few inches apart then looping the hair from the ends through and loosening with your fingers," says Marjan.
- Pull your hair back into a low pony, and secure with a small clear elastic (or a thin elastic that matches your hair color).
- 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.
- "The effect is similar to a Topsy Tail ($7)," says Marjan. You can also use the tool, as illustrated in the video above.
- A few inches below that first elastic, wrap another elastic around the ponytail and create another opening just above it as you did in step two.
- Repeat the rest of step two with this new section of the ponytail, looping the pony up and through the vertical opening.
- 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.
This look is right on trend with the recent ’90s throwback obsession in beauty and fashion. Here's how to do it:
- Brush your hair from root to tip to detangle snarls while smoothing the hair cuticle.
- Using a comb, part your hair in the middle, forming a clean line from the forehead to the nape of the neck.
- Starting with one side, braid down and secure with a clear elastic. "If you have layers in the hair, start with the braid with a french braid a little higher up then work a regular three-strand braid through the ends. This will help secure the layers and prevent the braid from unraveling," adds Marjan.
- Repeat on the other side.
Rapunzel Braided Ponytail
One of the simplest braid styles around is the braided ponytail. To get this sheer amount of length, you may need to employ extensions. But the basic style, as described by Frederic Fekkai stylist April Story, is a breeze:
- "Sleek your hair back with a middle or deep side part, or no part at all, and simply plait your pony." A basic three-strand braid will do.
- "You can add an extension ponytail and braid it."
- "If you're skilled enough you can braid in hair extensions and make it long with the feed-in method. This is great for a day out and about or a girls' night out."
The Hidden Half-Up
These hidden braids paired with a classic half-up hairstyle are the perfect combination of subtle and playful:
- 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.
- Section your hair into a top and a bottom layer, securing the top layer into a half-up ponytail with a clear elastic.
- 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.
- Repeat the sequence on the other side.
- 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.
Once you get the basics down, braids are an easy way to kick your up 'do up a notch, as with these textured double buns. Follow Marjan's tips to get the look:
- "Start by creating two clean pigtails with a strong hold gel or pomade at the root. I like Tresemmé Extra Hold Gel ($5)."
- "Then create a simple 3 strand braid through the length of each ponytail."
- "Secure with an elastic then loop the braid into a knot. Hold into place then pin to secure."
- "Finish with a generous mist of Tresemmé Extra Hold Hairspray ($6)."
The Volumized Classic
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.
- "If the hair is very curly, I like to do the rope braid in the middle, as it is manageable when braiding and you do not have to have completely detangled hair," says Morales.
- "I always like to apply a little oil like Garnier Fructis Sleek & Shine Anti-Frizz Serum ($5) which is perfect for curls and keeps them hydrated all the time. This product also helps to control frizz and is helpful to use when braiding."
- Create a deep side part, favoring whichever side you prefer. Lift your hair section by section, spritzing a volume spray at the root.
- Set your part back in place and comb lightly over the top to make sure the volumizing product is set evenly throughout.
- Tease the hair at the crown of your head, combing lightly over it, again, to make sure your hair maintains an even silhouette.
- 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. Watch a video version of the tutorial for even more clarity.
- Gather two small sections of hair near one side of your part, and twist the front piece of hair over the one behind it.
- Add a new section of hair to the front piece, as well as a new section of hair to the back piece.
- Twist the sections as you did before with the front piece going over the back piece.
- Continue twisting this way, adding new sections of hair to each of the two pieces as you twist.
- 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.
- Repeat steps one through five on the other side of your head.
- 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.
- Finish off by securing the style to your head with a few bobby pins. Once it’s secure, you can remove the elastics.
Cornrows are a classic style for natural curls, but you don't have to braid your whole head. "Curly hair looks beautiful with all kinds of braids since it has texture and volume, which makes any braid look fantastic," says Morales.
This scarf-meets-hair twist is so easy and also a total showstopper.
- Secure the hair into a ponytail with an elastic at the desired height. Any placement works for this look.
- Tie your scarf of choice around the hair elastic.
- Weave the ponytail around the scarf in a twist and secure at the ends with a clear elastic.
- Let the rest of the scarf dangle down your back.
Messy Crown Braid
A gorgeous, textured crown braid pairs beautifully with long hair. Follow Marjan's tips to achieve:
- "This is done by creating a reverse french braid by looping the hair under the braid when adding from the sides."
- "When finished, spray a texturizing spray throughout. I’ve been using Elaluz Dry Texture spray ($36) and it’s great for this kind of texture."
- "Then use your fingers on either side of the braid to ‘pancake’ out the sides, pulling slightly so the braid looks fuller."
Formal Braided Bun
For the final look from the video at the top of the article, learn how to create a formal braided chignon:
- First, create three sections at the back of the head.
- Braid each section straight down using three strands.
- Spiral the three braids up into the scalp in a loose bun formation and secure with pins.
- Smooth down flyaways and spritz with hairspray.
A Y-shaped half-up/half-down braid is simple and so, so pretty. Before starting any braid, Marjan says: "Make sure hair is detangled before braiding for the cleanest finish. I suggest detangling the length after you add hair from either side to avoid the bottom of the hair braiding in the opposite direction."
Michael Sparks from Cie Sparks Salon in Malibu, California, breaks the fishtail, as seen on Joan Smalls, down for beginners:
- Gather your hair into a side ponytail, and secure with a clear elastic.
- Separate your pony into two even sections. Unlike a regular braid, a fishtail braid only involves two sections of hair. (You can do this).
- 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.
- 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. This is the motion you’ll repeat all the way down.
- 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.
- Once finished, place another elastic around the end of the braid to keep it together.
- Cut away the original elastic band at the top of the braid to release the ponytail.
- To create a messier look, gently yank the braid outward, starting at the top.
- Finish with the Oribe Après Beach Wave and Shine Spray ($44) for added texture and shine.
Add a basic three-strand braid to the side of your bob and secure with a cute metallic clip. It doesn't get easier than this.
Long-lasting, protective braid styles can be done at home or the salon depending on your skill level. The thing that makes them easy breezy is that you can keep them in for several weeks at a time. Follow Story's tips for keeping box braids in tip-top shape:
- "For longer wear braids, like box braids, goddess locs, etc., maintenance is extremely important."
- "Cleanse your scalp at least once a week."
- "Take [braids] out within 6-8 wks or less (unbraid fully before removing extension to avoid damage)."
- "Hydrate your scalp (using Fekkai’s Shea Butter Intense Oil, $28)."
- "Also, be careful of your edges girl ... we need them!"
Low Pigtail Braids
This look is similar to #7 (you can get it following essentially the same steps) with a slightly lower placement on the scalp and longer braids.
This is a pretty easy protective style that requires four chunky braids that follow the line of the scalp and go down to the ends of the hair. No extensions or fancy techniques required. Follow Story's tips for braid longevity:
- "Using gel, some sort of hair cream, or even while wet allows your braids to stay longer. This method remedies those little hairs that don't want to stay in the braid, allowing for a tighter braid."
- "When braiding finer or less textured hair, it’s best to use a texture spray or powder. This will allow you a better grip and your braids last longer."
- "Last but definitely not least, add in a little extra. Extensions allow your braids to last double the time than just your natural hair."
Two-strand twists are another braid-esque protective style. To achieve, section out your hair according to the desired size of your twists. Divide each one into two smaller sections and wind them together to create the twists.
Braids are well-suited to accessories, which can take the look to a new level. Here, Janelle Monae's textured crown braid is woven through with flexible wire.
Crochet styles and faux locs are a great hack for natural hair. These are extensions installed at the root of your natural hair using something called a crochet tool, and the style is Story-approved:
- "I love Crochet styles. It gives you versatility with trying different textured styles, minimal manipulation to your real hair, and It’s fairly quick compared to other techniques."
- "I’ve also tried faux locs, and absolutely loved it. Did it myself, can you believe it?"
- "It allowed me to change up my look and gave me a goddess vibe. The best part was allowing my hair to rest without daily manipulation."
The key to this hairstyle is loads of texture—whether you're working with natural curls, adding an artificial wave, or simply loading up on sea salt spray.
Kerry Washington's mussed-up braided ponytail follows the same guidelines as #8. When you're done braiding, use your fingers to pull apart and loosen the weave in certain spots to create an imperfect, slept-on vibe.
Have a head full of box braids, cornrows, or knotless braids from the salon but want to mix it up before it's time to take them down? Collect them all into one giant over-the-shoulder braid. If you know how to three-strand braid, you can pull this off.
Love the braided pigtails look but want to mix it up? Try Marjan's pull-through braids for a relaxed weekend hairstyle that only takes a few minutes:
- First, divide your hair into two equal sections and place one over each shoulder.
- Take a front section from one side and secure with a clear elastic.
- Then, divide the remaining hair on that side in half and wrap it around the pigtail. Secure with another elastic a few inches down from the initial one. Pull the hair on either side for more volume.
- Continue this process down the length of the braid, securing the base pigtail with a new elastic and wrapping the divided sections around the ponytail.
- Repeat on the second side.
Stacked Dutch Braids
Two diagonal Dutch braids combine to create one show-stopping chignon. "I like to add gel to the roots and then a comb to keep each section clean as I’m working," says Marjan of the Dutch braid.
Two sweet, tiny crown braids create a headband effect on Jessica Alba. Who needs accessories when your hair can be the accessory itself?
"The waterfall braid is a classic hairstyle that looks absolutely stunning and unique," says Morales. Follow her steps to achieve:
- "Take a big section of hair at the front and separate it into three strands."
- "Take the back strand (or the top strand) and cross it over the middle."
- "Now take the front strand and cross it over the middle."
- "Next, from the top, take the back strand and add a little section of hair into it."
- "Cross this back strand and new section of hair over the middle."
- "Leave the front strand as is (you can even clip it away so that you don't get confused)."
- "Take a section of hair behind the front strand. Cross this new section over the middle."
- "Repeating the same steps—take the back strand and add a new section of hair into it."
- "Cross that back section and new section of hair over the middle."
- "Again, leave the front strand as is and take a section behind it to cross over the middle."
- "Repeat all the same steps to the back of your head and secure it with a clear elastic."
Take a page from Laverne Cox's style book with a few simple braids scattered throughout your hair. This look works best with loads of texture and length, so don't be shy about pumping up the volume, and be sure not to make the braids too perfect.
Unraveled Floral Braids
We love this romantic floral braided style, worthy of the lead in a Jane Austen novel. Follow Marjan's advice to get the look:
- "Start by adding texture to the hair if needed to support the braid. I like to use the ghd Classic Curl Iron ($199) to create a wave pattern, then spray in Tresemmé Texture Spray ($5)."
- "Section away the hair you want to braid and create a reverse french braid, only adding hair from the top section."
- "Then repeat for the next braided section."
- "Spray Tresemmé Extra Hold Hairspray ($6) then use your hands to loosen and pin with bobby pins if needed."
We've saved the easiest for last. If you're in a rush or truly hopeless at braiding, try Chris Appleton's four-step rope ponytail:
- Start by creating your ponytail of choice. Appleton demonstrates the style on two high pigtails, but it works just as well on a single ponytail, too.
- Divide the ponytail into two equal sections. Twist both halves, moving clockwise.
- Weave the two twisted sections of hair together, again moving clockwise. This will create one large twist.
- Secure with a clear elastic.