How-To: A Sleek French Twist for Short Hair

french twist

French twists are like making homemade pasta: It can seem daunting, but once you have the right tools and get the hang of it, it's easy-peasy. It's the perfect updo for any occasion, hence its popularity, but it's much harder than it looks at first. Before you get frustrated from wondering when to pin and when to roll and decide to commit to the faux bob instead, we asked celebrity hairstylist updo wizard Jen Atkin to show us how easy it really can be by breaking it down for us step by step. (Hint: You're going to want to have some hair texture, so day-old hair is best here). And, she makes it look shockingly easy, you'll wonder why you struggled so hard in the first place.

Meet the Expert

Jen Atkin is a celebrity hairstylist, founder of digital hair community ManeAddicts, as well as the owner of haircare line OUAI. Some of Atkin's ultra-famous clients include the Kardashian family and Chrissy Teigen. 

Grab your curling iron, some French hair pins, some bobby pins, and hairspray—we've got a step-by-step tutorial below to learn how to create a chic French twist on short hair.

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Step 1: Start with Texture

Justin Coit

Start with a little bit of natural texture to give your hairstyle some body. Start by prepping dry hair with hairspray and curling using a 1 1/2” curling iron in alternating directions. The curls don’t need to be perfect in the back, the only purpose it serves is to add texture.

"It’s actually better to style the French twist when the hair is a little dirty. The grit will help give it a pretty and effortless texture while also being a good anchor for the Bobby pins," Atkin advises.

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Step 2: Create a Side Part

Justin Coit

You’ll need to part your hair to one side in order to swoop it over into a twist later.

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Step 3: Tease the Hair

Justin Coit

Lightly backcomb the underside of your hair all over to build up the volume even more. "Spray a texturizing hairspray throughout (like OUAI's) and leave face-framing pieces out." Atkin says.

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Step 4: Start Pinning

Justin Coit

Start your French twist by sweeping one side of your hair towards the back of the head. Just before you reach the center, insert a bobby pin flat against your head, vertically, to hold the hair down.

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Step 5: Come Together

Justin Coit

Use both hands to bring the hair from the other side over to meet your first bobby pin. As Atkin describes, "Gather hair in the back using your fingers, for an effortless texture, and gather into a low ponytail." As you smooth it over, be careful not to condense your hair into a bun. Instead, try to maintain the length of the section as you mold it into a French twist.

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Step 6: Twist

Justin Coit

"Begin to twist the hair, making sure to pull ponytail upwards so as you twist, the ponytail gathers the hair upwards, creating a French twist." Smooth the hair as you pull it into the center. It's totally fine if a few hairs fall out at this point, you can always pin them in place later on.

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Step 7: Twist & Pin

Justin Coit

Atkin says, "secure using French hairpins, making sure to place them at the crevice of the twist and the hair perpendicular. Continue placing pins all the way up to secure."

Start from the bottom to ensure you catch all of the shorter pieces that tend to slip out.

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Step 8: Let's Keep Pinning

Justin Coit

Keep adding bobby pins until your French twist feels secure.

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Step 9: Smooth

Justin Coit

Lightly smooth out any rough spots, using a boar-bristle hairbrush like Goody Styling Essentials Naturally Smooth Brush ($9).

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Step 10: Finish

Justin Coit

Finish your style with a spritz of flexible-hold hairspray—Atkin recommends Drybar's Money Maker Flexible Hold Hairspray ($26)—and you're all set!

Photographer: Justin Coit
Hairstylist: Jen Atkin
Makeup Artist: Roxy
Producer: Jenna Peffley
Model: Corrie
Fashion credits: Topshop Photo Floral Print Bodycon Dress
Don’t miss Atkin’s wavy hair for every hair length tutorial, and find even more hair inspiration on her website Mane Addicts!

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