Fact: We'd bet our beauty-loving lives that braids will never ever go out of style. They can be dramatic, edgy, romantic, casual, complicated, effortless… Essentially, they're the perfect hairstyle. (Not to mention a girl's best friend when we've accidentally forgone a much-needed shampoo or color touch-up.) Oh, and don't even get us started on how many times they've saved us on even the most disastrously bleak bad hair days—especially this time of year when bone-dry temps lead to static, dryness, and overall frustration. Ugh.
Simultaneously, of course, our calendars are bursting with events and festivities this time of year that beckon good, if not fantastic, hair days—a conundrum that has us desperate and in frantic search of the easy yet stunning looks that can carry us through the holiday season and beyond unscathed. Our favorite solution? Side-braided hairstyles that we can easily manipulate depending on our mood and the event in question. So without further ado, we've rounded up 10 epic side-braid hairstyles, as demonstrated by some of our favorite strand-blessed celebrities, that we're looking to copy ASAP this season. Keep scrolling for our favorite unexpected takes.
Meet the Expert
- Michelle Sultan is Imbue’s brand ambassador and a celebrity hairstylist.
- Shelly Aguirre is a stylist at Maxine Salon.
Although Smalls' staggering royal pout is reason enough to take a screenshot, we also have to give the model a well-deserved shout-out for this sleek fishtail braid. It's edgy, classic, and all-around fabulous. We plan on wearing a similar look all throughout the season.
This might be a bold statement on our part, but when it comes to red carpet beauty looks, actress and singer Janelle Monáe might be one of the most highly anticipated arrivals on our list. Case in point: This amazing side-braid hairstyle she wore at the Met Gala back in 2016. (And yes, we're still infatuated.)
Let's take a moment to open our minds to all the ways we can define an epic side braid. Though Madelaine Petsch's high-volume look doesn't involve all of her strands, we love the way she uses a side braid up top to keep wisps and layers out of the way and to make way for the kilowatt impact of her ponytail.
Is there such a thing as hair roundup without one of the Hadid sisters? We think not. And while we normally think side-braid hairstyles swing down by near the nape of our neck, we love this high-pony take and can't help but appreciate how fast and painless the look is to achieve. (Just pull your hair up into the highest tail you can muster, braid, and secure the end with another ponytail holder — we like Goody Ouchless Elastic Hair Tie ($4).)
"Love this braid on unprocessed hair," says Sultan. "Naturally thick hair is lightly blown out with a rake dryer so it doesn’t go too straight, be sure to use a heat protection like Imbue Curl Defending Heat Protection Mist ($10). This look is perfect for evenings to keep the hair off the face for that effortless look that looks stunning!"
To get this look, Aguirre says, "Start the braid on one side by the ear and work your way to the other side (think of a headband). Finish off the braid then attach a clear band. Smooth out the rest of the hair and start working your way to the nape. A smaller boar bristle brush is necessary for a style such as this. You can either tie off a ponytail and then wrap the hair around or if you have thinner hair, you can create the bun on its own."
Kerry Washington is the ultimate chameleon when it comes to her hair MO. And while she's worn a host of memorable braids on many red carpets, we love the contrast here between her sleek braid and perfectly textured layers. If you want some extra texture, use the Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray ($48) to get the perfect messy look.
Emily Ratajkowski is known for her luscious, shiny strands and signature, sleek blowout. Therefore, whenever the actress and model debuts something unexpected, we're all eyes. For instance, this romantic side-swept braid complete with a bow is all we want this year for the holidays.
"This is a great look to lift the face! I’ve been known to do this look a lot on some of my celebrity clients as it really freshens up a hairstyle and makes it cool and edgy. Using a texture spray works really well to give the hair some grit before braiding!" says Sultan.
Aguirre adds, "Second day hair is generally a big help when creating this look. If you tend to have oily hair, this may not be the case. Prep is key. Start by using a mousse to add body and texture when you blow dry. Part off a “mow hawk” section on the top and clip out of the way. You can add one braid or 2 (or even 3) to the sides. Starting at the hairline work your way back and braid, stopping just past the ear."
Shahidi is forever serving up major inspiration where her glorious strands are concerned, but our mouths fell agape when we saw this long, low, side-braid hairstyle complete with swirled baby hairs along her hairline and a gold sparkling piece at the end that gives the entire look and Amazonian princess look we're loving for party season. To sleek down those baby hairs, we recommend the Pattern Edge Tool ($12)
Spend even just two seconds scrolling through Storm Reid's Instagram account and you'll think you're ogling a professional hair muse, not a 15-year-old actress. We're especially smitten with this intricate take on a ho-hum side braid, complete with a braided crown and strategically positioned braided knots placed prettily down the tail.
Blake Lively just might be the queen of side-braid hairstyles, and while it's hard to choose a favorite, we love how relaxed yet elegantly polished this undone take looks on the actress. To add shine, add some serum to the palms of your hand and smooth down. We love Biosilk Silk Therapy Original Cure ($23)
"A halo braid on pre-braided hair is super simple but looks super intricate," says Sultan. "Be sure to have lots of pins/ grips to hand as this can be quite heavy on the head. Start on the left of the right of the face and plait right across the face to give the illusion of a halo. If you have braids then using
Imbue Curl Worshipping Shine Oil ($10) is great for the scalp and to work through individual braids to lock in moisture, as synthetic braiding hair can be known to dehydrate the hair."