Your Ultimate Braid Guide Broken Down by Style

@aysha.sow | Design by Michela Buttignol.

Braids are one of the most traditional of all hairstyles—if not the most traditional. They've been around for ages, they're just as functional as they are pretty, and depending on which type of braid you choose, they can run the gamut between elegant and sophisticated and youthful and playful. Choosing the kind of braid you want to wear, though, is much easier said than done. With so many different types and techniques, and so many different celebs wearing them, it's easy to throw your hands up in the air and default to a basic ponytail.

We don't want you to do that. After all, summer is coming up, and braids were basically built for the warmer months. Whether you're going to a music festival, the beach, or a Sunday brunch, braids are a must. That's why, for your convenience, we've gathered together the eight most popular braided hairstyles and supplemented them with celeb photos so you can see what each style looks like, IRL. We were also sure to add a couple of tips, tricks, and tutorials along the way (because whoever said braiding was easy was definitely lying). 

Box Braids

Actress Keke Palmer wears her hair in crimson box braids, which are then looped up to rest in a high-bun hairstyle. Since it's looped in a bun, it's easy to see the uniformity and smoothness of Palmer's box braids, which is a trademark of the three-strand style. Box braids were especially popular in the '90s, which gives them a cool-girl vibe when worn today. Click here to see how experts suggest keeping box braids and twists in perfect condition.

Micro Braids

Micro braids are just like box braids in that they can be created using the same technique. They're just—you guessed it—smaller. The modern-day poster child for micro braids (in our humble opinion) is Zoë Kravitz. She has walked many a red carpet donning the very same chic style, albeit with a couple of hair color switch-ups along the way. How cool do her micro braids look when dyed platinum blonde? We're completely obsessed. 

Cornrow Braids

Yara Shahidi braids
 Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

As you can see from Yara Shahidi, actress and activist extraordinaire, cornrows are braids that form narrow parallel strips down the head. They're normally positioned from front to back, but she put a unique twist on a classic look by wearing hers pulled back with a wired braid construction artfully crafted around it.

Crown Braid

Next we have the crown braid, which looks complex and time-consuming but happens to be exactly the opposite. Our favorite way create a crown braid is to start with a traditional side braid before wrapping it up and over the top of the forehead, securing it with bobby pins along the way. We always make sure to leave out a couple face-framing pieces à la Vanessa Hudgens. We'll also be sure to add a spritz of a stronghold hair spray to keep it intact all day long. We suggest Moroccanoil Luminous Strong Finish Hairspray ($24). 

Fishtail Braid

A Fishtail braid is one of our all-time favorite styles, as it's playful and unexpected. It's easy to distinguish from other braids since it looks like a mirror reflection of itself. Ciara shows us how it's done by styling her fishtail braid off to one side, perfecting it with messy, lived-in loose pieces that frame her face. It has an effortless "I accidentally slept in my braid last night" kind of vibe.

French Braid

A French braid, as demonstrated by Emily Blunt, is a traditional three-piece braid. As you plait the hair together, add a section from either side on each rotation. It's one of the most versatile and chicest of all braids, which is why we see it so often at red carpet events. Style it in the traditional way, as a single-braided strand running down the nape of the neck, or do as Blunt does and position it to the side for an elegant updo.

With practice, it's an easy style to create. If you need a little refresher, head to YouTube for pointers (no judgment—braiding takes a lot of time and patience). We like this one from Lauren Conrad and The Beauty Department that offers step-by-step instructions. 

Dutch Braid

A Dutch braid, on the other hand, is created in the same exact way as you would a French braid. However, instead of winding the hair over itself as you plait, you wind it underneath the other strands. This small change makes a big difference. You see, instead of the braid flowing inward, it flows outward, which makes the braid pop off the head a little bit. This makes it easier to see. Take Rita Ora's hair, for example. Here, she wears it in Dutch-braided pigtails. Just compare her braids to Emily Blunt's French-braided style, and you'll see that Ora's braids are much more defined and visible. (A molding paste, like Living Proof's Molding Clay, will accentuate the braid even more while providing hold.)

In essence, think of a Dutch braid like a bolder version of a French braid. All it requires is that you reverse the French braid technique. 

A Dutch braid may sound easy in theory, but it can be extremely difficult for a braid novice, which is why we've created a step-by-step tutorial with celebrity hairstylist Anh Co Tran to make it easy for you to replicate Ora's exact style.

Milkmaid Braid

The milkmaid braid is almost identical to the aforementioned crown braid, but instead of being situated on the top of the forehead (where an actual crown would sit), it's pushed back a couple of inches to rest more toward the middle of the head. It's also more likely to begin with a center part, as opposed to a side part, for a more traditional look. We think it's best demonstrated by Sarah Hyland at the Fox Golden Globes party. (By the way, if you've already mastered this style, try a reverse milkmaid braid for a new take on it.)

Now that you know what eight of the most popular braided hairstyles look like IRL, demonstrated by some of our favorite celebs, we suggest reading up on the long and varied history of braids. It's nothing short of fascinating. 

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