7 Braid Secrets

The quest for the perfect braid is about embracing imperfection. This is rule number one.

( Photo Be The Fair for Free Your Hair, Mercado Sagrado 2016)

I can too easily recall the feeling of sitting behind the girl with the perfect french braid in 3rd grade. Her braid was smooth and shiny, symmetrical and without a bit of fuzz. Mine, which was done really hurriedly by my mom who I had BEGGED and begged that morning to braid me, my poor mother who had 3 children to get out the door and to the school bus on time.

She had a total of 6 meals to prepare that morning ( breakfast and lunch for the 3 of us ) and braiding was not at the top of her list of important things to do. Needless to say, my braid was rushed and lumpy, frizzy and limp. And I felt nothing but pure burning braid envy as I gazed at the braid in front of me.

Perfect braid, probably a mom who just loved to braid her hair and never felt rushed ever, and also, she got to take horse back riding lessons and she made sure everyone around her knew it. Thats my braid sob story and also my point of reference for where my braid journey began. This was the origin of my quest to make a perfect braid.

I don’t want to go to deep into the soul of this story because I could ramble on for fucking lightyears. Instead, I will share with you my favorite tricks for creating great braids.

Circling back, embracing imperfection. I think many of us have this perfect braid in our heads that we can never quite replicate (thanks, Pinterest, for making us eternally feel unskilled)

Step 1. Get your Mind Right

 Shake off the expectation of braid perfection because it’s a setup for failure and also, thankfully, today’s braid is everything but perfect. The key to a life of great braiding is changing your attitude, believing in the process and letting yourself experiment.

Try and enjoy the journey of the braid, because it shows. If you can appreciate the process, your braid will shine brighter. It’s kind of like a beautiful garment, if it is made with love, you feel it every time you wear it, and it shows.

Pro-tip: If you are starting with your braid technique at ground zero, teach your hands before you teach your eyes. Close your eyes, and get the rhythm down. Take it slow, and send love to your hands, thank them for learning a new thing. Don’t rush it.

Also, put on Beyonce’s Lemonade and invoke the skills of the braid empresses who came before you as you braid.

Step 2. Braid Basics

Take some time to just play around with your hair, starting with a simple 3 strand braid. If you can get all your hair into one braid, start there. If your hair is short, there is a magic thing called an accent braid, that just means a little braid strategically placed somewhere that’s only purpose is to exist. Not a lot of function, just a little adornment…..A little something to make it interesting. An accent braid is to hair what earrings are to ears.

Just do some simple braiding in your hair, to work up the muscle memory in your hands and coordinate your fingers. Get the feel of it, get comfortable. Nothing fancy yet. Practice.

Step 3. The Power to Deconstruct

Today’s braids are soft and sultry, slept-on. JBF braids. Natural braids. Braids that look beautiful and effortless. Imagine Joni Mitchell, windows down on 110 heading towards Big Sur braids. Free Braids.

I love this part because we get to rebel against that piece of us that still believes in that perfect smooth orderly braid but needs to break free. The key to the Free Braid is to start with a solid structure, then go back in and mess it up.

My hair mentor once told me that every great hairstyle depends of strong scaffolding. In the case of the braid, it means using a steady hand, even tension, yoga posture, conscious breath, and 3 cleanly divided sections of hair to work with.

Make sure your braid is tight and right to begin with……Do a nice solid 3 strand braid. Then, secure the ends, and spend some time pulling at the braid, tugging it cross wise from either edge, widening it and softening it. Start at the ends, and work your way up towards the base of the braid.

Pull some hairs loose around your face. Loosen up the hair at your crown a bit to lift it up so you don’t get a flat spot. Muss it up. Shake it around.

Pro-Tip: If your hair has a lot of texture to it, or is very long or layered, you may be able to braid it all the way to the tiniest of itty-bitty ends and then let it hang free with no hair tie to secure it. This will allow it to naturally soften and unravel on it’s own.

Step 4.  Step up your game.

Once you have embraced the basic deconstructed braid, it’s time to try out some new braid techniques, and play around with using different combinations of braids together in the hair. You can do this, I promise.

Here is what you need to learn now:

French braid. Dutch braid. Fishtail braid. Learn the mechanics of these braids……If you can do a simple 3 strand braid, you can do these 3 braids. Once you have these techniques down, you have the power to combine braids and get creative. Now you get to use your imagination.

Pro-tip: Remember the power of an accent braid! A simple braid can be made so much more interesting with the addition of a smaller braid hanging with it, or framing your face.

Step 5. The Power of the Tool

If you are feeling very challenged, know that with the proper tools, braiding can be made much easier. 

Add some things to your braid alter:

A mixed bristle brushTo detangle and prep the hair for easy braiding. Start smooth for much better results and a less frustrating process. 

A braiding comb: For sectioning and making clean parts, and for my curly/ natural texture babes to detangle and prep the hair. 

Dry shampoo/texture powder: For fine hair and slippery hair especially! If you have trouble getting a good grip of your own hair, powder up first. I like to sprinkle powder directly onto my mixed-bristle brush and brush it through when I prep my hair for braiding. The powder will make it easier to braid, and also help the braid stay in better. 

Salt spray: Same idea as Dry-shampoo, but a different employment. Mist it into your dry, pre-brushed hair to add texture, thickness and grip before you braid. For max results, powder first, brush, then spray with salt spray. Great braids for days. 

Clear elastics: Secure them ends. Please don’t break the bank on clear elastics. Get them at any and all drug stores. 

Bobby pins: The covertly secure bits of hair post braid. Again, don’t break the bank on these.

Step 6. Just Add flowers

Just take my word on this ones. Tuck what ever is in season at the flower shop, whatever is calling to you in your neighbors garden, or whatever green is creeping from the cracks in the concrete, into your hair. 

Wearing flowers in our hair is just a small yet powerful way to connect us to the natural world, and help us remember the simple beauty in life. Use your intuition on this one. Just find a little plant or flower that intrigues you and wear it in your hair.

I especially love to take a small fragrant flower like a Daphne and pin it into my braid with a bobby pin so I can catch the scent of it all day. Early Spring, the hellebores are  great ones to adorn your braid with….And don’t discount wild greenery! Delicate leaves and creeping vines are also lovely.

Step 7. Make it Social

Get a bunch of your babes together and braid each other’s hair. I guarantee everyone will have a trick that they learned from their mom or grandma to add to the communal braid tool kit. 

Braiding is a matrilineal tradition that has been practiced in every documented culture. It is an inherently social art and practice. It is a skill best learned socially. So, grab a few bottles of wine and some dark chocolate, put on some tunes, light sage and candles. Braid each other’s hair. Viva la Braid Circle. Make it a thing.

Industry Secret: The 2 minute fluff ‘n go.

dan fluffHi babes! Here is a little industry trick demonstrated by Danielle, master stylist at Vain. She has some of the coolest and most coveted hair around, and her DIY tool kit is full of tricks, many of which I will be sharing on HTHG in the near future. Thanks, Dan!

Today, she demonstrates hand-back combing, a genius quick trick for a mid-date bar bathroom fluff-up when your hair starts feeling flat.

To master the quick fluff and go, first flip your head over and shake your hair out. It helps if you have a small bottle of sea-salt texture spray for this one, although it isn’t totally necessary. Spritz the spray into your ends.

Now, grab the very ends of of largish clump of hair with your non-dominant hand.

Take your dominant hand, flat with fingers spread. slide your fingers through the ends, just above your other hand.

Clamp your fingers together, and run your hand upwards toward your scalp. Think of your fingers as your comb, and back comb through your hair, lump by clump. Big hair, yeah!!!

Share this one with your pals, they will thank you, and then you can all have big wild hair together.

xoxo, HTHG

Convey your mood with your braid: Edgy vs Soft

7U6A1647Hey babes. It dawned on me a while back that besides all the different types of braids that exist, there are many ways to style a singular braid. What I mean is this. Take your average dutch braid. It can be soft and pretty and romantic, and it can also be very edgy and tribal and sharp. It can be innocent. It can be rough. It can make your head look tiny, or big. It can look very intricate or super simple. It can make you feel like a 6 year old. Or an old lady. Or a fashionista. Or a dutch-milkmaid. Or a hand-maiden. Or a viking. Or a hippie. Or a rattlesnake hunter. Or a bride when you are not really a bride. Or a human being when you are an exhausted new mom.

I began to break down in my head what it is that distinguishes these different braid-feels. Obvies, there is the deconstructing trick to soften a braid and give it that lived-in look. But beyond that, how can we use our braids to tell our story about how we feel in the moment?

I decided to put a post together about soft braids vs edgy braids, just to get you started in thinking about manipulating your braids to fit your mood. Nikki graciously volunteered to let me style and photograph her in one of her lovely kimonos and a pair of her best-selling earrings.

Soft braids.

Think romantic, bohemian, pretty, loose, natural.softbraids

Soft braids work on all hair types. I think they look best on wavy, curly, thick hair. If you do not have these things, Master-Braider is your braid boosting bff.

Soft braids are obviously done with a loose grip and no tension. Larger sections of hair are added in from each side. They are pulled apart and deconstructed using this trick.

They always have small bits falling around the face, which can be pulled down after the braid is secured. (See Ladyparts!)

Edgy braids. edgy braids

Think tight. Geometric. Intricate. Precise.

These braids can totally work on all types, but it is easiest to achieve the edgy feel in straighter hair. If your hair is wavy or curly and you want to rock an edgy braid, start with a head-wrap to straighten things out. If you are into heat styling, apply some Shiny-Dancer to your ends and flat-iron your hair to prep it.

Edgy braids are tightly wound, with tension and precision. Small partings with tiny sections added in from each side give them their textured complexity. Generally, you don’t want little hairs falling around the face to soften the look. High, tight, and precise!

As you can see in the upper right hand edgy braid style, a soft bun paired with an edgy accent braid makes a beautiful contrast! So you can bend all these rules to combine elements and create very cool hairstyles. But I want you to understand the how’s and why’s.

Here is an example of how using different sized partings and sections in your braids can change the feel of it. The top row is a standard dutch braid with very small sections added into each side as I braided. My section partings were quite precise ( As precise as a pinkie can get!)

The bottom row is also a dutch braid but with larger sections added in, and my partings weren’t as precise. See the diffy?

The photo below is the side view of the top row edgy braid.

braid science 37U6A1475These next braids are just regular french braids. The top row braid is done with very small sections, again. Edgier, right?

In the same photo, the bottom row braid has larger sections added in. It is softer and more flowing.

braid sciencePicMonkey CollageThis last photo illustrates how to make that softer french braid even more soft and pretty by pulling the edges of the braid out, loosening small sections, and pulling down pieces of hair around the face to frame it. Free your lady parts!

Food for hair-thought. I want you all to be inspired and informed master-braiders!

xo, HTHG

The key to the perfect braid. Deconstruction and the Art of effing things up.

decYou will have to excuse me for not putting this post together ages ago, before I embarked on my braided hairstyle adventures at HTHG. What I am going to show you today is literally the key to a good braid.

This trick is for all of you who surf Pinterest and get braid envy when you see those thick, fat, gorgeous braids, those perfectly messy textured braids, and those braids that somehow look like flowers.

Lets talk about deconstruction. Deconstruction is the art of making something nicely and purposefully effing it all up to achieve a desired effect. To me, the key to good hair is one part fashion, one part function, one part custom, and one part deconstruction.

The key to deconstructing a braid is to start with a nice, neat, not to tight but just tight enough braid. Start with 3 pieces of hair that are equal sizes. IF you are french braiding, make sure your added sections are consistently the same size. Secure your braids well. Now comes the fun part.

Deconstructing a Braid

deconstructing a braid

Once you have completed your nice and neat braid and secured the ends, Take a firm hold of the outside edges of the bottom of the braid, and pull apart. Pull as hard as you can without making the elastic pop off the end. Pretty hard. Now work your way up that braid pulling the edges apart. If you are deconstructing a french braid, do these steps once with the tail of the braid. If you are deconstructing a regular braid, go from the ends to the base of the braid.

Now, start back at the end of the braid again. Pull apart again, but this time, try and grab 2 edge segments of the braid at a time instead of one (wider pulling section).7U6A5126

Work your way up the braid again, pulling wider sections of your braid out.

Now, if you are deconstructing a frenchie, start pulling apart the attached part of the braid. Repeat twice, using wider pulling sections the second time.

To finish off the deconstruction, start at the end of the braid and pull small bits of hair along the very edge of the braid out a bit. Do this to random pieces all the way up the braid. This gives the perfect messy rough edge.

Use this million dollar trick on all your braids from now on and see how much more fun it is. That’s some next level shit!



Braid trick for small heads!

small head braid!I don’t know about you but I have a smallish head. Sadly, it is something that I have been self conscious about my whole life. It has kept me from wearing my hair in tight hairstyles, and it has kept me from ever wearing high heels because I feel like a pinhead on a tree stump walking on stilts.

(FYI this photo shows more face than I have ever shared with the world. There I am. Little head, large forehead, big chin, tiny ears and all)

I imagine the snickers and the jeers of people passing me in the street, pointing and saying “Look at that big tall lady with a tiny head!!” This is my own stupid hang-up about my body, and I own it and try and not to give it too much power. When I was 21, I shaved my head. Then, I got pregnant with my first daughter the next week. The timing was less than perfect, because I blew up like a balloon with my tiny bald head. Yikers.

So you can imagine my excitement when I stumbled upon this great braiding trick that creates braids that don’t hug your head too tight. It is a technique that you can use with any sort of french braid. It works with french dutch braids, fishtails, and twists. Instead of adding hair from either side as you braid, only add hair to one side. The other side will just always overlap without adding any new hair.

For these braids, I added hair only from under the braid. It made the braids stick out a bit from my head which satiated my braid craving without making me feel too tiny-headed. Also, pulling the braids apart a bit to loosen them once the end is secured helps to bulk them up and give them more volume.

*Here is a tip-Start pulling apart from the end of the braids and work your way up;)

This hairstyle is easily made into this- Just by tucking and pinning the ends on either side.

PicMonkey Collage

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