Hairstylist and editorial director of website Mane Addicts, Justine Marjan, has braided the hair of singer Kelly Rowland, model Lily Aldridge, and a certain famous family whose first names all start with the letter "K." Here, she shares the basics for creating and maintaining any braided style.
Get her advice and be inspired by pop culture's best-ever braids, below.
Tip No. 1: Learn the Basic Styles
Knowing how to put your hair into two pigtail braids is definitely a useful skill to have. But you should prioritize the mastery of a few other foundational styles as well. "Regular three-strand braids, cornrows, French braids, and fishtails all create an amazing arsenal and can be mixed and matched to create so many cool, fun variations," Marjan says. Once you learn how to perfect those styles, you can create more customized looks such as the milkmaid braid or a reverse-French ponytail. The possibilities are endless!
Tip No. 2: Always Prepare Your Hair for Action
Depending on whether you want casual, unkempt or polished braids, you'll want to prep hair with the appropriate products. "If you want clean, tight, and sleek braids I suggest prepping the hair with a primer, oil or serum, and a hairspray," Marjan says. "If you want more of a disheveled, messy finish, you will want to use the same products, but omit the oil," she adds.
If you're trying to mend damaged hair (or if you want to keep your strands protected from the sun), apply a leave-in conditioner before braiding for long-lasting hydration.
Tip No. 3: Choose Styles to Suit Your Length
Even the shortest bob haircuts can accommodate braids—you'll just want to choose the right styles and products for creating them. "On shorter hair, always use a firm-hold hair gel to control any short, spiky, or stray hairs that fall loose," Marjan recommends. "On longer hair, make sure you brush through the length of the hair as you braid to make sure the hair doesn't get tangled at the ends." If you have curly hair, try a wide-toothed comb instead of a brush.
Tip No. 5: Avoid This Common Mistake
Many people weave loose braids to minimize tension on their scalp. But the tighter you start the braid, the better the results. "Make sure to use enough tension with braiding to pull the hair tight to the scalp for a more flattering finish," Marjan says. "If you want a messier outcome, you can pull it apart with your fingers when you're done."