The Different Types of Braiding Techniques

Cosmetologist braiding client's hair

Braids are incredibly diverse. There are a lot of different braiding techniques to choose from. Most types of braids can be formal or casual. The visual effect your hairstyle has will depend on other areas of your style. Your hair is only a part of your fashion. The important thing is to familiarize yourself with different ways to style whatever braiding technique you want to use so that it fits into whatever event you are going to. You may choose to use the same braiding technique for a casual day of errands as you do for a black-tie event. It all depends on how you construct your overall look and how knowledgeable you are about the braiding technique you want to use.

There are a lot of different things that factor into choosing braiding techniques. Hair texture, length, volume and strength all play a significant part in determining what braiding technique will look best on you. Another consideration is whether or not you are able to execute the braiding technique yourself of if you would need to bring in a professional to help you. The more elaborate and involved the braiding technique is the more likely you will need assistance from someone trained in braiding.

Classic 3-Strand Braid

This one is great for beginners and easy enough for even younger children to execute. It is achieved by sectioning the desired amount of hair into three sections. Then you alternate one section over the other until you have reached the end of the hair. As with nearly all braids, you tie it off at the end.

French/Dutch Braids

These both follow the basic 3-strand alternating braiding technique used in a classic braid except that you begin at the scalp rather than at the base of the head. You divide hair into three sections, however with these braiding techniques you add hair to each section as you begin to braid down/across the head. This weaves the braid onto your head rather than letting it dangle. French braids alternate the layered strands over one another while the Dutch braid technique alternates them under each other.

Fishtail Braid

This particular braiding technique is simple, but it is also tedious and can be time consuming. It begins with the desired amount of hair divided into two sections. A very small piece is taken from underneath one of the two sections and is pulled across the center to the opposing section. Then you pull tight and repeat. All of the little parts can be difficult to keep track of, but the romantic end result is worth the wait.

Plait Braids

Plait braids follow the same basic alternating principle of a classic 3-strand braid. The only difference is that with a plait braid you are adding more strands. This makes it far more difficult to remember which strand is on top. Using four or five strands is not uncommon but you could theoretically use as many strands as your hair length and attention span will allow. Once you have mastered simple plaiting techniques you can begin to expand into plaiting designs into your braids.

Rope Braid

This braid style could also be classified as a twist because it only uses two strands of hair. You take each of the two sections and individually twist them in opposite directions (one clockwise, one counterclockwise). Then you twist them together and tie the end. The two strands being individually twisted before twisting them together will create the amount of tension you will need to keep the braid in place.

Lace Braid

A lace braid employs the same basic principle as a French braid but instead of pulling the braid tight to the scalp you focus on weaving the ends of your hair together. This is a perfect braid for those struggling to grow out front layers or bangs because it transitionally weaves the ends into one another (just like lace trim).

Ladder Braid

This braiding technique can be achieved in a couple of different ways. Some ladder braids weave strands of hair between two braids while other ladder braids weave strands of hair from one side of a single braid to the other. The first creates a visually obvious ‘hair ladder’ with each of the two braids acting as the posts and the woven strands appearing as the rungs. The second ladder braid technique is used more often as a hair wrapping method. For example, a ladder braid might wrap a ponytail by weaving strands of hair from one side of the small anchor braid, pulling it around the gathered ponytail hair and then weaving it back into the other side of the braid. This creates a sort of loop-ladder effect.

Lattice Braid

This method uses multiple strands of hair going in both horizontal and vertical directions to create a basket-woven lattice look across your whole head. This is a more advanced method and may even require some assistance because of its many parts and directions. Not being able to see the back of your head to make sure the strands or small braids you are using for the lattice are straight or secure makes this a difficult solo braiding technique for most.

Crochet Braids

These aren’t the most glamorous braids in hair styling. In fact, the purpose of crochet braids is to remain completely hidden. They are, however, an important part of hair culture and are mentioned a lot. Crochet braids are the tiny braids used to anchor hair extensions for a more secure, natural looking hair flow. They are very tiny, extremely time consuming and require a professional to ensure a successful, secure and stylish weave is achieved.

Single Braids

This is when all of your hair is gathered into a single braid. This option is typically used by those with long, soft hair. The braid usually hangs over the shoulder or down the back. However, some single braids can also be around the head to create a halo or ‘milkmaid’ style look.

Multiple Braids

Multiple braid style choices refer to dividing the entirety of your hair into multiple braids. It can be many tiny cornrow braids, a head full of box braids or a simple triple or quadruple French braid look. Many multiple braid styles require professional expertise because they involve your whole head of hair. They can be pinned up and styled different ways, but they can also be worn down and look fabulous. It just depends on which of the braiding techniques you decide you want to use. Multiple braids can also offer a good amount of hair protection and can usually be worn for longer periods of time.

Partial Braids

Partial braids stop before they run the full length of the hair used to create them. They are usually used transitionally as part of a grander hair styling idea. It could be small French braids that end before the remaining hair is gathered into a chic ponytail. It could also be that you’ve chosen to incorporate a lace braid technique into your look that uses the ends of your hair leaves the upward portions flowing loosely. Either way, partial braids use only a part of the hair’s length and may only use a very small area of hair.

Accent Braids

These are small braids that accent or accessorize a hairstyle. Small accent braids can be pinned, spiraled, curled or left loose to add attractive detail to a myriad of different hairstyles.

Braid Decoration

Weaving or clipping decorations into your braid can be a colorful way to express your style or a fascinating way to dress up an otherwise boring braid. Things like colorful string, strands of beads and even certain types of chain (that don’t easily snag or break hair) can add to a strand of your braid to give it a fun pattern of detail. You can also fasten charms and trinkets at various points in the braid to add more sporadic and whimsical details. While this isn’t a braiding technique, per se, it is a braiding trend that is worth mentioning and can take your braid from ordinary to show-stopping.

Build Your Braiding Skills

Once you have mastered a braiding technique you can move on to conquer the next one that catches your eye. You will get better and better the more you practice. Then you can start to combine all the different braids you’ve learned to create new innovative looks. Once you are comfortable with a braiding technique you can also experiment with the directional flow of your braids and try styling them and pinning them different ways. Your level of experience will determine how far your braiding can go, and some experience requires special preparation and education.

Whether you are a novice at braiding, looking to master some more advanced techniques or moving in the direction of hair professional, braiding is a great way to change your look in a temporary way. Braiding also allows you a lot of creative freedom and imaginative options when it comes to styling hair of all types. Braiding is an art form, and like any art form it is an expression. It’s up to you how you express yourself.

Want to Learn More?

Did learning about the different types of braiding techniques interest you? Need to get your undergraduate certificate in cosmetology? At Minnesota School of Cosmetology, we are dedicated to helping our Cosmetology program students develop a solid foundation and a flair for style through hands-on training in basic and advanced industry techniques. You will learn how to cut, color and style hair, give manicures and pedicures, provide spa treatments and perform various skin care techniques from industry-experienced instructors in a professional salon setting. We keep our class sizes small to make sure you get the individualized instruction you need and attention you deserve. You will graduate with everything you need to be a versatile artist in an exciting industry, including a cosmetology diploma from a respected college.

Contact us today to learn more about becoming a cosmetologist and starting a rewarding career in the beauty industry.

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