How to French braid your own hair? A Step-By-Step Guide

Have you ever admired someone’s beautiful, intricate French braid hairstyle and wished you could do the same for your own hair? As fabulous as French braids may look, many of us find them intimidating to try on our own. But I am here to tell you that with some practice and patience, you can totally french braid your own hair!

I will walk you through the entire process step-by-step, from understanding the basic techniques to styling beautiful variations like French braids and pigtails. By the end, you will have the knowledge and confidence to create gorgeous French braids in your hair at any time.

What is a French braid?

A french braid is a type of three-strand braid that incorporates additional hair as it progresses down the head. The result is a braid that appears to elegantly “weave” into the hairstyle rather than sit on top. This dynamic look has made french braiding an iconic hairstyle over the years.

While French braids may seem complicated at first, they simply build upon a basic three-strand braiding method. Once you understand those fundamentals, it becomes much easier to French braid your own hair in different styles.

French Braiding Basics

Before we dive into specifics, let’s analyze some key terms and concepts for French braiding:

  • Sections: Dividing your hair into three equal sections is the basis of any basic braid or french braid. Make sure to brush out any major tangles first.
  • Strands: the three separated pieces of hair that cross over each other to form the braid.
  • Partings: Creating a clean part down the middle of your head helps keep sections neat, even for french braiding.
  • Tension: Holding the strands taut as you braid prevents loose, messy braids. But do not pull too tight, either.
  • Incorporating hair is the key technique that makes a French braid stand out. You will cross thin wisps of hair over into the braid as you progress.

Benefits of French Braiding Your Hair

Here are some of the key benefits of French braiding:

  • Achieves an intricate, impressive woven effect
  • A classic and feminine hairstyle that is always in style
  • Secures hair neatly off the face and neck
  • Long-lasting style that keeps hair contained
  • Versatile for different occasions, from everyday to formal events
  • A practical protective style that prevents breakage

What You Need To French Braid Your Hair

Before French braiding your hair, make sure you have the right tools and products to make the process easier and optimize results:


Use a natural bristle brush or detangling brush to smooth out knots and tangles before braiding. This minimizes frizz and breakage.

Hair Clips

Use clips to section off the hair you aren’t working with. This keeps the working area neat and manageable.

Hair Ties

Clear elastic bands are perfect for securing the ends of braids neatly.

Leave-In Conditioner or Hair Butter (Optional)

Applying a leave-in conditioner or hair butter makes textured, curly, or coily hair slicker and easier to grip while braiding.

Dry Shampoo (Optional)

Spraying dry shampoo at the roots adds texture and grip for braiding slippery straight or fine hair.

Straightening Iron (Optional)

Smoothing and straightening very curly or coily hair with a flat iron can help achieve neater, tighter French braids.

How To French Braid Your Own Hair

DIY French Braids

Follow these step-by-step instructions to master French braiding your own hair:

Step 1: Prep Your Hair

Start by thoroughly detangling damp or dry hair with a brush to remove knots, tangles, and shed hair. Use a comb to evenly distribute any leave-in treatments or styling products, from roots to ends.

For a wet, glossy French braid, apply gel through strands and allow to dry slightly before braiding.

Step 2: Part Your Hair

Create a straight parting where you want the braid to start. For pigtail braids, part down the middle. For multiple braids, create multiple straight parts. For a French braid ponytail, braid hair from the top of your head without a part.

Avoid zig-zag or uneven parts to keep braids neat and even.

Step 3: Start Braiding

To French braid pigtails:

  1. Start at the crown and separate a small section of hair above one ear into three equal strands.
  2. Cross the right strand over the middle strand.
  3. Then cross the left strand over the new middle strand.
  4. Take a small section of hair from the right side of your head and add it to the right strand.
  5. Keep adding hair as you braid down from the crown towards the nape of the neck.
  6. Finish with a regular braid down the length of the hair.

To French braid a ponytail:

  1. Start at the very top of your head and separate a small section into three pieces.
  2. Cross the strands over each other 1–2 times.
  3. As you braid, keep adding small sections of hair from the sides to incorporate into the braid.
  4. Braid normally down the length of the hair.

Step 4: Finish and Set Your Braids

Mist hair with strong hold hairspray to keep braids locked in place all day or night. For extra polish, apply a pea-sized amount of anti-frizz serum or hair wax to your hands and sweep over braids to smooth flyaways.

Use bobby pins to neatly secure any short, loose strands at the ends of braids.

Tips for French Braiding Success

  • Practice patiently! French braiding is a skill that takes time to master.
  • Work in front of a mirror, and use close-up magnification mirrors to see what you’re doing.
  • Start with damp hair for better grip and control.
  • Add styling creams or oils to make your hair more slippery.
  • Don’t pull too tight. Braid snugly but not painfully.
  • Keep arms relaxed and elbows lowered to gain dexterity.
  • For double French braids, braid one side at a time.

French Braid Styles to Try on Yourself

Once you have mastered the standard French braiding technique on your own hair, there are so many gorgeous styles you can create. Some easy options include:

French Braid Pigtails

Part clean hair down the middle, then french braid each side tightly into a pigtail. Fun and cute for everyday wear!

Inverted French Braid

Works well on shorter hair. Flip the head upside down to gather back hair up top, then french braid downwards toward the neck.

Fall Loose Fall Braid

Incorporate loose hair intentionally for an elegantly undone French braid. Leave 1-inch sections out along one side for a pretty finish.

French-braided crown

Crown a stunning updo by French braiding hair near the hairline on both sides, pinning braids together at the back of the head.

French-braided Braided hawk

French braid hair along two sides toward the middle, then pin up ends loosely with a textured faux hawk shape.

Common French Braiding FAQs

Here are answers to some frequently asked questions about french braiding your own hair:

Is it difficult to French braid your own hair?

It can be tricky in the very beginning since you have to work by feel at the back of your head. But it gets much simpler with 1-2 weeks of daily practice as your hands learn the muscle memory patterns.

Should you braid wet or dry hair?

Either works, but wet hair tends to be slippery and can lose texture. Blow drying with some volume first helps grab strands better. Use styling products to texturize damp hai if braiding before fully drying.

How long does French braiding your hair take?

When just starting, it may take 15-30 minutes to achieve a basic full french braid. But the speed improves dramatically with consistent practice. Eventually you can french braid your hair in 5 minutes or less!

Is my hair long enough to french braid?

Your hair should be at least chin or shoulder length before there is sufficient length to begin a french braid. But creative partial styles like french braided crowns work on shorter hair too. Add extensions if needed.

Do I need special tools for French braiding?

No specialty tools required! You can use combs, clips and hair ties as needed to section off hair. Some people prefer the control of a rat tail comb for pulling back tight sections.


As you can see, the basics of French braiding your own hair are very approachable with a step-by-step tutorial and a little perseverance through the initial learning curve. Before you know it, you will be able to whip up gorgeous, intricate braided styles like a pro!

So grab a mirror, take your time to practice, and have fun seeing just how fabulous your hair can look when you french braid it yourself. The sense of satisfaction and confidence from learning this skill will be so empowering. Now get creative, unleashing all sorts of gorgeous French braided hairstyles that express your personal flair!

With the right tools and step-by-step technique, you can master French braiding your hair. So grab your brush and hair ties and start braiding and saving today!

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