Mastering a Pinterest-worthy braid is no easy feat. If you’ve followed a number of "simple" tutorials that turned out to be anything but, you’re not alone. Yet the only way to overcome weak braiding skills is a whole lot of practice. We turned to Antonio Velotta, Alterna Haircare Global House of Experts Stylist for a set of genius pro-tips that will guide even the most hapless braiders to the perfect plait every time.
1. Mind Your Part
When it comes to parting your hair for a braided style, Velotta says that it’s best to stick with what you know. In other words, let your part fall naturally. So how exactly do you do this? “To find the best part, you just want to brush all your hair back, and let it fall down into the parting where it feels natural,” Velotta says.
2. Don’t Forget to Add Texture
The next step in creating any type of braid is making sure that the hair has enough grip so that sections won’t slip and slide as you weave them together. Velotta recommends prepping the hair with two shots of a texturizing spray like Alterna Haircare Caviar Anti-Aging Perfect Texture Finishing Spray ($28; sephora.com) to add just the right amount of grit.
3. Take Some Shortcuts
Don't expect to go from zero to one-hundred on your first try at braiding. If you love an intricate plait like the one Chrissy Teigen wore to the 2016 Oscars (photo at top), there’s an effortless way to fake your skill level—and still achieve the desired look. Velotta suggests first braiding as many small sections as you can, and then working all those braids together before pinning into place. “It will give it this really intricate braid look, but it’s actually super easy,” he says.
4. The Tighter the Better
Similar to curling your hair, if you’re going for a perfectly undone braid, it’s better to start off by twisting the hair into a slightly tighter plait so it won’t completely unravel by midday. “When a looser braid unravels it can look way too messy,” points out Velotta. “It’s better to do it tighter from the get-go and then when you’re finished, loosen it with your fingertips as desired. Start from the scalp and work your way down to the ends. If you do it too loose from the beginning, chances are it will become too unraveled by the end of the day.”
To keep your braid from looking unintentionally messy, or if you’ve pulled out a little too much hair, Velotta suggests going over it with a lightweight, non-greasy finishing cream like Alterna Haircare Caviar CC Cream for Hair 10-in-1 Complete Correction Extra Hold ($25; sephora.com) to set the strands back in place.
5. Consider the Wet Braid
If you’re partial to a clean and classic three-section plait, styling your braid on towel-dried hair after a shower can be an easy option. “Wet braids are so much better to hold and the hair becomes tighter when it's wet, which makes it easier to achieve this style,” Velotta explains. “I would recommend doing a wet braid in the summertime, or if you want a super tight braid that’s going to last throughout the day, wet is definitely the way to go.”
He also points out that braiding wet hair will prevent flyaways because the braid will dry into shape. If you do end up with flyways, two quick fixes are popping a few invisible bobby pins to help secure the pieces into the plait, or using a matte texturizer like Sebastian Craft Clay Remoldable Matte Texturizer ($16; drugstore.com), a clay-like product with strong grit that holds hair in place without adding unwanted shine or grease.
6. Practice Makes the Perfect Plait
Some of us are more naturally gifted than others when it comes to braiding, but almost no one will get the knack of it right away. Velotta recommends just going with the feel of what you’re doing instead of relying on a mirror. “Some people can do [braids] with their eyes closed and they just have the feel,” he says. “While I do think some people actually need a three-way mirror just so they can see the route that they’re taking. Generally I would suggest going with the feel because the mirror might be distracting and confusing.”