What's The Difference Between a Dutch Braid and a French Braid?

You'll probably be surprised.

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On busy days when life keeps you occupied and you're a couple of days past washday, a braid is an easy way to sweep your hair out of your face, all while keeping your strands protected from friction. But don't think you're only limited to pigtails or cornrows, Dutch and French braids are great options as well.

"They will always be trending," says Gabrielle Union's go-to hairstylist Larry Sims. "They are fun and easy to manage."

Susan Oludele, owner of Hair by Susy, agrees. "Artists like me and many other hairstylists are paving the hair industry by pushing a lot of the protective styles into the masses and consumers because we believe in natural hair, braids, and protective styles. We are celebrating braids and making them fun!"

Dutch and French braids are an excellent way for beginners to learn how to braid. To help you get started, we asked both artists to create an in-depth step-by-step guide on the difference between a Dutch braid and a French braid and how to achieve the two hairstyles on all hair textures.

Dutch Braid vs. French Braid: What's the Difference?

A braid is a braid — right? Wrong.

"A French braid is a three-piece section of hair braided together, with the pieces crossing over the middle section, from the crown of the head to the nape of your neck," explains Oludele. The braid looks more voluminous than a Dutch braid because it's raised off the scalp. "[In] a French braid you use hair strands over the middle section of the braid while Dutch braid uses hair strands under the middle section of the braid."

In the States, depending on what part of the country you are from, French braids and Dutch braids are differentiated by "overhand" or "underhand" braids.

How to French Braid

Sims shares a step-by-step guide to French braiding in four easy steps.

  1. Start by sectioning the hair into three.
  2. Cross the left section over the middle section.
  3. Keep feeding the hair one over the other inwardly.
  4. Secure the braid and you are good to go.

"[Do] not pull the edges too tight because this could cause traction alopecia," Sims advises — this goes for both French and Dutch braids.

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How to Dutch Braid

"Dutch braids look similar to cornrows and are braided by crossing the hair under each section of hair your fingers have picked up," explains Sims. He shares how to create a Dutch braid below.

  1. Start by sectioning the hair into three.
  2. Cross the left section under the middle section.
  3. Grab hair from the right and the right section crosses under the middle section.
  4. Gather hair from left to right as you go along.
  5. Secure the braid to your liking.

Any Tips for Styling My Braids?

You can get creative now that you know how to differentiate and create each braid. Depending on your hair texture, you may want to lay your edges or leave them as is.

"Adding accessories to your braids like pearls, flowers, or jewelry can spruce up [the] look," says Sims. Some people enjoy rocking two braids, while one loose French braid can give off an effortless vibe.

And after all your hard work, be sure to protect the hair. "To maintain the hairstyle, wrap your hair before laying down on it and try not to cause friction against your braids with hats or rough handling to cut down on frizz," states Sims.

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