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My curly hair was a struggle growing up. My mom firmly believed that unbrushed hair was unacceptable, so I walked around for the first 13 years of life with a giant, frizzy triangle on the top of my head. In my teenage years, I started to learn the basics – like don’t brush it, started experimenting with different products, and learned the value of a good cut. But there were certain things that I never learned how to do and that all really came into focus when I was given a beautiful girl with LOTS of hair – and straight hair to boot!
My first couple attempts to braid Ella’s hair were unsuccessful, to say the least. I’m still learning how to take care of straight hair – how it falls flat quickly, how quickly it tangles, etc. My hair issues are the complete opposite.
While I’m on this mission to really learn how to take care of Ella’s hair, including how to style it, I’ve decided to also learn how to do curly hair. I’ve never learned how to even braid my own hair – so if I’m going to learn how to braid her hair, I may as well learn how to self-braid my own hair.
For me, it’s so much more than just braiding:
- it’s about taking care of myself in a holistic way
- giving myself permission to do “frivolous things” like spurge on a good hair cut (and an ombre wash)
- going outside of my comfort zone and asking friends to teach me how to do these “basic” things that I’m slightly embarrassed I don’t know
- feeling polished and not like the only two hairstyles I have are “ballerina bun” and “pony tail”
I’m lucky to have a good friend whose sister is a hair dresser, so my first step was to ask them for tips – for both my hair and Ella’s. I won’t share the whole list today, but I’m going to share what I learned about braiding curly hair. (So if that’s you, read on –> if not, here are some recipes and kids’ activities you might like instead.)
Braiding curly hair is about more than just knowing a technique. The way you care for and prep your hair is essential for the success of any curly hair style.
I decided to first try out a new hair care regime and was excited when Garnier said they were interested in helping me on my hair-braiding journey. I described my hair type and was encouraged to pick up the new Garnier Whole Blends with Coconut Water and Vanilla Milk from my local Wal-mart.
We grabbed the shampoo, conditioner, and (a first for me) the hair mask. There were different types for different hair styles (from repairing to smoothing to color care) but I was excited for the Garnier Whole Blends with Coconut Water and Vanilla Milk because it promised to quench and soften de-hydrated hair and smelled amazing. I strongly associate memories with scents, and it immediately reminded me of childhood vacations to Thailand & Hawaii and the coconut-vanilla cake I was treated to on my 5th birthday in Hawaii. (Which I’m totally going to have to try to recreate now…)
Ella was so excited to have a girly pampering night at my friend’s house so she could teach me how to braid hair! We grabbed snacks, new nail polish, and a new copy of The Little Mermaid because Ella insisted that she also wanted to learn how to curl hair with a fork.
How to Successfully Braid Curly Hair
I started off by indulging in the hair mask which was luckily not messy so I could still hang out and sit on my friend’s couch without fearing it was going to get everywhere! But the true test came afterwards, as we had to dry my hair and brush it to braid, and it didn’t turn into a mass of frizz!
I was really apprehensive about brushing my hair (as any curly girl would be) but I was assured that it is necessary to an even braid. You want your hair as smooth as possible, using hair masks, running a straightener through it quickly, etc. I didn’t even need any product to keep it smooth after the hair mask which my curly girls will know is impressive.
Once my hair was smooth and prepped, we got to work – here are the step-by-steps:
- First, brush your hair and make it as smooth as possible – using product or a straightener if needed
- Start off at the front of your hair (behind your bangs if you want them out) and section out that front “crown area” into three sections of hair
- Start doing a typical 3-piece braid, holding your hair tight to your head (avoid the temptation to pull up)
- After 2-3 full rounds of crossing each section over the other, incorporate a new section of hair (a “gather”) from one side of your hair into the bottom piece – which side of your head is determined by which side is closest to the bottom section when you do the gather – the other two sections should be held slightly to the opposite side.
- Do a full 3-section cross over (“intermittent gather”) before incorporating a new section of hair from the other side into the new bottom piece.
- Continue to follow this pattern of incorporating a new section from the side every full “braid of three sections”
- When you get to the bottom, secure with an elastic and then go over the hair to ensure that no sections are loose. You can secure some of those sections with bobby pins, but as you’re beginning it’s better to undo your work and re-do the braid, learning how to tighten and avoid those loose parts
I found that I didn’t need any holding products and my hair was smooth enough after the mask to not need any de-frizzing oils, but if you feel more secure with a spritz of hairspray – go for it! I find that’s something more suited to straight-haired girls because when curly-haired girls take their hair out of the braids, the holding products can create more styling issues than they originally helped.
I know for some people, those tips may seem really basic, but for me it’s empowering. No one has ever taken the time to explain braiding to me, and I only ever see tutorial videos with straight haired girls so I really had no basis to start from and am so excited to actually be able to braid now! It’s definitely going to take some practice (and arm muscle building) but I don’t feel clueless and frustrated anymore, which is a start.
I’m curious, are there any “basic beauty skills” that you struggle with or would like to learn? (Please tell me I’m not alone!)
I really enjoyed experimenting with the Garnier Whole Blends line – and you can discover your own blend here.