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A Beginner’s Guide to Solo French Braiding

I used to view French braids as highly complicated things. Throughout my childhood, only other people braided my hair, and I assumed that French braids would be too complicated for me to attempt independently.

Obviously, I thought wrong. French braiding your own hair is very, very easy! With just a little bit of practice, you can find yourself French braiding your hair without giving it so much as a second thought.

Getting Comfortable

As odd as this may sound, the biggest barrier getting between most gals and an ability to French braid their own hair is a lack of flexibility. The act of French braiding requires one to raise one's elbows in an unusual position, which, to the inflexible, may be quite uncomfortable.

Any initial discomfort can be easily remedied with a bit of stretching. Loosen up your shoulders and back muscles by bringing one elbow at a time up and behind your head and lightly pushing it until you feel a mild stretch. Doing this semi-regularly will make the French braiding position perfectly comfortable.

The Trick

What made French braiding finally click for me was the realization that one need simply transfer the braid-in-progress from one hand to the other as one works one's way down. Once you get the knack of doing this, you've got French braiding down.

How to Solo French Braid Your Hair

This is easy. You can TOTALLY do this. All you have to do is...

  1. Brush out your hair.
  2. Using your thumbs, draw the hair from your temples to the back of your crown into a small, top ponytail.
  3. Divide that ponytail into three pieces.
  4. Take one outside plait and move it to the center.
  5. Take the other outside plait, move it to the center, and finish the action by securing each plait in between your fingers of the hand on that side of your head.
  6. Now you have one free hand. Use that hand to draw hair from the top of your ear into the nearest outside plait, then flip that plait to the center of the braid while transferring the three plaits into that hand.
  7. With your other, now free hand, repeat the previous step with the other side of your head.
  8. For the next round of hair gathering, draw hair from just above the nape of your neck, and repeat the two previous steps.
  9. Finally, gather the hair at the very nape of your neck into one final plait and finish the braid.

That's it! If you want a tighter, finer French braid, just draw smaller sections of hair into each plait.

A Note on Music

The music in my hair braiding video (The Four Seasons - Winter by Vivaldi, performed by the US Air Force Band) is in the Public Domain. I got it from an awesome site called Musopen.

Practice Makes Perfect!

If you have never French braided your own hair before, keep in mind that it is going to look crappy the first couple of times.

What I recommend is practicing on your hair just before bed or when you wake up each morning. This seems to be a low stakes time to mess up hair, plus it gives you a moment to pause and concentrate on something very simple and straightforward (as opposed to the thousand and one details that are presently driving you to distraction), which can be very refreshing indeed.

Happy braiding!


ladeda on March 07, 2012:

Thank you for your French braiding encouragement! I typically feel like the drunk wombat when I try.

Linda Bilyeu from Orlando, FL on March 06, 2012:

I could french braid a barbie doll and my daughters hair, but don't never could french braid my own....mid-length and curly could be the reason why.

CassyLu1981 from Spring Lake, NC on March 06, 2012:

AWESOME! I've tried it a few times before but it never seemed to turn out right. Now I know how to do it the right way! Thanks :)

Tammy on March 05, 2012:

Great video! I have been French braiding my hair for years, but when it gets to a certain length, I have a hard time doing it without it becoming a tangled mess in the ends. Great job on your hair! I will pass this on to my siblings.

Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on March 05, 2012:

I have tried countless times to do this myself - I have always been able to put French braids in my daughters hair - but as you note - your arms get way too tired to hold in that awkward position while you try to figure out what the back of your head looks like. When I get done - it looks like a rats nest!

Never thought about using rubber bands! I think I can even dk this ore the instructions - I tried while I read through them - I think I can do one! Lol.

L.L. Woodard from Oklahoma City on March 05, 2012:

French braids are a nice look on any female, no matter their age. I'm going to give this a try on my granddaughter's hair.

Voted up and SHARED.

Marie Hurt from New Orleans, LA on March 05, 2012:

Useful and funny. I will give it a try. I am actually one of those few who have never had a french braid, so I will be moving on up in the world.

Arlene V. Poma on March 05, 2012:

I've got long, black hair down to my waist AND a cowlick located on the back of my head. This Hub is so cool because I can play the video over and over again until I get it right. The two windows help a lot. Thank you! Once I master this, tangled hair goes out the window while I'm out and about. Bookmarked, voted up and everything else. I am tickled to death about learning to do French braids this way.

Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on March 05, 2012:

Wow! I am totally impressed! My daughter learned how to French braid when she was back in high school. I think she can, and has done her own hair, and I think she did mine once for me, many years ago. However, I prefer my hair in a short Pixie cut, so it's rare that there's enough to braid. I know my kiddo also still uses the technique on HER girls' hair....It is a very tidy look.

But hey, Simone--I'm soooooooooo impressed with your video! Very clean and clear, and that picture-in-picture trick, oh, my! I'd not have a clue how to accomplish that, so no, your video is NOT a "mess," it's very professionally done.

Voted up across the board and shared.

Maggie Griess from Ontario, Canada on March 05, 2012:

Awesome. I always wanted to know how to do this. I bet mine will look awful, but hopefully after the ten thousandth time it might work...lol. Cute video!

Lela from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on March 02, 2012:

If I didn't have crappy painful hands, I would totally try this! Heck, I might give it a go anyway. Love French braids!

Simone Haruko Smith (author) from San Francisco on March 02, 2012:

Thanks Wesman Todd Shaw! I appreciate that. The video is kind of a mess, but I sure am learning a lot! And dude, you should totally get your brother to give this a try. Just... DON'T GET THROWN!

Yikes! Sorry about the video troubles, Shanna11! Hmm.. do Videos on HubPages consistently not play for you? Your hair would look lovely in a French braid or French braids. I hope you do give it a go!

And hahaa, it really isn't much work at all, leroy64. And you're sharp! I totally added that distracting alternate view to cover up the picture frame. Heheheheeeee ^_^;;

Brian L. Powell from Dallas, Texas (Oak Cliff) on March 02, 2012:

It looks like a lot of work to me. Of course, I happen to like short hair on women; but, you seem to really rock the french braid.

I have seen some cooks who could use this skill to keep their hair out of my food.

I like the alternate distracting view; and, the way it covered up the crooked picture frame. Cool background, by the way.

Shanna from Utah on March 02, 2012:

The video, for whatever reason, stops after you say hello every time I try to play it. It's a bit amusing, but also sad, because I have plenty of hair, but have never learned how to french braid it.

The step-by-step instructions are great though and I shall attempt to french braid my hair! A very useful Hub!

Wesman Todd Shaw from Kaufman, Texas on March 02, 2012:

That would be me who voted "no, I don't have even enough hair to braid."

My brother does though, and ....well, he just might be into this! Thing is, if I were to present the idea in a less than adequate manner, he might pick me up and throw me....

This is really awesome Simone!!!!!!!!! The music, the picture in picture thingomajig!!!

You've upped your game Lady!

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