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Smooth Braids

One thing I've learned while working at Renaissance festivals, where parents bring their children (who aren't always willing) to get their hair braided:

If the father says, "Make sure to pull her hair really tight," he's joking.

If the mother says, "Pull her hair really tight so it stays for a long time," she's not.

This horrifies me, since you do not - let me repeat, do NOT - have to pull hair tight to make a tight-looking braid.  Pulling the hair tight will not improve the look of the braid.  It will damage the hair, give the wearer a headache, and possibly turn them off to braids forever.  This is a Bad Thing.

So, how do you make a smooth, tight-looking braid?  Skill and technique gained by practice.  Here are some tips to keep in mind as you braid.

  • Comb the dry hair smooth before starting.  Braiding wet hair damages the hair, and makes it harder to get it to lay smooth.  The fact that it sticks together so that there are fewer wispies also makes it more difficult to separate and fold neatly in different directions.

  • Pull the hair gently snug as you braid.

  • Fold over the strands as high on the braid as possible (while still staying at the crossing point).

  • Hold the hair close to the most recent cross-over to keep the folds in place.

  • Choose your sections of hair.  If you part a section to add to the strand and it's too big or too small - re-part the hair for a smaller/bigger section.  

  • Remember that you are not racing against the clock, and there is nothing you can't redo if you don't like it.

  • Make sure the hair - strands and new sections alike - are completely separated before crossing over.  If hair is long enough, it will braid itself together at the bottom.  Simply comb out the tangle or uninvited braid with your hand every few times you cross over, or as necessary.

  • Comb the hair with your hand as you go.  If you see hair bunching up in places, simply hold the whole braid in one hand while you comb the loose hair with the other.

  • Use hair gel, if you like.  I use clear hair gel with aloe vera.  It has the wonderful property of making rough hair easier to work with and smooth hair easier to hold onto - while keeping down wispies!

  • Never fight the braid.  The braid will win.  If you're getting frustrated, go away, have fun, and try again later.  You cannot make hair do what you want if you're trying to dominate it.

 

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All information on this site is copyright Mary Bertke 2000 - 2006 except where noted.

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