The Fine Art of Fishtail Braiding


We all know the French braid, the waterfall braid, and the dutch braid, but have you tried the fishtail braid yet? It's the super easy and trendy hairstyle that looks a lot harder than it actually is.
Stylist Mckenzie Penhall and Global Artistic Ambassador of Redken Sam Villa agree with the sentiment (you can master it quickly and it looks gorgeous!) and shared a few tips and tricks below on how to create the perfect fishtail braid.

If you've got two hands and two strands of hair, you too can fishtail braid. Read on for a step-by-step guide from the professionals, products that can help create the look, and a few YouTube videos that will help along the way. You've got this.

Step-by-Step Fishtail Ponytail Braid Guide:

  1. Start with dry hair and pull it into a ponytail. Then separate the ponytail into two sections.
  2. Grab a third, smaller piece from the underside of the right section.
  3. Pull the smaller piece across the center of your ponytail toward the middle.
  4. Connect the smaller piece to the left section and tug tightly.
  5. Now switch to the left side and repeat steps two through four.
  6. Next, keep alternating sides. Hint:detangle hair with your fingers along the way to avoid tangles.
  7. Keep at it until you reach the tips of your hair. Yes, you are almost there.
  8. Once you reach the ends, secure with an elastic to make sure all the hard (and semi-confusing) work was not all in vain.
  9. This sounds counterintuitive, but loosen it up using your fingers for a sultry, messy boho look.
  10. Stare at yourself in the mirror and take a few minutes to appreciate the greatness of your fishtail braid.

Penhall also suggests “making your braid as tight as possible” to ensure your chic style doesn’t slip. “Once the right foundation is laid you can then pull it apart to loosen it. Then, use a finishing spray for all-day flexible hold and to make sure your braid stays in place.”

If you want to kick it up a notch or two, consider changing the direction of your braids for an inverted style. “Instead of moving your sections to the inside move each section to the outside for a different result,” explains Villa.

Or, if you want to pump up the volume Neven Radovic of Ian McCabe Studio suggests playing with the natural texture of your hair. “I find that curls, waves, some frizz, and flyaways help,” he explains. “When doing braids, working with flyaways to add a romantic and soft feel."

Below, five visual examples that bring my step-by-step to life:

The Easy Romantic, Boho Fishtail Braid

I’d recommend this tutorial for long, thick, straight hair. It demos three different methods for doing the same braid which is super helpful. And honestly, with over 2 million views to date, the masses agree.

The Messy Fishtail Ponytail

This tutorial offers a great demo of how to create a messy fishtail ponytail by way of clip-in hair extensions. It’s a nice spin on a classic style and oozes sex-appeal for date night.

The Sky High Fishtail Braid Ponytail

Naturalistas, I see you! The good news? This tutorial is heavy on sectioning and separation, perfect creating “mini” braids before the big kahuna. The downside? Ebony’s hair is really long, so you might have to hack it with extensions or a kanekalon ponytail.

Here’s another video to help:

The Halo Fishtail Braided Up-Do Tutorial

Love this option for those of us with shorter hair. This look was originally inspired by a look blogger Milabu saw on Reese Witherspoon.

The Funky Fishtail Braid on Curly Hair

Ok, remember when I said dry hair is best? That’s not necessarily the case with naturally curly hair. Using a spray bottle throughout the process will help you control your curls —and get the results you want.

Here’s another video that explains why:

Fishtail Braiding Essentials

SHINE BRIGHT Lightweight Finishing Shine Spray Hai Beauty Concepts $7.00 SHOP NOW Guts 10 Volumizing Spray Mousse Redken $19.50 SHOP NOW Signature Series Bamboo Paddle Brush Sam Villa $29.95 SHOP NOW Hold It Together: Snag-Free Elastics Sephora Collection $5.00 SHOP NOW

Janell M. Hickman Janell M Hickman is a writer and editor based in New York.

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