The Basics of Braids: Part 3, Two-Ponytail Braids

If you've got long hair, you know the daily struggle of trying to keep it in check. And, with autumn on the horizon, we're going to start to see more of those drizzly, grey days that love to ruin our up-do's. So, on those rainy days when even a straightener won't keep away the frizz, why not try a braid? Not only do they look cute and take a few minutes to do, but they keep that damp air away so you won't end the day wondering where your hard work went.

This is the third in a short series I'm calling "The Basics of Braids," posts all about different types of braids, how to customize them, tips, tricks, and more. This is part three: Two-Ponytail braids, aka fancier braids that start with two ponytails, and use multiple hair ties/elastics. Each will take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes. For more traditional three-strand braids, check out part one, and for more special but easy braids, check out part two.

The Right Ingredients

  1. Hair Ties -- I recommend the small, clear, plastic ones you can find at most beauty supply stores or your local pharmacy. They're relatively cheap, nearly invisible, and the size of your pinkie finger, so you won't end up with a thick bump at the bottom of your  braid.

  2. Bobby Pins -- you don't realize how much of a lifesaver these are until you run out. Highly recommended for anyone who struggles with fly-aways... and everyone else. Seriously, they're haircare gold.

  3. Holder Product -- aka something to lock in your look. Hair clay, gel, mousse, putty, hairspray, etc. There's pro's and con's to each (an article for another time) but you know what's best for your hair. This one's optional, but highly recommended so the braid stays perfect all day.

  4. Hair Pins/Jewelry -- to customize your look, think about getting some cute accessories. You can hide pins in the braid to make it look like you have diamonds dotting your hair, weave gold/silver chains or ribbons in it, and more.

  5. Brush and/or comb -- I think this one goes without saying.

Now, let’s get to the fun part!

The Fishtail Braid

Probably the most famous of the ponytail braids, possibly because it’s a little easier and uses the least hair ties of them all. First, split your hair into two ponytails, using an elastic or hair tie. Then, starting with the right ponytail, take a small section of hair from the side closest to your ear, and cross it over to the inner side of the left braid. Continue with the other side, and repeat until the braid is complete. Tie it off with an elastic or hair tie.

PERSONALIZED TIPS: I highly, highly recommend using a rubber band or cheap elastic to make the first two ponytails up top. That way, once the braid is complete, you can (carefully!) use a scissor to cut them off once the braid is complete without wasting an expensive, reusable hair tie. If you don’t want to do this but still don’t like the look of a hair tie at the top of your braid, you can use a variety of clips or barrettes to cover them. This would also be a perfect time to use a clear ones I mentioned above, as it will be much less noticeable.

The Rope Braid

This one’s less known than the fishtail braid, but no less stylish. First, use a hair tie or elastic to make a high ponytail, either at or above nose height. Separate the ponytail into two sections, then twist these two around each other, clockwise or counterclockwise. Once you’re nearing the bottom, split these two sections into four and braid them into each other, outer right strand to the middle on the left side, then outer left strand to the middle of the left side. Quickly tie the hair with another hair tie or elastic. For a tighter look, put a few bobby pins through the middle of the hair at different parts of the braid. Angle them as vertically as possible so they don’t stick out of the other side.

PERSONALIZED TIPS: For this look, I recommend using a hair tie over an elastic, especially on top. For the bottom hair tie, I recommend using one that’s about the side of your pinkie finger (they sell these very cheap at most drugstores and beauty supply stores if you don’t already own one). Scrunchies are also a fun look, but always put them over a regular hair tie or elastic or the braid won’t hold! This is also a good look to use a little hairspray or gel if you want to last a long time.

The Stitch Braid

For those with thinner hair that want a little more volume in their braid, this one is perfect! Tie your hair back into two high ponytails; make them as high up as possible on the back of the head. A good rule of thumb is to go as close to the part as possible without actually covering it. Divide the first ponytail into two, then move the section closest to the ear all the way over to the other side so the second ponytail is in between these two halves. Tie this back with another hair tie or elastic. Then, grab another elastic and gather some hair in the lower layer; tie it back with the elastic so it’s entirely below the top layer of hair. Separate the second ponytail you made at the beginning into two sections, and lift the third, lower ponytail between these two strands so now it’s on top. Tie this stitch back with another elastic. Go back to the first ponytail you made at the beginning, then repeat this process until you run out of hair--you should continue to use elastics after each stitch.

PERSONALIZED TIPS: You should use the smallest elastic possible on each stitch so there’s no bump below the braid. I recommend clear ones, especially on blonder hair where the color could bleed through, but, in general, the braids will hide the elastics so it’s not the end of the world if you use a colored one. I also recommend avoiding clips, barrettes, or bobby pins in the braid itself, as this braid is more fragile than others and every time you remove a clip you could create fly-aways. This look should almost definitely have some hairspray in it to make it last, but I discourage using gel, mousse, or any other holding product that isn’t a spray, as the application can also create fly-aways.

The Knot Braid

It doesn’t actually create knots in your hair, I promise! Separate the hair into two ponytails, but not left and right--make one with the lower section of hair and the second with the upper. Separate the lower braid into three sections, and the upper into two. Pull the lower ponytail’s middle section forward so it becomes the middle braid of the upper ponytail. Then, take the two original halves of the upper ponytail and move all the way down so it’s below all three sections of the formerly lower ponytail. Lock it in with an elastic, then separate this ponytail into two sections, upper and lower, and tie those two halves back with one elastic each. Repeat the steps until you run out of hair.

PERSONALIZED TIPS: You absolutely must use a small elastic for this look, either clear or matching the color of your hair--elastic, not a hair tie. The thickness of any hair tie will create bumps that bleed through. Also, be careful not to make each stitch too tight or your hair may tangle and knot when you undo the braid. This one’s a pretty strong hold, so it’s great for long days.

Stay tuned for more!

Come Through, Growth!

By:Melody Rose