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How to Do a Fishtail Braid: Step-by-Step Guide

Plus the best products to use for the job.

<p>Mediaphotos/Getty Images</p>

Mediaphotos/Getty Images

Believe it or not, fishtail braids date back to 430 BCE. The beautiful braids famously adorned the Caryatids, which were architectural columns sculpted to resemble a female. According to Paul Cucinello, a New York City-based celebrity stylist and co-founder of Cucinello Beauty, fishtail braids have an intricate design that looks like it would be extremely painstaking, but once you get the hang of it, it’s one of the easiest ways to style your hair.

Fishtail braids have made a big comeback all over social media because it’s one of the fastest braids to learn and one of the fastest ways to make your hair look fab without going to a stylist. “These types of braids look appropriate for any occasion, from bridal to runway to taking your dogs out for a strut,” says Cucinello. “They are easy to create and don’t have to look too ‘done’—they can be as neat or as messy as you want.” Plus, there are a ton of variations to add something extra to your look.

There are two instances where fishtail braids may not work. The first is that they might not be ideal for folks with short layers, or long enough hair to work with. Additionally, “fishtail braids might not be ideal for someone who likes a more conservative look or style,” explains Hana Chong, senior hairstylist at NYC THE TEAM Hair Salon. “The fishtail braid has more flair, so it’s not as traditional.”

Below, we asked both Cucinello and Chong for a step-by-step guide on how to nail the intimidating-looking fishtail braid, every time.

How to Create a Fishtail Braid

Step 1:

Add some volume powder or spray to your roots and the remainder of your hair. Divide your hair into two equal parts, either halved straight down the middle of your entire head or by splitting your ponytail in two. “Let’s call one side A, and the other side B,” suggests Cucinello.

Take a small section of hair from side A, following along the hairline. “Cross it over and add it to the side B, maintaining two separate sections at all times as you work your way down,” says Cucinello.

Step 2:

Now do the same thing on the opposite side. Grab a small section of hair from the opposite matching side B, following along the hairline. Cross it over and add it to the A section you started with, continuing to maintain two separate sections as you work on your braid.

Step 3:

Go back to your original side A. “Repeat your first step by taking another small section of hair from side A following along the hairline, cross it over and add it to the side B,” explains Cucinello.

Step 4:

Go back to side B. Grab another small section of hair from the opposite side B following along the hairline, cross it over and add it to the A section you started with.

Step 5:

Repeat the steps until you reach the end of the braid and have no hair left to cross over. When you get to the end of the braid, secure it with an elastic. “You can leave the braid as is, or use your fingers to gently pull apart the braid to make it fuller to your desire,” says Chong. “Pulling apart means taking the braid and going from side to side to add more space between the braid—this will create ‘messiness’ or a more natural braid. You can use pomade or gel to help keep the braid neat or messy.”

Best Products to Create Fishtail Braids

1. BLAX Clear Snag-Free Hair Elastics

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You can’t make a fishtail braid without elastics. Cucinello likes these from BLAX because they don’t snag, won’t really show on your braid, and don’t break, either.

2. Cricket Silkomb Pro-50 Fine Tooth Rattail Comb

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Using a rattail comb will help you section off your hair into “side A” and “side B.” You can also use this pick to loosen the braid once you have it securely in the elastics, for a more lived-in look.

3. Thick Volume Enhancing Scalp Treatment + Styling Gel by Cucinello Beauty

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According to Cucinello, fishtail braids don’t necessarily require much product, but are much easier to achieve if you have a little grit in your hair. This pick from Cucinello Beauty is perfect to add a bit of texture to your hair, pre-styling.

4. Lving Proof Full Dry Volume & Texture Spray

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This is another one of Cucinello’s favorites. It’s perfect to add some volume and texture to your fishtail braids, especially if you are going for a messier look.

5. Bumble & Bumble Spray De Mode Hairspray

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If you are going for a formal look or need every hair to stay in place, Cucinello likes this pick from Bumble & Bumble. “I’d suggest locking in your braid with some adjustable hold hair spray,” he says. 

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