How To Do a Side Braid or Side Bun

Pro tips from celebrity hairstylist Charles Baker Strahan.
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Michelle Villett
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Pro tips from celebrity hairstylist Charles Baker Strahan.
how-to-do-a-side-braid-or-updo

Have you ever tried to follow the instructions magazines like to give you for putting your hair in an updo? Yeah. It's next to impossible to follow them. (And I write the damn things!) We like to tell you it's SO EASY, but I've heard more than one hairdresser divulge that they leave out a bunch of steps for the sake of simplicity. And then things get chopped out because of word counts.

Sorry 'bout that.

Anyway, I'm here today to give you some instructions that really are idiot-proof. Last week, along with my friend S. from ELLE, I got to spend a whole hour with the formidable Charles Baker Strahan, celebrity hairstylist for Herbal Essences and probably one of the most talented guys I've met so far in this industry. Really! (I'm not sure if I'm supposed to divulge who his clients are, so just have a gander at his Wikipedia page here. Impressive, no?) We talked hair care, we talked colour, we talked highlights, and then... best of all... he showed us a bunch of styling tricks, including how to do a side braid or updo, that I'm feeling rather confident about replicating.

Keep reading to check out the how-tos. YES YOU CAN!

How to Do a Side Braid

1. Wash and condition your hair with the appropriate products for your hair type.

alexanderwang-side-braid

Side note: If you colour or highlight your hair blonde, you want to use products that HYDRATE. (Try Hello Hydration.) But if you colour your hair red or brunette, you want products specifically formulated to maintain COLOUR-TREATED hair. (Eg. Colour Me Happy.) The reason is because hydrating products can disperse the dye molecules and fade your colour faster. Did you know this? I didn't. Charles says finding this out is an "aha" moment for many people. Yup.

2. If you have long hair, lightly apply a split-end protecting product on your ends. (Eg. Long-Term Relationship Leave-In Split-End Protector.)

3. Apply a small amount of mousse (such as Tousle Me Softly Mousse) to damp or dry hair.

Charles' genius trick: he worked it into my roots with the pads of his fingers, vigorously moving them back and forth to create movement in the underneath layers of my hair. Honestly, he could have stopped here and my hair would have looked all Blake Lively-esque.

4. Blow hair dry, continuing with the pads-of-the-fingers trick. Don't use a brush.

If your hair is already dry, you can rough it up a bit by spraying your fingertips with hairspray (Body Envy Volumizing Hairspray) and then working it into the ends so they look "piece-y" and "frayed."

5. Working in sections (about 2 inches each, but don't make them too perfect), curl your hair with a medium-barreled curling iron.

Tip: don't clamp the iron down on the ends and then roll up. That can create creases. The best way to do it is to wrap the hair around the OUTSIDE of the curling iron, holding it in place for a few seconds to set.

Busted Image

6. Lightly run your fingers through your hair to tease and gently separate the curls. Spray with a volume-building hairspray.

Body Envy Volumizing Hairspray

7. Starting at one side, loosely braid your hair across the back of your head (working  pieces in as you move across, sort of like a sideways French braid). Secure it on the other side with a clear elastic band.

Tip: it's SUPPOSED to look messy and loose, so don't braid too tight. It's also a good idea,  if you part your hair to one side, to have the braid end on the same side as where your hair falls over one eye.

8. Spray again with hairspray, and you're done!

How to Do a Side Updo

If you want to wear your hair up, just follow steps 1-7 above. Then, instead of letting it hang loose, twist and pin the braid into a bun. Secure it with bobby pins (use two a time in a criss-cross shape to make it hold properly). Then spray with hairspray.

Updo Variation: Knots

This is what Charles did on my friend S. Instead of braiding the hair, he actually tied it into a series of knots. Yes! It looked really good. He did maybe five or six in total, and just working pieces in as he moved across the back of the head. Spray with hairspray.

One more thing you can do: use your bobby pins as a decoration, not just to hold your hair. Charles had some really great grey ones in his kit, and he put them all in a row at the back of S.'s hair. Pretty (and a bargain)!

So. Will you be trying the side braid or updo? I hope so! Let me know how these tips work for you.