We Tried It: Braids Three Ways

Braid season is in full swing, so we decided to get on the plait train trying everything from Viking-inspired cornrows to the biggest braided crown, pretty much ever. Here’s what we learned.

Who Tried It: Adeline Duff, Style & Beauty Intern
What I Tried: Cornrows
Why I Did It: I truly love braids, especially tiny ones — but the fierce shield maiden Lagertha on the History Channel show Vikings had a little, OK a lot, to do with this experiment, too.
Level of Difficulty: 1, if that. Being the braidee, all I had to do was sit in a chair for 10, maybe 15 minutes.

I decided to do try out this look on a whim after moving not too far from Harlem, which is home to dozens and dozens of braiding salons. I walked into Pretty Lady Hair Braiding on 109th St. and was warmly welcomed by a group of braiding pros. I showed them a picture of one of my favorite Lagertha looks and in less than 15 minutes (with minimal tugging and pulling, my stylist was a master at her craft), my cornrows were complete.

But then came the downside. My stylist warned me, a daily hair washer, that I couldn’t get the braids wet or they’d be ruined. Considering they had the potential to last at least three days, I tried to accept the challenge (“Hey, if Lagertha can go days without a wash, so can I,” I thought). Unfortunately two days later, my loose hair now limp, I enlisted my boyfriend to help me wash around the braids. The task involved me sticking my head in the kitchen sink and having him cover my cornrows with his hands. Basically, it was comedic gold, but with the majority of my head now squeaky clean I was able to keep the braids in three more days.

Verdict: If you’re into taking risks with your hair, or if you’re really bad at doing your own hair, go for it. I loved that I was able to get up every day, skip extensive styling, and know that my hair would look awesome (and stay that way) all day. This style also amps up any outfit you’re wearing, so I felt like I could dress super casually and still look “done up.” If you can deal with the very minor cons (my hair wasn’t at all damaged, but there was some slight pink irritation on my scalp), get yourself to your nearest braiding salon and change up your look! Maybe I’ll see you there.

Who Tried It: Jackie Fields, Beauty Editor
What I tried: Twists
Why I Did Tt: My summer schedule is throwing a wrench in my hours long hair care routine, so I needed an easy solution
Level of difficulty: 5, there is some post-braid maintenance!

In 2013, inspired by the 20 year anniversary of Poetic Justice and my love of Janet Jackson, I gave box braids a go for the first time since I was a teen. The style allowed me to give my natural hair a rest (I had a nasty habit of pulling out knots) and I have to say, the all those endless braids really kept my neck warm in winter (long-hair girls, I get it now). Fast forward to spring 2015, my coils, much lengthier, needed another break. Actually, I needed a break from the pre-treating, co-washing, twisting, and everything else it takes to care for my hair.

So I headed to downtown Brooklyn for my new look. This time, instead of single braids, I switched things up with twists. After four hours, my stylist had single-handedly given me 115 (!) individual “braids” — some over 2-ft. long. And even better than my amazing new do was the price — 150 bucks! But I’m gonna be real: a few hours after finishing, things I take for granted, like emoting by way of moving my forehead, were simply not happening. Then the headache of the decade set in. Simply put, my braids were too tight. So I spritzed my scalp with Caudalie’s Beauty Elixir and gently massaged Epicuren aloe gel on it and in a few days they’d loosened up and it’s been all compliments since!

Verdict: Despite the 48-hour headache, I think I was destined for this particular style. I’ll surely have them in for six weeks (translation: one festival, two weddings and three trips, one international) and to not have to worry about my hair (and not having to pack all my hair products) is worth any pain.

Who Tried It: Brittany Talarico, Style News Editor
What I tried: The Crown Plait, 2.0
Why I Did Tt: I just got fresh highlights (thanks to the colorists at Rita Hazan) and am in search of endless ways to show them off
Level of difficulty: 1 (when you’re getting it done by a pro!)

I’ve always had long hair (read: I can do a fishtail in my sleep). But summer — and festival season — always puts me in the mood for a plait. Enter Honey Artists’ Nathan Rosenkranz, who stopped by the PEOPLE office for a tutorial on warm weather hair styles. Believe it or not, he did this in less than five minutes, starting with an extreme side part and braiding from the left side of my head clockwise. Nathan made it a point to tell me how thankful he was to be working on second-day hair (slightly dirty hair gives more grip). But even if my hair had been freshly washed, some dry shampoo would have done the texture trick. Immediately after he secured the look with a few bobby pins, it was selfie time.

Verdict: This is what friends are for!

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