Crown braids are aptly named—they’re a type of French braid that wraps around the head, just above the forehead, in a half-moon shape (resembling a crown or tiara). And while they look a bit complicated, if you know how to do a basic French braid straight down your head, you can definitely master the crown braid, too. Whether your preference is tight and polished or messy and boho, crown braids are extremely versatile and work for virtually all hair types, densities, and textures. If you’re curious about how to create this style on your own, look no further.
Section Off the “Crown”
To get things started, you’ll want to section off the part of your hair that will actually be braided. Typically, a rule of thumb to follow is to use a rat tail comb and section just behind your ear, pulling the tail of the comb straight across the top of your head in a “C” shape until the comb reaches behind the opposite ear. For thinner, finer hair, you may want to section a bit deeper behind the ear (and the opposite for thicker hair). It all depends on how thick you want your braid to be.
Once you have the crown sectioned off, go ahead and tie off the rest of your hair so it doesn’t get in the way of the braiding process. To avoid leaving a dent in the hair, use clips or a silk scrunchie.
Sweep the Crown Section to Either Side
You can choose if you want your crown braid to sweep from left-to-right or vice versa. “What I want to do first is start brushing the hair into the direction that I want to braid,” says Lopez. “It’s just going to make life a little bit easier for me.” Do your best to brush out any bumps or knots in the hair and pull it taught. To help keep this piece in its side-swept position, Lopez recommends using a bit of Ouai Hair Oil ($28).
If your hair is clean, try adding a texturizing spray or pomade during this step instead of hair oil to give you better grip.
Start French Braiding at the Base
As with any braid, you’ll start this step by separating a small section of hair from the hair’s crown section. This is the piece that you’ll begin the braid with, so make sure it’s thick enough for you to separate it into three subsections. “For the first section that I braid with, I always start with a comb to create a nice, fresh, clean section,” says Lopez. Then, start braiding up and over your head, just above where your hairline begins along your forehead. Keep braiding until the braid reaches behind your opposite ear lobe.
Finish Off the Braid
As you start to approach your opposite ear, you’ll want to be sure to direct the braid behind the ear rather than in front. “As we near the end of the braid, you want to have the braid go back, not necessarily in front of the face,” says Lopez, noting that you may choose to leave some baby hairs or face-framing pieces out of the braid and in front of your ear if you’d like. Then you’ll finish out the braid by braiding straight down until you reach your ends. Secure the end of the braid with a clear elastic.
Loosen Up the Braid
Join the Braid With an Unbraided Section of Hair
Since the crown braid concept is to make it look like the braided section of hair ends at your earlobe, you’ll need to disguise the rest of the braid (the part that hangs off to the side off of your head). To do so, Lopez has a great trick that involves just securing the braid to a section of unbraided hair at the nape of the neck.
Start by taking down the back section of your hair (the part you tied away so it wouldn’t get away from the braid). Then, using a clear elastic, “Grab a little section of hair from your nape and join the end of the braid with [that unbraided section.” Then tie the braided and unbraided section together as close to the nape of your neck as you can. Lopez’s method is not only more effective at hiding the “extra” length of the braid but is also more secure than pinning the braid with bobby pins.
Add Some Finishing Touches
As a final step, Lopez recommends adding some dimension to the unbraided, free-flowing hair with a curling wand. First, prep the hair with Kenra Professional Platinum Dry Texture Spray ($22). “I’m going to spray it into the braid and then keep pinching and opening it up until you feel like you have a look you’re going for,” says Lopez. Then brush through the texturizing spray and (loosely) curl your hair with a one-inch curling wand, curling the face-framing pieces towards your face, which helps balance out the braid. Lopez notes that most people can get away with just curling the top sections of the hair—curling every single section of the hair can make this look a bit princess-y, but it’s all about your personal preference and what you want out of this look. Et voila!