In Africa and many other parts of the world, hair braiding techniques have been handed down from generation to generation. Young children sit patiently while their mothers, aunts or older sisters braid cornrows or other ethnic hairstyles. Later, these same children can be found practicing braided hairstyles on younger siblings or playmates.
Perhaps you’ve grown up in an entirely different environment, however, and you’ve never had the opportunity to learn hair braiding skills by osmosis. It’s never too late to learn! If you’re interested in learning hair braiding, either African braiding or European plaiting, these are the essentials you should expect from a good teacher or course:
Your hair braiding course should cover both natural hair care and the basics of chemically processed hair – such as texturized and relaxed hair. This should also include instructions about how to treat and condition hair prior to braiding.
You will need clear instruction on the supplies you should have on hand for hair braiding – the tools of the trade, so to speak – along with explanations about how to use your supplies in braiding.
Your hair braiding instructor should elaborate not only on the plaiting process itself but on how to part the hair to begin with and, further ahead in the course, how to part hair to create braid patterns (such as geometric cornrow patterns).
Hair braiding techniques will be the backbone of the instruction you receive. Make sure you will be taught how to make smooth, longer-lasting braids; how to weave with invisible stitches; how to include extensions; how to position your fingers skillfully for easier hair braiding; and the final, professional touches you should give your braided masterpiece. You will also be thankful for pointers concerning what not to do in hair braiding – that is, how to prevent your customers’ hair loss! Don’t be afraid to ask about horror stories not to be repeated.
A professional hair braiding course should also include a session on what advice to give your customers about shampooing and braid care.
Ensure that you will learn a variety of hair braiding styles: cornrows, Celtic knots, rope twists, French plaits, fishtails… If you have an interest in period braiding styles, mention this as well. Not every braiding stylist is qualified to teach Medieval plaiting styles, for instance.
Finally, obtain live, hands-on training or DVD/video instruction on hair braiding. Books or manuals are a poor substitute.