4 Fishtail Braid Tutorials, for All Skill Levels

All Things Hair | 13 April 2017

All thumbs? No sweat. Learn out how to do a fishtail braid, a.k.a. the trendiest braid of the year, regardless of where you are on the skill spectrum.

Of the many fun variations of braided hairstyles out there, the fishtail braid is one of the most coveted braids at the moment. One of the most-wanted hairdos as of late, making the rounds on runways and street-style mavens everywhere, it’s not just a clever way to keep hair from sticking to your neck when it’s hot out.

Making its mark on Instagram, Pinterest and, oh, thousands of beauty and fashion bloggers out there, the fish tail braid’s appeal stems from its complex-looking herringbone plait that quirkily resembles—you guessed it!—a fish’s tail.

Looks can be deceiving though, as this fish plait is surprisingly low-maintenance. This look is also super versatile, as it paves the way for some chic updos like a low bun. The complicated, highly skilled vibe ends there however: What untrained eyes don’t know is that this half-futuristic, half-folksy braid that’s been having a major renaissance seriously takes less than five minutes, hand to heart.

That said, we put together not one, not two, not three, but four different tutorials on this hypertrendy plait that ensures you’ll master how to fishtail braid, no matter your hair type or skill level. Read on:

Fishtail Braid Tutorial #1: Basic Easy Fishtail Braid


Wash and detangle hair.

For a shiny finish, wash hair with Suave Professionals Moroccan Infusion Shine Shampoo and Suave Professionals Moroccan Infusion Shine ConditionerDry hair with blowdryer.

Ed’s note: Typically, you can create a fish braid  whether hair is straight or curly, but we like having a clean slate without any residue when first learning how to fishtail (more traction!). To add a fringe, pull out hair at the front section to frame your face.


Section your hair.

Gather your hair into a side ponytail, then divide it into two equal sections. Hair hack: Before you section, you can also tie on a hair elastic to anchor your ponytail in place.


Begin the fishtail stitch.

Pull out a piece of your hair from the left back section to begin the stitch. Pull it across and over to the outer right section, incorporating it.


Create the second section.

Next, pinch a section of hair from the outer right section, then cross it over the middle and incorporate it into your entire left section.


Continue the plait.

Repeat Step 3 and 4, weaving downward. You’ll begin to see that telltale herringbone or fishtail pattern form as you move downwards your ponytail.


Tie it off.

Secure the end of your braid with a hair tie or elastic.

Ed’s note: Our model simply flipped her plait over to tie it off, but if you’re digging the look of an inverted plait, try a Dutch fishtail braid instead. To achieve, simply cross the side sections over instead of under.


Pancake your braid.

Gently pull the braid apart, a.k.a. pancake it, to create a fun, mussed up, texturized effect. This will also add width to the braid.



Set your hair with Dove Style+Care Strength and Shine Flexible Hold Hairspray to give your braid some light hold. Practice makes perfect!

Fishtail Braid Tutorial #2: How to Do a Fishtail Braid In 5 Minutes

It takes a bit of practice to master the fish braid chain, but the learning curve is pretty quick. When you’re in a rush however, the last thing you need is to overthink your hairstyle as you’re heading out the door. For those hectic times, we suggest you leave the intensely complicated inverted French-waterfall-fishtails to the Instagram tutorial divas for now. For every day, a fishtail that starts at your nape—or to the side, if you want a cooler, more modern feel—is super chic. Read on for a quick 5-minute hack:

blonde woman creates side fishtail braid bun hairstyles and continues braiding

Step 1: Gather hair into a side ponytail.

You can start on unwashed hair in a pinch. Just make sure to detangle your locks and gather them into a side ponytail below one ear. Secure with a hair tie.

Step 2: Start your plait.

Split your ponytail into two thinner sections of equal width.

Step 3: Pinch a small strip from the outermost side of one section.

Remove a small sliver from the outside of the left section and pull it over all the way across, and incorporate it into the entire right section. Grab with your free fingers and smooth it into the right section.

fishtail braid blonde side long hair
Key thing to remember: Get a small strip from the outside of one section, and pull it towards the center.

Step 4: Repeat on the other section.

Repeat Step 3. Remove a sliver from the outside of the right section and pull this strip over the center, incorporating it into to the left. Grab and smoothen.

Step 5: Repeat till the ends.

Repeat Step 3 and 4 until you reach the ends of your hair. Secure the ends with an elastic or a fabric-covered hair tie. Ed’s note: How to do fishtail braid hairstyles that look like the pros? Make the plaits uniform by gently pancaking them, a.k.a. widening/flattening the weave by tugging at the loops.

Step 6: Finish with a spray.

Spray your hands with a finishing mist and run your palms over your plait to keep any frizzies or flyaways down. A lightweight formula such as Nexxus New York Salon Care Comb Thru Finishing Mist preserves the look’s more boho (and less beehived) feel.

Bonus Level: Intermediate

fishtail braid pigtails
Make it a double. Photo credit: Suzanne Cohen Photography

Step 7: Make it a double.

If you’re confident enough to level up, you can try the pigtailed version of the fishtail braid by dividing your entire head of hair into two vertical sections. Starting with the left, subdivide further into two sections and repeat Step 3 and 4, but instead of pulling from the outside of the subsections, get tiny gathers from your scalp instead (à la French braid). Move downwards until you reach the nape, and then right when the hair detaches, get hair from the outside of each section instead like a regular fishtail.

Step 9: Tie off and repeat.

Secure with a hair tie and repeat entire process on the right side. Mist your head with a light finishing spray such as Dove Style+Care Flexible Hold Hairspray once you’re done to set the look and keep it wind-proof.

Fishtail Braid Tutorial #3: How to Make a Fishtail Braid on Curly Hair

We admit: Curly hair definitely has its own set of issues—dryness, vulnerability to frizz, etc.—but what it definitely doesn’t have is a lack of styling options. Whether it’s figuring out a great wedding updo, how to style your curls for formal events or even something as simple as how to rock a fishtail braid, there’s no limit to how you can make your texture work for you.

For the latter, we’re calling it right now: There’s not really much difference in creating a fishtail—or any braid, for that matter—on straight, wavy or curly hair. If anything, curls afford more traction when braiding, resulting in a weave that’s compact and more uniform in size and shape. And can we just holler at the awesomeness that is a good, solid braid that has some texture to it? Read on for a super easy tutorial on how to fishtail braid curly hair:


Start on clean, freshly washed hair.

Prep your hair by shampooing and conditioning with a system designed for curly hair, such as Dove Absolute Curls Shampoo and Dove Absolute Curls Conditioner. You can also opt to prep dry hair with a leave-in conditioner instead, such as Dove Absolute Curls Leave-In Detangler, to help unfurl any knots and protect hair against breakage from tugging.


Part hair to one side.

Create a deep side part with your fingers or a wide-toothed comb, even bringing all hair over one shoulder. Prepare to section your ponytail.


Start braiding.

Split your ponytail into two halves and begin your fishtail braid. To achieve, pinch thin slivers from the outside edge of each half. Alternately cross them into the middle, taking each into the opposite big half. Continue till the ends.


Pancake your plait.

Secure the ends with a hair elastic. Gently tug the sides of each weave to flatten (or fatten!) it and create more interesting texture.



A spritz of humidity-protecting hairspray, like Suave Professionals Luxe Style Infusion Anti-Humidity Hairspray, seals the deal. You’re all set!

Fishtail Braid Tutorial #4: Messy Milkmaid Fishtail Plait

Up for a romantic updo for date night or a party? We’ve got just the thing, and it comes in the form of our milkmaid fishtail plait tutorial. This elegant yet effortlessly cool hairstyle is fairly easy to create at home, even if you’re a braiding rookie. All you need is to to combine a few braiding techniques, which isn’t that hard as long as you go through our step-by-step guide. You’re only seven steps away from an envy-inducing updo, so read on:


Prep hair.

Start by first washing hair with a weightlessly moisturizing system (we love TRESemmé Perfectly Undone Shampoo and TRESemmé Perfectly (un)Done Conditioner to prime for a texturized, wavy look). Afterwards, begin prepping hair with a sea salt spray, like Suave Professionals Texurizing Sea Salt Spray, to help add texture and make your strands easier to braid.


Part your hair.

Next, grab your comb and use it to create a neat center parting.


Create two pigtails.

Tie your hair into two pigtails. Secure each pigtail in place with an elastic just below your ear. If you have a fringe or long layers near your face, leave these free.


Start braiding on one pigtail.

Now it’s time to fishtail plait your pigtails. Working on one pigtail at a time, divide your hair into two equal sections. Then, take a thin piece of hair from the outer edge of the right section, and pull it over to the left section.

Repeat the same technique on the left section of your hair, ensuring that you are holding your tresses tightly while you braid, so your plait doesn’t come loose.

Once you reach the bottom, secure your fishtail plait with a clear elastic. Then, pancake your plait to loosen it and make it appear slightly disheveled, before repeating the whole braiding process on your other pigtail.


Create your milkmaid crown.

You’ll now need to secure both pigtails across your head to create the milkmaid braid effect. Take your left plait and place it across the top of your head near the front, just behind your loose sections of hair that you pulled out. Secure it with bobby pins every few inches down the plait.


Secure your milkmaid braid in place.

Now do the same with the right plait, placing it just behind the left one, and securing it in place with some more bobby pins.

Ed’s note: If you have long hair and find that your braids don’t finish in the center of your head, you can bring them down behind your ears and secure them there so that the ends are hidden from view.


Curl your front fringe.

For a romantic finishing touch, use a curling wand to curl the front loose sections of your hair. Lock in your look with TRESemmé TRES Two Freeze Hold Hairspray so your style stays put all day long. Done!

Looking for more ideas? Check out these casual braids to wear over the weekend.

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