While a simple braid can be a convenient go-to style for pulling your hair back and protecting those ends from drying out or tangling, it's far from being the only stylish protective solution. In fact, now more than ever, the bubble braid has seen a major resurgence. Not only does it keep strands neat, protected, and in place, but it's also unbelievably easy to pull off — especially if you have long hair.
"With a lot of us being confined to our homes, we've all had more time to experiment with our hair," says hairstylist Karl Payton. "Platforms like YouTube and Instagram became a great space for creatives like me to showcase various styles and haircare tips. The bubble braid became an instant hit for its ability to be dressed up (weddings, dinner parties etc.) or dressed down (brunch, festival, editorial photoshoot). Most importantly it's an easy-to-do, at-home style that can be done in many different ways."
The best part? A bubble braid works on all hair types, from pin straight to 4C textures.
"This hairstyle works on all hair textures because you only need to create volume in the hair through backcombing," says celebrity hairstylist, author, public speaker and founder of the Texture Style Awards, Monaé Everett. "Hair extensions are also a great addition to this style."
Discover how to create the style on your hair, ahead.
4A to 4C — Coily, Curly Textures
For tighter curl patterns, Payton likes to begin by stretching out the hair. He recommends brushing it out with a blow dryer, but be sure to use a heat protectant first. Next, he creates a middle or side part using a metal rattail comb. Once he's done, he splits the hair into three sections, creating two sections in the front, and one in the back. Then he parts the back section in half horizontally. "Working in sections and subsections with textured hair will make it easier to achieve the best results and have better control," he says.
When he's ready to put the style together, Payton starts with the bottom section and uses a small amount of gel at the root, sides, and nape. Then he uses a small paddle brush to help smooth the hair and start the form of the ponytail, and holds the section in place using a gator clip or a hair tie.
"I prefer flaxseed-based gel. They provide a better hold without drying out the hair and [adding] shrinkage," he says. "In addition, it has omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin B and magnesium, which adds in hair growth and prevents breakage."
Payton's favorite gels include Aunt Jackie's Don't Shrink Elongating Curling Gel, the Proclaim Jamaican Black Castor Oil Flax Seed Creme Gel, and Uncle Funky's Daughter Curly Magic Curl Stimulator. He's also a fan of the Ampro Shine 'N Jam Conditioning Gel.
Once he's done, he repeats the same steps for the other sections, making sure to smooth all the hair in the same direction while blending everything together. When he's done, he just uses a hair elastic to secure the ends.
3A to 3C — Loose to Medium Curls
"To create this style on [type] 3 textured hair, prepare the hair with a leave-in conditioner and light oil to moisturize the hair," says Everett. "Use a hair brush and gel to gather a ponytail and smooth the hairline. Use a metal-free hair tie to gather the hair into its first ponytail."
Afterwards, she recommends spraying the roots with a dry shampoo like the Nioxin Instant Fullness before using a comb to lightly back comb the center of the ponytail. Everett then smoothes the outside of the ponytail to cover the newly created volume and then adds another hair tie three to four inches down to create the first bubble. Then she repeats down the length of the ponytail.
"Since curls are looser you can just dampen the hair, then add your gel to smooth into the ponytail. No need to blow dry and stretch the hair out [like you would with 4A to 4C hair], Payton says. "If hair is long enough, slowly feed in the hair through the small, elastic rubber bands one to one-and-a-half inch apart to create the bubbles. Pinch each bubble section to fluff and exaggerate the shape."
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2A to 2C — Straight and Wavy Textures
"To create this style on [type] 2 textured hair, prepare the hair with a leave-in conditioner and volumizing mousse, roughly blow dry to help create volume," says Everett. "I love the Sebastian Mousse Forte Strong-Hold Mousse. Use a hair brush and gel to gather a ponytail and smooth the hairline. Grab a metal-free hair tie to gather the hair into its first ponytail. Apply a texture powder like the OSiS + Dust IT Mattifying Powder through the ponytail."
Everett follows up with a brush to back brush the center of the ponytail, then smoothes the outside of the ponytail to cover the newly created volume. Afterwards, add another hair tie three to four inches down, creating the first bubble and then repeat down the length of the ponytail.
For straight, wavy styles, Payton likes using thickening products like the R+Co Rodeo Star Thickening Style Foam. And to create texture for straighter hair types he usually opts for sea salt and texturizing sprays like Oribe Dry Texturizing Spray.
How to Add Hair to a Bubble Ponytail
If you have shoulder-length hair or shorter, Everett likes to add extensions for length and style.
"Clip-in hair extensions can be added to the base of the style or wrapped around the ponytail," she says. "Synthetic hair can also be wrapped around the base of the ponytail for added fullness and length. Just make sure to blend the hair extensions and your natural hair by choosing hair extensions with the same color and texture as your natural hair."
Kayton has a few additional tips if you plan on adding extension pieces.
"If excess hair is at the end of the ponytail, braid and wrap in a bun and secure with a pin. Using the kanekalon hair of your choice (yaki or curly), flip the pony upside down (so the ends are at the top) and use the rubber band that's in the middle and secure on the bun," he directs. "After, flip hair down where it hangs like a regular ponytail. Take a small section of hair from the side and wrap it around the base of the ponytail. Secure with a hair pin. Taking a small elastic rubber band, carefully funnel through the hair of the ponytail to create the first bubble. Continue down the ponytail in one-inch increments or desired, spacing to create the bubbles. Fluff each bubble to desire shape and you're done."
Not only is the bubble ponytail easy, but it's a look that is effortless enough to do at home, yet polished enough to pull your look together if you're going out. Prepare yourself, this might become your new go-to style.
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