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Dutch Braid vs. French Braid: Everything You Need to Know

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There are few hairstyles that have stood the test of time quite like French braids. Despite its location-based name, the exact origin of the French braid is actually a hotly contested topic. Some believe it can be traced back nearly 6,000 years to North Africa where cave art depicts women wearing the hairstyle. Others think it may have originated in China's Sung Dynasty which began in 960. All this is to say, this is a type of plait that clearly has staying power. Whether you're five or fifty-five it's a braided hairstyle that works for everyone.

More recently, the French braid's cousin, the Dutch braid has started to grow in popularity, causing some confusion as a result: Are these two braid styles the same? If not, what's really the difference? Let's get into it! Continue reading below to learn more about French braids, Dutch braids, and the difference between the two braiding techniques.

About the Expert:

Angela Boswell is a beauty professional who does hair and makeup for television, film, weddings, editorial photoshoots, and more.

First, what is a French braid?

"A French braid is a three-piece section of hair braided together with the pieces crossing over the middle section, from the crown of the head to the nape of your neck," explains hairstylist Angela Boswell.

The timeless French braid can be done as either a single braid or as pigtail braids. This type of braid differs from a regular braid because it involves weaving in small sections of hair into the three strands as you braid, which makes the braid look like it's cascading down the back of the head. The end result should incorporate all the hair and be taut against the scalp. The end is typically secured with a ponytail holder when there is about two inches of hair left, however, the exact amount of hair you leave free is totally a matter of personal preference!

How to do a French braid, step-by-step

Looking for a quick tutorial on how to try this updo at home? Here's a step-by-step guide to creating a single French braid.

Step 1: "Brush the hair! Tangles make it more difficult to pull sections of hair as you braid down," says Boswell. She adds that it's also a good idea to add a little bit of texture to your strands. "Day-old hair helps prevent your braid from slipping out. Clean hair can be too soft and the braid may come apart. Try adding a little dry shampoo to the roots to zap extra oil. If your hair is clean, a texturizing spray is a great product to add body while also giving the hair a little grip, making it easier to braid."

Step 2: Split the hair into three sections at the crown of the head and begin by first creating one to two rows of a traditional braid: Cross the right strand over the center. Then, cross the left strand over the center.

Step 3: Once you've done this a couple of times, you'll continue with the outside-strand-over-center pattern, but you'll begin to bring in other pieces of hair. Now, before crossing the left or right section over the center, you'll grab a small section of hair from that side of your head and add it to the strand that is being moved. You'll want to make sure you pick up a straight line of hair going all the way from the hairline to where the braid is forming.

Step 4: Continue working your way all the way down until there is no hair left to incorporate. If you have long hair, you can then transition back to a traditional braid to finish braiding the remaining ponytail.

To create two French braids, you'll first split the hair down the middle and repeat these steps for each half of hair. If you're creating cornrows, you'll split the hair into however many sections you like and repeat this process for each section.

What is a Dutch braid?

"A Dutch braid is a three-piece section of hair braided together with the pieces crossing under the middle section, from the crown of the head to the nape of the neck," says Boswell.

The Dutch braid will appear less like a cascading braid and more like a single braid floating on top of the hair with the sections of hair tucked neatly underneath. Think of the Dutch braid as an inverted or reversed French braid. By bringing the left and right strands underneath the center piece, it will create a single braid that pops up.

Much like the French braid, this braid hairstyle can also work as a single braid or a double braid. Double Dutch braids are sometimes referred to as "boxer braids".

How to do a Dutch braid

To master the Dutch braid, you'll follow most of the same techniques as a traditional French braid with the one key difference being that you'll bring the outside piece underneath the middle piece instead of over it.

Other than that, the steps are all the same: In a Dutch braid, you will also begin by creating one or two rows of a traditional braid before weaving in new hair sections. Once you do start weaving hair in, you'll continue incorporating small sections of hair all the way down to the nape of the neck—just remember, it's under, not over.

To make your Dutch braid really pop, Boswell suggests lightly pulling on braid sections a little at a time to loosen it up and create a thicker, bigger-looking braid. She also adds, "If you are doing two braids, use a tail comb to make a perfect part. If your braid is a bit messy, a clean part will make it look more purposeful." And finally, if any pieces pop out, simply reach for a bobby pin and a bit of hairspray to securely tuck it back in place.

Dutch braid vs. French braid: What's the difference?

"The main difference between a French braid and a Dutch braid is that a French braid crosses pieces over the middle section while the Dutch braid crosses pieces under the middle section," says Boswell.

Both are super easy beginner hairstyles once you get comfortable with the braiding motion and learning how to keep the sections taught. Boswell's top tip for becoming a braiding expert is simple: "Practice! The more you braid the faster and more natural it will become," she says.

Want a few tips on how to braid your own hair like a pro? Check out our blog post on the topic to get started.

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About the author
Cortney Clift
Cortney is a New York-based freelance writer who has written about beauty and wellness for more than six years. She was previously the senior writer and special projects editor at Brit + Co where she covered a wide range of news and lifestyle topics.
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Article Last Updated November 3, 2021 12:00 AM