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How To Do Bubble Braids in 5 Easy Steps

This playful look takes hardly any effort at all.
  • Christa Joanna Lee
July 10, 2024

While we can all appreciate the elegance of a classic French braid or whimsical crown braid, most of us don’t have the time to create such intricate looks every day. Bubble braids, however, are practically foolproof and take just minutes to throw together—even if your hairstyling skills are lacking. Despite the name, bubble braids aren’t actually braids at all. Instead, they’re ponytails, in which fluffed-out sections (or “bubbles”) of hair are separated by hair ties. The effect is reminiscent of a more complex braided style, only with far less effort needed to perfect.

If you want to learn how to bubble braid your hair, keep reading. We tapped Jonathan Colombini, celebrity hairstylist and L’Oréal Paris Creative Director of Color and Style, for his expertise. Ahead, he shares his tips and tricks and reveals how to do bubble braids like a seasoned pro.

How Do You Do Bubble Braids?

If you know how to create a ponytail, you can do a bubble braid hairstyle—this playful look is beginner-friendly and suitable for several different hair types (and lengths). If you need a little guidance on nailing the look, keep reading for our simple, five-step bubble braid tutorial.

What you’ll need

Before getting started on your bubble braids, gather the following:

Step 1: Prep your hair

Like many hairstyles, bubble braids work well when the hair is a little dirty—second (or third) day hair has a bit more grip than freshly-washed strands, which can help hold your style in place. If you do plan to wash your hair before creating your bubble braids, Colombini recommends applying the L’Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths Frizz Killer Serum to your damp strands before drying your hair. The leave-in serum helps tame frizz and static to help you achieve a sleek look.

Then, comb your hair to remove any tagles and allow your strands to dry completely (you can blow dry your hair to speed up the process, if desired). If you wear your hair curly, consider applying a leave-in treatment like the L’Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths Curls Leave-In Conditioner to your mid-lengths and ends to help hydrate your hair and play up your natural texture.

Step 2: Gather your hair into a ponytail (or pigtails)

Next, brush your hair back into a ponytail and secure it with an elastic. You can opt for a high pony or low pony—the former will give your look a more playful vibe, while the latter has a more understated, elegant air.

If you’d like to create bubble braid pigtails rather than a single bubble braid, use a rat tail comb to part your hair down the middle, then tie your hair into pigtails at the back of your head or nape of your neck.

Step 3: Create your “bubbles”

Here’s where the “braiding” comes into play. Start by wrapping another hair elastic around your ponytail or pigtail about an inch or two below the base of your ponytail. The exact placement of your elastics depends on how long your hair is, but the key is to keep an equal distance between each bubble for a polished result.

Step 4: Fluff up each bubble

Once you’ve placed all of your elastics, you’ll want to begin fluffing up each section of hair (this is what creates the “bubble” effect). Starting with the section of hair beneath the base of your ponytail, your first elastic use your index fingers and thumbs to gently and slowly pull the hair outward. “Get creative with this,” says Colombini. “You can make the bubbles symmetrical or vary their size, starting larger at the base and getting smaller towards the ends.” Repeat this process with each section of hair until you reach the end of the braid.

Step 5: Finish your look

When you’re satisfied with your bubble braid, lock your style into place with a long-lasting hairspray. Colombini likes to use the L’Oréal Paris Elnett Satin Extra Strong Hold Hair Spray - Unscented. This fine-mist hairspray provides a strong but workable hold that keeps your bubble braids intact without feeling stiff or crunchy to the touch. Since it’s a flexible, non-sticky formula, it’s easy to adjust and restyle your hair as needed. If the ends of your ponytail or pigtails look dry or frayed, rub in a small amount of the L’Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths Frizz Killer Serum to make your ends look polished and sleek. From here, you can also add accessories, such as barrettes, ribbons, or hair clips.

How Long Do Bubble Braids Last?

Bubble braids can last anywhere from a few hours to a couple of days, depending on various factors like the tightness of the elastics, the texture of your hair, and your lifestyle. If you plan on keeping your hairstyle for more than a day, it’s important to choose gentle hair ties or even silk scrunchies to minimize hair damage. Just note that securing your hair into a tight ponytail might not exactly feel comfortable.

If you want to preserve your bubble braid hairstyle overnight, try sleeping with your hair in a silk scarf or bonnet to avoid friction with your sheets that can lead to frizz and flyaways. Keeping your hands off of your hair can also help prolong the life of your bubble braids. When you are ready to take them out, gently remove each elastic one by one, avoiding pulling or tugging at your hair, as doing so can lead to breakage.

Try These Bubble Braid Tips

Now that you know how to do bubble braids, you can continue mastering your technique. To ensure your bubble braids look their best (and have fun with your look), try these tips and tricks:

  1. If you have shorter hair, create French bubble braids. Start by parting your hair down the middle, then clip one section out of the way. On the loose section, gather a one-inch section of hair near the front of your head and secure it with a hair elastic. Repeat the process down the length of your hair, placing each elastic about an inch apart, for an intricate bubble braid effect.
  2. Spray your hands with hairspray or use a little bit of styling gel as you’re working on creating each bubble. This will help give your bubble some grip and texture while preventing flyaways.
  3. If any of the sections feel looser than the other, you can add an extra elastic band below the existing one for additional support without having to redo the whole length of your bubble braid.
  4. Experimenting with the size of your bubbles is a great way to add variety to the look and change it up for different occasions. Thicker elastics can help create larger, fuller bubbles.
  5. Use clear elastics for a sleeker, more polished look, or opt for colorful hair ties for a bolder effect.
  6. Play around with your hair’s part to personalize your look—bubble braids look great with center or side parts. You could even opt for a zig-zag part for a funky ‘90s vibe.
  7. Experiment with different bubble braid hairstyles. Try a half-up bubble braid, pair a bubble braid with intricate fishtail or French braids, or even wrap hair around each elastic in your pony for an elegant flair.
  8. If you notice product buildup after removing your bubble braid (or braids), refresh your scalp with a clarifying serum, like the L’Oréal Paris Elvive Hyaluron + Pure Oil Erasing Serum for Oily Hair. It contains a 6% exfoliating complex and helps remove oil and residue while imparting the hair with up to 72 hours of hydration.
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