Looking for an on-trend hairstyle that’s surprisingly flattering for anyone — including women over 50? Love the look of a braid but you’re all thumbs? Either way, you’re going to love the bubble braid, the latest hairstyle taking over the red carpet and social media feeds. As pictured above, Heidi Klum was one of the first to sport the style in 2013 with Bryce Dallas Howard trying it in 2016. Today, it’s making waves (or should we say bubbles!) again as seen here on Sonic the Hedgehog 2 star Tikka Sumpter. “The bubble braid is the style of today and tomorrow,” says Eric Sebbag, a master hairstylist at Warren Tricomi Salon in NYC. “It’s a great addition to the hair world!”
What exactly is a bubble braid?
Don’t be deceived by the name — it’s not technically a braid, but the hairstyle creates a similar effect with multi-banded ponytails with the hair puffed between them to create, well, bubbles. It’s a great look to try if you want something that’s fresh and fun. Sebbag says, “I think bubble braids are trending now because they’re cool and funky with class.”
Who does a bubble braid work best for? Almost anyone can pull off bubble braids, as Raven Hurtado, hairstylist at Maxine Salon in Chicago, explains, it’s not only DIY-friendly but, “it can be done on any hair type and looks great for any special occasion.” The key? You just have to have hair long enough to create it and that’s shoulder-length or longer.
How does a bubble braid flatter women over 40?
The great news is that the style transcends age, and draws attention upwards for an instant lifting effect that’s incredibly flattering for women who are battling sagging or looking to soften the impact of their fine lines. Sebbag says, “I recently did a bubble braid on my 45-year-old client for a wedding she was attending. And it looked amazing with her dark long hair!” Another reason it’s great for women over 50? It can help camouflage age-related thinning, because, Hurtado insists, “the ‘puffs’ create the illusion of fuller hair.”
It’s also incredibly easy to do. Here’s a how-to for the basic style from Sebbag:
- “The challenge of Bubble Braids is to make the hair sleek with zero frizz,” he says. So after blow-drying your hair smooth and flat, apply a generous amount of gel through the hair and comb through to the ends. Try: Garnier Fructis Pure Clean Styling Gel (Buy from CVS, $5.99).
- Brush your hair into a sleek ponytail and secure with an elastic band.
- Tease the ponytail with a hairbrush then gently brush the first ball into shape and mist of flexible hold hairspray. Try: Dove Style + Care Flexible Hold Hairspray (Buy from Walmart, $9.22).
- Secure the hair 1 to 2” down with another elastic, then gently pull the hair between the elastic bands with your fingers or a tail comb to puff it out a bit.
- Repeat down the length of your hair.
Now that you know the basics, here are a few variations to play with!
For day-to-night situations: Try the wrapped bubble braid
For a polished style that’s “finished” enough for the office with a fun enough for an evening out, try wrapping a bit of hair around each elastic. Sebbag says this one simple move can take your bubble braid from ultra-cute to ultra-chic in just seconds and it’s so easy anyone can do it!
To do: Follow the directions for a basic bubble braid, then it’s time to wrap! While you can use your own hair to hide your hair ties, Sebbag says using snippets of hair extensions is far easier — especially at the bottom where hair can be too short to reach around!
Use small pieces of hair extensions to individually wrap each rubber band. Try: Habit Clip In Hair Extensions (Buy from Habit Hair, $30).
He says to spray each piece with hairspray, wrap it around and secure with a hairpin.
For a youthful yet elegant look: Try twin bubble braids
A pigtail-style look may not be your first thought if you’re over 40, but the bubbles effect gives it a fresh take that seems sophisticated rather than childish. What Hurtado says to her clients: “Show off your personality, have fun and wear any hairstyle you prefer!”
To do: Divide hair down the center. Then starting at the top using just the front 3 inches of hair. And secure with an elastic. Pull 1” in hair in from your hairline into the ponytail ends (as if French-braiding) and secure again. Hurtado again reminds to make sure to “pull outwards between the elastics for a bubble shape,” as you go. Then continue down the length of your hair.
For textured hair (or just to make a statement): Try all over bubbles
If you love the look of a headful of braids that you could actually do yourself, meet your new go-to hairstyle. The ease of creating the bubble style means you pull this look off yourself with a bag of snag-free elastic hair ties like Goody Ouchless (Buy from Amazon, $2.34). This one takes some time and patience — but the payoff is big!
To do: First, says Hurtado, reach for a styling cream to help shape your hair and tame flyways. Try: Dae Cactus 3-in-1 Styling Cream, (Buy from Amazon, $28) or Suave Smooth Performer Anti-Frizz Hair Cream (Buy from Target, $4.99). Then create bubble braids all over your head in 2” sections.
For layered hair: Try the French-braid hybrid
Rather than one ponytail that “bubbles,” the French-braid hybrid is a graduated hairstyle that incorporates sections down the length of your hair. This look is great for catching layers that may otherwise fall out of your bubble braid. The key, according to Sebbag? Using a strong-hold styling spray as you go to keep them all in place!
To do: Gather a section of hair in the front of your head as if starting a French braid and pull it into a mini ponytail. Secure with an elastic band and pull the hair up out of the elastic a bit to add fullness at the top. From there, as you create each additional bubble, bring in a new section of hair from either side (again, like a French braid). Make sure to mist with styling spray along the way to keep shorter bits and flaways at bay. Sebbag’s pick: His own Hairoine Remedy Styling Spray (Buy from Hairoine, $39.99 for the spray and accompanying serum), which he says “will tame your hair and make it easy to control each section of the braid.”
For creating a lifted effect: Try the side-winder bubble braid
Moving your bubble braid over to one side is an unexpected move that gives your style a fresh vibe. And since you can see it from the front, it helps draw attention up to your eyes for a magnetic touch!
To do: Sebbag says to create this style, “It’s the same style as the French braid hybrid, only when styling the braid be sure to face the direction you want the braid to be placed,” and guide it down the curve of your head. He suggests applying a hair serum before and after for extra hold & shine. One to try: Kristin Ess Hair Weightless Weightless Shine Working Serum for Frizz Taming + Hair Smoothing (Buy from Ulta, $15).
For those seeking extra volume: Try the wavy bubble braid
A bubble braid done on wavy hair gives instant fullness to your style to impart flattering volume, says Hurtado. This is great for anyone who is experiencing age-related thinning — or just wishes they were blessed with fuller strands!
To do: If your hair is naturally wavy or curly, just create your bubble braid as usual! If your hair is straight, however, you’ll need to press it in a wavy-plated hair iron like the one included in the Trademark Beauty Mood Interchangeable Hair Curling Iron (Buy from Target, $99) before putting it up. “That way the bubbles have texture and the ends of the ponytail are curled,” says Hurtado.
For warmer days: Try bubble buns
Tying a double-style bubble braid off into two cute buns is the perfect way to get in on this style and still catch a breeze on your neck. In this case, each section was pulled through the middle of the next one, creating a chain-link effect that looks much harder to execute than it actually is!
To do: Part your hair down the center starting with one side, follow the directions for the French-braid hybrid with the twist of pulling each section through the one above it as you go! Then, Hurtado says, once you’ve reached down the nape of the neck on one side, create a ponytail, then wrap it around to create a bun and pin. Repeat on the other. The final step: “Fluff out the buns for a voluminous look.” Want extra fluff? Hurtado says “You can use a volumizing powder to create texture and add volume.” Try: Sexy Hair Powder Play Volumizing & Texturizing Powder (Buy from Ulta, $19.95).
Read about more trending hairstyles here:
Beth Shapouri is a beauty, wellness, and lifestyle writer whose work has appeared in Allure.com, MarieClaire.com, GoodHouseKeeping.com, and more. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband and a very cute dog. Visit bethshapouri.com to see more of her work.
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