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Try Issa Rae’s Hairstylist’s Step-By-Step Chain Link Braid Tutorial

If you’ve ever binge watched HBO’s Insecure or followed the show’s star Issa Rae, you’ve been witness to the tremendous texture artistry of celebrity hairstylist Felicia Leatherwood and founder of detangler brush, Brush with the Best. Over the summer, Leatherwood styled Rae’s hair into a high chain link braid ponytail for her Cover Girl Tru Blend Matte Made Campaign video that immediately caught out attention. An upgrade from the regular three strand braid, the chain link braid pony Leatherwood whipped up is the bigger, thicker, more eye-catching version of your ordinary long ponytail braid. Curious to figure out how to create the look for ourselves, we went to Leatherwood with questions. Ahead, the Angeleno shares her chain link braid technique, including products and tools, level of difficulty, and more.

What It Is

A French braid is made of three pieces interwoven, but the chain link braid has four pieces which is reminiscent of the lanyards we made as a kid with plastic string. It has that same look to it. The ponytail comes out with a cute little twist when you do a chain link braid.

What You’ll Need

You need one pack of synthetic hair in different wefts. I pull my clients’ hair into one ponytail and brush the edges up really nice with pomade or styling gel, tie down the edges with a scarf so they lay nice and flat, then I take the hair and use large open and closed pins to attach the synthetic hair onto the ponytail. I use Frenchies Hair Pins because they’re coated with a velve-like material so it looks matted and more like textured hair. Then I’m able to separate my four pieces of hair and start to interweave them back and forth to create the chain link braid. Depending on how long you want it, at the bottom I secure the braid with a rubber band, and on top of that a gold or silver wire. For edges, I’m really into Gummy Hair Gel, which feels like a paste but it’s actually a gel. You can apply it to wet or dry hair, and I use a small boar bristle barber brush to apply it. Then I use nylon ties to secure the ponytail to avoid ripping out the hair when it’s taken out. If I have to use anything to set the look, it’s the Blueberry Bliss Reparative Conditioner by Curls to keep the hair from getting frizzy as I’m braiding the hair. 

How Long It Lasts

You can keep in the chain link braid for three to four days. If it’s a long chain link ponytail braid, wrap it up at night around the base to create a bun so that you pull it up off your neck to avoid getting frizzy at night. For the parts that are slick, wrap a scarf around your crown. Make sure to tie it from the back to the front so the knot ends up in the front. That way it’ll secure better and stay on while you’re sleeping.

Level of difficulty

The chain link braid is not easy, to be honest with you. Sharon Blain in Australia has a good tutorial on the chain link braid using four pieces. I always start everything from the outside to the middle. So if I have four pieces of hair, the piece on the right side goes in the middle. The left piece on the outside, that also goes in the middle. It’s almost like a reverse fishtail braid. It’s always from the outside in. Outside in, inside out, outside in, inside out. It sounds crazy, but once your fingers start doing it, they create the look. I challenge anybody out there to try it because you might come up with your own version of the braid and it look beautiful. It’s nothing new, it’s just that I hadn’t done it. Because I work with Issa Rae on [Insecure] and for her red carpet looks, I’m always looking to put my twist on something that has been done, but maybe take it up a notch.

Looking for more braid inspiration? Click here to see how the pipe braid is made

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