It’s all over Instagram now thanks to Nicci Welsh but before she introduced it to the world, the Pipe Braid didn’t exist, physically or virtually. The celebrity and editorial hairstylist, who’s from Denmark, is continuously sharing her hairstyling methods via tutorials on her platform theHAU2 but she basically broke the hair internet when she posted a photo of a masterpiece she’d been preparing months before—the Pipe Braid. Ahead, Nicci tells us how the idea for the novel braid came about, the level of styling experience it requires to create, and how to get the look at home.
For the layperson, can you explain what the pipe braid is exactly.
The Pipe Braid is a tube shape of hair that runs front the front to the back of the head.
How does the pipe braid differ from a French braid?
With a French braid you cross strands of hair over each other, with the Pipe Braid you knot the hair over one central strand.
Can you tell us how the pipe braid came about? What was the inspiration?
I love looking at Mane Addicts and social media and get so inspired from our fantastic community. I’m a big fan of the F8 braid and was looking for a new challenge. We love to braid at my academy in Copenhagen and my celebrity clients love to see me creating different looks. I saw the Chinese ladder braid and a criss-cross knotted braid and thought how cool it would look combined with a F8/infinity scalp effect. I wanted it to look like a single line F8 and thought it would be easy to find someone who had already created a tutorial. I could not find any tutorial that looked like the image I had in my head so I decided I just had to figure it out myself. Because I do the F8 braid often, I thought it must be very easy to figure out how to turn it into one line instead of the double line. I was so wrong–my first attempts I was using the F8 ideas of weaving the hair but it didn’t work. Then I tried knotting the hair but that just gave a criss-cross effect where you can see the main central strand. I wanted a seamless tube without gaps that sat tight to the head. I soon realised I’d set myself a very big challenge as it was not easy to figure out at all.
Name the most challenging part about creating it.
No gaps. I wanted the braid to look like a pipe that water could travel through. My first attempts left a nice effect but it was more of a criss cross. I wanted the result to be seamless and this took me a long time to develop the right method.
How long does it take to create if you’re a mid-level stylist?
I think with my tutorials they will get it on the first or second try. It’s actually very easy once you release its just a repetition of four knots.
Does it work better on dirty or clean hair?
The hair needs some grip so it depends on your hair type. If your hair gets oily when it’s dirty then it’s best on clean hair but if you have processed hair or it’s coarse then it’s better the day after you’ve washed it. The great thing with this braid is once it’s in, it can last for days.
What product(s) should I apply to my client’s hair before I start braiding?
I have my favourite braiding products that I know work and they actually make my braiding better and keep the braid in longer. For this braid I use Oribe Maximista. I spray it onto each section as I work through the hair, this way it helps me to control the sections. A product that will give you strong hold but is also manageable to move in small sections is best for this braid.
Name the key brushes and combs you use to create the pipe braid.
The hair needs to be brushed to make sure there are no knots but after that the great thing is that this braid is not only a one product braid it is also a one tool braid. A tail comb is all you need and if you are lucky to have long finger nails you can even drop the comb.
What should I use to secure the pipe braid?
Depending on the thickness of the hair, I swap between elastic thread which is a favourite of mine backstage at fashion week for securing braids and ponytails, or normal snag-free elastics. With elastic thread, you don’t have to pull the hair through you just tie the elastic around. Backstage, we always pair up and help each other to tie. At my academy we often use clear snag-free elastics, though this braid is easy to add your own creative ideas on top. Hairstylists all over the world from China to Hawaii, Austrialia to South Africa are tagging me on Instagram to show me their Pipe Braid and I love seeing the ideas they are coming up with. It is such a fantastic inspiration to be part of this amazing community all wanting to share and learn. Everyone can make it their own and finish the braid how they see matches their artistic freedom.
Does the pipe braid work on medium-length hair too?
We could share the skater name of a “half pipe” for this braid as you can also just style the top half of the hair. I’ve tried different ways and the main requirement is long layers. So even if the hair does not have a lot of length as long as the top layer is all one length you can create a version of the Pipe Braid.
How long did it take for you to master braid yourself?
It took me months to develop the technique. I’ve never seen any technique like this in a braid before though someone may have done something like it, I have never seen it and I had a clear vision of what I wanted it to look like. I started late last year and I could get the look so my Instagram pictures looked great but it didn’t pass my sleep-in 24 hour test. I didn’t want to put something out on SoMe just for the effect, I wanted a braid that was different, useful and something we could teach at my academy and on SoMe. It took me about two months to get the right technique as I was testing it in my spare time which I don’t have a lot of. It then took me about another two months to figure an easy way for others to understand how I was doing it. I wanted it to be easy to teach, easy to learn and easy to last.
When you put that standard on anything you know you have to get it right before you share it with others. I’m working with celebrities and on fashion shoots I can’t create a style for the red carpet if I don’t know how it’s going to react. Imagine if I sent my client off and the whole style just popped out just as they were taking pictures. It’s the same for all of us, we want our clients to be happy and know what we have done for them will make them feel and look good the whole day and longer. For something to become easy, you need to practice but with my tutorials it will take hours instead of months to get. Some styles can come from trying a quick change on a photo shoot like my #ScandiWave, I first used that technique over ten years ago. On a shoot we have more freedom to try different create ideas. New techniques can develop quickly that way but it’s also exciting to see others like this braid that take time.