PSA: It's officially festival season, which means it's also cultural appropriation season. Let us all remember that feathered headdresses, bindis, and dashikis are sacred cultural symbols, and that cornrows and box braids have been traditional hairstyles in black culture for centuries, and they most definitely did not originate at Coachella. Now, back to your regularly scheduled programming.
Hello, and welcome to Coachella, a place where festival-goers like myself are managing to look pretty damn good, despite the 95-degree heat. For that, we can partially thank Sephora, who sent MarieClaire.com to the California music festival to explore its onsite interactive hair and makeup tent, a decked-out space that's basically a beauty playground in the middle of the desert. (Yeah, I'm crying, too.)
Amid the hair stenciling, DIY hair-color sprays, temporary metallic freckle tattoos, and holographic makeup palettes is a braid bar that serves up intensely cool braided undercuts (i.e. tight Dutch braids on just one side of your head) in minutes flat. Seeing as I'm completely inept at doing my own hair, I decided to test out the look and break down the steps for recreating it on yourself.
Trust me when I say it's easier than it looks, as long as you've got a few products—and paper clips—on hand (you'll see). Check out the how-to, below, and wish me luck in my obsessive search for desert Rihanna this weekend.
Slippery-smooth hair is great for middle-school pigtails, but festival braids require some grip to get that thick, voluminous finish. So after creating a side-part with your fingers (yes, this style requires a side-part, which was a shock to my center-parted system), blast your hair allover with a texturizing spray, focusing on the roots.
The Sephora stylist used the mineral-based Amika Un.Done Volume and Matte Texture Spray on my hair, which left it surprisingly soft, not sticky. If your scalp is of the oily persuasion, though, try out a grease-absorbing hybrid, like Not Your Mother's Beach Babe Texturizing Dry Shampoo.
You're only going to be braiding the side of your hairline with the smaller section of hair, so to make it easier on yourself, clip the other three-fourths of your hair out of the way before you begin.
Starting near your part, take a two-inch section of hair and tightly Dutch-braid it. A Dutch braid is the exact same thing as a normal French braid, except instead of crossing the pieces of hair over the middle section, you'll cross them under the middle piece to give the braid that popped-out, 3D appearance.
Continue braiding, adding sections of hair as you would a usual French braid, until you've reached the bottom. Tie off the ends with a clear elastic, and unclip the rest of your hair.
Paperclips and hair rings (which have been historically worn on locs and cornrows, and which I, as a white woman, feel lowkey awkward wearing) are the main attraction of this undercut braid, so grab a handful of them and get piercing.
Gently hook and slide the paperclip through the edges of your braids haphazardly, filling in any spare gaps with a few hair rings (which open and close just like a hoop earring). In total, my braid was adorned with nine rings and six paper clips, and could probably have held a dozen more.
Your hair will want to droop, deflate, frizz up, and puff out with the climbing summer temps, so you'll need to keep it from moving with a layer of finishing spray. You can use Sephora's tent favorite, the Bumble and Bumble Thickening Dryspun Finish Volume Spray, which gives a light, humidity-proof shield to finer hair types, or you can try a stronger-finish hairspray, like Drybar's The Sheriff Firm Hold Hairspray, if you know your hair is aggressively frizz-prone. Mist it over your entire head, smooth any flyaways with your fingers, then say hello to your new badass braids.
If all of this sounded like jargon, then congrats on reading all the way to the end, despite your confusion. As a reward, you may now watch Sephora's full video tutorial below:
Follow the hashtag #SephoraCoachella for more beauty looks throughout the festival.
Rachel Epstein is a writer, editor, and content strategist based in New York City. Most recently, she was the Managing Editor at Coveteur, where she oversaw the site’s day-to-day editorial operations. Previously, she was an editor at Marie Claire, where she wrote and edited culture, politics, and lifestyle stories ranging from op-eds to profiles to ambitious packages. She also launched and managed the site’s virtual book club, #ReadWithMC. Offline, she’s likely watching a Heat game or finding a new coffee shop.
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