Most braided hairstyles require the braid to appear tight and smooth. The beginning braider naturally assumes that the way to achieve a tight braid is to pull the hair as tightly as possible as the braid progresses. It is, in fact, dangerous to pull the hair too tightly. Wearing excessively tight braids may cause permanent hair loss, headaches and general discomfort. Tight-looking braids can be achieved without pulling tightly on the hair and scalp.
Comb the hair to remove all tangles and to smooth it out completely. If you are braiding only a portion of the head, gather the hair that you will braid, and tie off the rest to keep it out of the way.
Spray the hair with a light mist of water or add hair gel to keep the hair smooth and to make it more manageable.
Separate the hair into three equal sections at the top of the head or wherever you want to begin your braid.
Pass the left section of hair over the center section. The left section is now the center section. Repeat with the section on the right side.
Gather a small section of hair from the left side, and add it to the section of hair on the left. Perform this work as closely as possible to the braid to give a tighter appearance.
Cross the left section over the center and lay it as close to the previous crossover as possible to keep the braid tight.
Gently pull the section you just moved so it lies snugly in place. This should never cause pain.
Repeat the process with the right section, adding a small section of hair, crossing it over the center section, laying it as high as possible on the braid and making it snug. Ensure that the sections of hair you are adding remain a consistent size to improve the smoothness and tightness of the completed braid.
Continue braiding with gentle but consistent tension until you have reached the nape of the neck and there is no more hair to add into the braid. Secure hair with an elastic band or continue to braid down the back until you reach your preferred end point. Secure with an elastic band wrapped as closely as possible to the end of the braid.