Easy Braided Hairstyles for Summer

This summer’s hottest hairstyle is the braid -- and not just because a cool swept-away style beats having your hair sweat-plastered to your neck. “Braids are having a moment, because there are so many different types -- and can be done yourself quickly without heat or styling tools,” says Jeanie Syfu, TRESemmé’s lead stylist. Weaving your hair is calming and therapeutic, says model stylist Matt Fugate. “I find it enhances creativity, too.”

Best of all, anyone can do it -- and if it comes out a little messy, so much the better! Here are some easy braided hairstyles that are hot this summer along with plait pro tips for mastering each style:

What: Beach Fishtail

Where: Jessica Lowndes, Downton Abbey’s Michele Dockery and Frozen princesses Elsa and Anna

How: Split shoulder-length or beyond hair into two sections. Take a little hair from the outside of one section and cross it over. Do the same with the outer strands of the other portion. Repeat. The looser the braiding, the more modern it looks. Wrap the bottom with a clear band. For a more glamorous look, start with a high ponytail. Or sneak in a hair treatment by working leave-in conditioner into towel-dried hair before braiding.

What: Side Braid

Where: Brooke Lively and Valentino’s Fall 2013 models

How: Part hair in the middle or to the far side. Pull hair to one side in a ponytail that starts at your nape. Start braiding. Pull out some tufts.

What: Braid-y Bunches

Where: Socialite Nicky Hilton at Coachella and Maria Menounos at the Oscars

How:  Pull hair tightly into pigtails just to each side of the nape, then braid. Use an elastic at the tails’ ends, then wind into a bun. For a looser version, start with a side part, with thick braids starting at the hairline on each side of the part. Add to the section as you move back and down the head behind the ears, with the braid getting looser as you descend. Roll braid into a bun at the nape of the neck.

What: Boldi-Locks

Where: Vanessa Hutchens at Coachella

How: Split hair into six small sections, then weave from the middle down. Moisten pastel hair chalk, and coat the surface of one section moving down the plait for a temporary but fun funky look, suggests Edward Tricomi, stylist and co-owner of Warren-Tricomi Salons.

What: Halo

Where: 20th Century artist Frida Kahlo and Sarah Hyland at the 2014 Golden Globes

How: Towel-dry hair. Create a side part and, if you can, a zigzag part. Start with two ponytails, low at the nape of your neck. Divide ponytails into three or four sections and braid to end. Loosen, then wrap around your head behind the ears and tuck hair under the braids and fasten with hair pins.

What: Boho Braids

Where: Rodarte runway Fall 2013 and on the women of Game of Thrones

How: Part hair in the center, either straight or with a zigzag. Take a small piece of hair at the temple and braid halfway before tying with an elastic. Do the same at the other temple. Join the two plaits at the back, perhaps winding one into a chignon where they meet. Or go loose, as seen at Victor & Rolf’s Fall 2014 runway: Take a section of hair just above each ear. Halfway down, weave them together twice, pin in place, and leave the rest hanging.

Hair Dye: Should You Go Organic?

Hair coloring is the “mane” event for three out of four women. But the smell of conventional dyes can be off-putting, and the strong chemicals can be worrisome, especially if you’re pregnant or trying to limit your exposure to toxins.

For women who want to go green with their hair, there are organic options out there, both at-home treatments and dyes available at specialty salons. The colors are plant-based, and instead of ammonia, the products include less-harsh lighteners such as pharmaceutical-grade hydrogen peroxide. Fans of the treatment say it leaves hair looking and feeling great.

However, going natural comes with some trade-offs. Ironically, henna and other plant-based dyes deliver the least natural shades. “Plus they’re super unpredictable, because they usually contain metallic salts that react with other dyes or processes,” says Marcy Harmon, a colorist at Los Angeles’s Plaid Studio who forgoes chemicals whenever possible. “If you hate the color, you have to cut off your hair or risk it turning green from the oxidation.” Vegetable or “direct” dyes are less damaging since they lie on the hair strands’ surface rather than penetrating. But they also tend to fade within two weeks.

“I try everything,” says Harmon. “But a good nature-based hair dye is hard to find, especially if you want a lighter color.”

The other catch is that some so-called “natural” dyes aren’t all they appear to be. “Many dyes claim they’re organic when they’re just ammonia-free, but something has to do the job of ammonia,” explains Harmon. Ammonia penetrates the hair shaft to let the color in; dyes without it may contain other, less effective chemicals such as ethanolamine. “Color makers just change one chemical for another, less familiar one,” says Harmon.

Harmon offers these additional tips to get maximum color with minimum health risks:

Avoid washing your hair the day before your appointment. “Natural oils on your scalp will help protect you if you’ve got sensitivity to chemicals.”

Bring your own. Not sure whether your salon has the type of hair dye you want? Buy your own color and ask your stylist to apply it, suggests Debra Jaliman, M.D., a New York-based dermatologist and assistant professor at Mount Sinai Hospital and author of Skin Rules.

Pamper your colored coif. After you leave the salon, Harmon recommends caring for your hair with natural or organic shampoos and deep or leave-in conditioners. “These close cuticles so strands can be shiny again.” Wearing hats and UV-blocking hair sprays will help prevent sun damage.

Test first. Try new products on a small patch of skin (such as the inside of your elbow) and ditch them if you experience any reddening, itching, blisters or shedding.

Space out your visits. “I have patients who dye their hair every two weeks. That’s too much,” says Jaliman. Salons generally recommend dyeing every four to six weeks. Extend time between appointments by coloring your roots with touch-up wands. You can also avoid too many coloring sessions by choosing shades closer to your natural hue.

Don’t relax too often. If you’re truly committed to going natural, your best bet is to limit (or avoid) chemical relaxing, texturizing and straightening treatments. Many contain the carcinogenic chemical formaldehyde, which is released into the air as a gas when the treatment is heat-sealed with a flat iron.

Purse Matchmaker: Find the Best Bag for Your Personality

You never outgrow them. They never pinch your feet. No wonder most women love to “bag” a new purse each season. No matter what your style or needs, there’s a purse that’s just right for you. Better yet, for every pricey “It” bag, there’s an affordable knockoff near you at fast-fashion fixtures like H&M, Zara, Forever 21 and Uniqlo. Check your “purse”-onality below to find your perfect fit!

Personality: Fun and Easygoing

Your bag: Pouch

This relaxed version of a strapless silhouette has become 2014’s most coveted bag. The relaxed frame suits this year’s upscale sweatshirts, track pants and sneakers. Gotta have it? Lanvin’s gold and blue “paper bags” are spring’s must-haves, while Dries Van Noten’s kaleidoscope-patched soft envelope pouches will make fad followers drool come fall.

Personality: Flexible and Ready for Anything

Your bag: Tote

Call this the SUV of carry-alls. Totes are practical, roomy and perfect for moms and travelers -- especially if they have outer pockets or inner compartments, which save you from digging around in search of your keys. This year’s totes include fun furry styles from Marc Jacobs and Fendi -- but if you opt for that look, be sure to streamline the rest of your outfit or you may be mistaken for a Muppet.

Personality: Unpretentious and Earthy

Your bag: Hobo

Perfect for hippies and cowgirls, these bohemian bags feature slouchy posture, scooped center, long shoulder strap and zipper closures. Add fringe or tassels, and you look ready to head into the sunset. The hobo’s cousin is the bucket bag, named for its shape. Our fave source is eBay, where you may be able to snag a vintage Coach hobo for a song.

Personality: Practical and Organized

Your bag: Saddlebag

Perfect for work and play, saddlebags typically have outside pockets that make it easy to find your smartphone and keys, plus top and side compartments with buckled flaps provide extra organization. Barbour makes stylishly earthy versions of this highly practical purse.

Personality: Elegant and Sophisticated

Your bag: Clutch

They’re not just for evening gowns anymore: These small, simple bags have become a daytime “do” in the last couple of years. Choose one with a loop that you can hang around your wrist to free your hands -- perfect for navigating buffets. Need to carry more than just your lipstick? Go for a larger version with pointed flaps, known as an envelope. We’re expecting 2014’s lust object to be Salvatore Ferragamo’s hard case.

Personality: Retro and Classy

Your bag: Handlebag

This top-clasp, hard-sided purse is perfect for pencil skirts, nipped jackets and other ladylike fashions that evoke the ‘40s and ‘50s. Huge, round-top, hard-sided versions are called doctor’s bags -- a nod to their inspiration. Christian Dior’s yellow or red bags for next fall are gorgeous, but if you go vintage, you might be able to afford Louis Vuitton and Hermès versions. Better yet, ask your mom or grandmother if you can raid her closet!

Personality: Always On-the-go

Your bag: Messenger

Whether you’re dashing about the city or hitting the club, you’ll want this carry-all bag by your side. Smaller versions hold the essentials, while larger versions can take on anything you care to stuff inside. Best of all, we adore the ones we’ve spotted at Kohl’s and J.C. Penny!

Freshen up Your Beauty Routine in Time for Spring

Finally! After a long, cold, miserable winter, spring never felt so welcome. You’re eager to swap out sweaters for sandals, but don’t forget that spring is also the time to switch up your beauty routine. These expert tips will ensure that your skin and hair are ready to face the warm springtime sun.

Make Your Skin Shine

Once daily, exfoliate your face gently with a washcloth or sonic facial brush to help dead skin slough off. Then weekly, follow up with a toner containing glycolic or salicylic acid, which gives a deeper clean. “I’m a big fan of exfoliation,” says New York dermatologist Dr. Debra Jaliman, author of Skin Rules. “If your skin isn’t exfoliated, it won’t have that nice glow.” You’ll also want to put away your extra-strength body lotion and switch to a lighter formulation.

Say Goodbye to Pimples

As the heat and humidity return, your face becomes oilier and more prone to blemishes. To keep them at bay, apply a toner for acne-prone skin after washing your face; look for ingredients such as benzoyl peroxide and niacinamide. Then do an inventory of your makeup. “Many people don’t read the labels, and they choose products that aggravate acne,” says Jaliman. For instance, glycerin, silicone and mineral oil are common ingredients in moisturizers and primers. Finally, to avoid flare-ups, clean your cell phone! Your fingers leave bacteria on the screen that can spread to your face when you make a call.    

Nourish Winter-dried Hair

Winter’s arid air can make your scalp dry out and shed. Dandruff can also appear worse in cold weather when you wear dark sweaters or shirts, which make the flakes stand out. Now’s the time to pamper your scalp: Use an anti-dandruff shampoo and follow up with conditioner.

Spring’s warmer temperatures are the perfect time to change up your hair-care routine, advises noted Boston-based stylist Mario Russo. “As the season changes, incorporate a gloss serum into your hair routine,” says Russo. “The oils and moisturizing ingredients will liven up your color and help prepare hair for the summer sun.” A weekly hair mask, he adds, will rejuvenate your locks by opening up the hair cuticle and letting the moisture penetrate. This is also the time to cut back on heat-styling tools, which can damage your hair. “On days when you don’t use your blow-dryer or straightening iron, continue to apply your favorite frizz, volume or UV-protectant product. They’ll help protect your hair while it dries naturally,” says Russo.

On the other hand, if your hair tends to be oily this time of year, both Russo and Jaliman recommend using dry shampoo several times a week, which absorbs the oil without drying out your hair.

Freshen Your Look

Greet spring in style with a salon visit; even a small trim will remove split ends and revive your hair. Ready for something more daring? Talk to your stylist about trying a new color. “Tones like platinum or icy blonde, cool toned tips and dark roots, rose-gold, dark-chocolate brown and a less drastic ombre will be popular this spring,” says Russo.