Not everyone is born with a knack for hairstyling. While some of you mastered the fishtail long ago and are moving onto intricate updos, most of us are *still* trying to figure out those French-braided side bangs. But if ever there was a time to buckle down and hone those plaiting skills, it’s now. According to NYC celebrity hairstylist Monaé Everett, braids are officially back on trend. She’s forecasting textured and undone braided styles on the fall runways, braided updos for autumn brides and undone fishtails and crown braids on the everyday woman.

Monaé’s new book, Stunning Braids, is packed with 25 step-by-step guides to walk you through braids of all skill levels, for all hair types. She shared with us some of her pro tips for getting the hang of braiding. And trust us, as someone who has styled some of the most enviable manes in the biz — Taraji P. Henson, Mariah Carey, Connie Britton, Lauren Graham — she KNOWS great hair.

Elegant Braids Hair Book

1. Enhance Your Natural Hair during Prep

“All hair is good hair,” Monaé says, which we wholeheartedly agree with. “While all braided styles are easier to create on fuller hair, all braided styles can be created on all hair textures with the proper foundation of products and curl set.” And not only does Monaé say you can braid your hair, she says you should if you want to retain your length. That’s because once a braid is in, it’s in, and the hair can rest. This means you can wear the style for days without having to manipulate the hair over and over. Check out Stunning Braids for prepping tutorials that make the most of your natural hair.

2. Precision First, Texture Last

Messy braids are so in right now, but that doesn’t mean you should braid it messily. “All hair textures should be braided as neatly as possible,” Monaé says. “Add the texture, messiness or widening of the braid at the end, after you create the perfect braid base.” So for instance, if you’re working with finer hair, she recommends adding your thickening powder in at the end to “pancake” the braid. If you have thicker or coarser hair, the key is to keep your sections neat and completely smooth the hairline. “This gives you creativity with the amount of/type of braided styles you rock. All of your styles will look more purposeful.”

Elegant Braids Hair Book

3. Give Your Arms a Rest

One of the biggest challenges of hairstyling isn’t necessarily that it’s too complicated to recreate, but that it’s exhausting. Seriously, a crown braid should count as an upper body workout. Monaé’s advice is simple: “Start on the side that is most difficult. For example, I’m right handed, so it’s easier for me to work on my left side. I start on my right side and end on my left. This will also help you to avoid uneven braids.” Also, try sitting in a chair with your elbows on your knees when tackling those very intricate braids.

4. Two Looks for the Price of One

Don’t go hopping in the shower after unknotting your plaits — “braids are two styles in one!” Just think how chic those waves and ringlets will look for another day or two. Try air drying your braided, wet locks to avoid using heat, or sleep in a braided style overnight to wake up with waves.

Which braided hairstyle are you dying to master? Share your favorites in the comments!

(Photos via Stunning Braids)