The first secret to fuller-looking braids is that it isn’t one secret but many! When I first learned how to braid my hair, I was always disappointed by how thin my braids looked in comparison to those I was emulating. How much hair did they have?! Turns out not that much more than me; they just used a few easy tricks that made their braids look out-of-control thick! Over the past few years, I’ve learned some tricks of my own, and these are my favorites.
Tip One: Always pancake your braids. What is pancaking? Pancaking means to pull apart and flatten your braids a bit. By flattening them, you give them more apparent width. While you can pull all over the braid for a little extra width, to get really full-looking braids, focus on pulling on the outside of the braids.
Tip Two: Always leave a few inches of hair at the end of your braid and try not to tie off your braid before pancaking if possible. Instead of tying it off, hold it in one hand while you use the other hand to pancake the braid. If you have to tie it off (like with my Dutch braid below which would be too difficult to do one-handed), then again make sure to leave a few inches below the tie and adjust the hair tie as needed. Tip Three: Volumizing powder. I really dislike putting product in my hair, but for the most impressive braids, volumizing powder is a must. I use Batiste XXL Plumping Powder, which I picked up at my local Boots, but really any brand should give the same results. The powder works by making your hair a bit stickier so it can’t slip out of the braids as you pull on it. You don't need volumizing powder to make your hair look thicker, but this product helps give you the more editorial-looking, crazy-thick braids. Also, a little goes a long way. I only used a lot in these pictures so you could actually see the powder in my hair.
Tip Four: With pancaking, start at the top and work your way down. You're pulling hair up from each section below, so you need to start at the top and leave a few inches of hair at the bottom as a resource. As you pancake, pull gently in the middle of each braid and pull harder as you get to the outer edges. You want the braid to stay together, you just want each section of braid to look thicker.
Another trick: Some braids are just thicker looking than others. A French braid won’t make your hair look as thick as a Dutch braid (even without pancaking). Similarly, faux braids like the pull-through braid make your hair look really full; like a faux fishtail will be always be bigger than an actual fishtail braid.
As you can see from my before and after picture at the start of this post, pancaking your hair makes a big difference (pardon the pun!). When I want a more natural look, I pancake my hair without volumizing powder and only add the powder on days I want my braids to look out-of-control full! One thing is for certain, pancaking is seriously addictive, and I don't know if I can ever go back to "normal" braids. Cheers, Rebecca.
Credits//Author and Photography: Rebecca Stice. Photos edited with A Beautiful Mess Presets for Lightroom.