It’s a fact. Most feel braids look their best when worn wide, flat and loose.
Yeah, the ones most likely to turn heads are supersized to the max. They’re lush. Dramatic. Oozing with volume to spare.
Or what you might say ultra bodified and struttin’ their stuff.
Yet too many of us find we have to settle for taut, wimpy, uptight braids. And that’s only if we can coax anything at all out of our rail thin strands.
Sure sometimes that’s okay. I guess.
But next level braids are bigger than life – think Elsa’s hair in Frozen for example. Now those babies have got some serious volume going for them, don’t they?
Not to mention plumped up plaits (the technical term is “pancaked”) are the perfect way to hide any imperfections in your braiding technique. (Like when you try to marry a skinny section of hair with its oversized sibling due to your questionable-at-best sectioning skills?)
So don’t be that girl who’s braids look more rattail than runway ready.
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- The Secret to Ridiculously Awesome Braids
- VIDEO: How to Make Your Braids Stand Out
- 11 Little Known Tricks To Get Bigger More Voluminous Braids
That issue aside, you may NOT feel you can braid your hair much less do so in a way that appears to be romance-novel-esque.
But no worries. You will be when done here. Because it’s not as hard as you might think to make your braids stand out.
The Secret to Ridiculously Awesome Braids
The difference maker when it comes to totally awesome looking braids is to simply tug at them to pull them apart a little to make them appear flatter and fuller. As this image shows the difference in glam is night and day obvious, right?
Clearly attention grabbing strands like that are not a look for the shy.
Now to get there some will tell you to “pinch” the edges with your index finger and thumb to create the loose, voluminous, textured look.
Others call it “stretching” the braids. You simply pull the braided hair some while holding tight to the end.
But c’mon now. We know most refer to this process as “pancaking”.
Pancaking Defined: Basically you are deconstructing individual loops of your braid to make each look wider and flatter like a pancake. Hence the term. This styling technique softens any braided hairstyle and makes it look much more voluminous, lusher, just more luxurious.
Even better all this undeniably NYC gorgeous happens pretty much instantly.
Oh and you want just a hint of messy to it and no more.
Yeah so while you want it a little loose, you want to be careful not to unravel the plait you just painstakingly weaved together.
This is why it might be best to NOT go at it with too much enthusiasm if you have layered or shorter strands. Definitely don’t want things to fall apart on you. (More on dealing with layers in a bit.)
So that’s the hair diva’s big braiding secret.
That’s how those on Instagram get the wide, flat braided look typically with a fishtail, French or Dutch braid.
Works even if you have hair that’s, well, on the fine, thin side too.
Now those who create braids bursting with body know how to make that happen without even thinking. Which is just what this YouTuber says she does.
Basically all you do is stick your thumb into the middle of each section of the braid, squeeze with the index finger and gently pull. It makes a huge, super flattering difference.
VIDEO: How to Make Your Braids Stand Out
Now this video was included not only because of the clear explanation and excellent tips but also due to the before and OMG-more-voluminous after shots with various types of braids.
Those before and afters make what you’re going for crystal clear plus can cause some serious hair envy to well up – you’ve been warned.
So I hope you can see this is clearly a skill you need to master using one of two basic moves.
Method 1: Pull apart each specific piece on one side of the braid
When pulling on the each braided section you’re really trying to fan it out.
So you want to pull on the outer edges while holding on to the end of the braid to keep it from disintegrating as you do this. Deconstructing the braid like this is a more deliberate approach to pancaking.
Method 2: Pull on both sides of each section (or loop) working your way up and down the braid.
In this case you’re going to focus on pulling from the middle out to bring as much thickness to life as you can.
As shown in the vid if you pull the inner part of a specific piece you may create what I call an “orphan loop”. This happens because you yanked on the inner strands not those on the edges.
To fix it you just have to mess with the surrounding loops to bring the one that’s going crazy back in line by reducing the extra slack you put in it.
Similar to that is the “half loop” or where what you pull doesn’t fan out but pulls away in an obvious clump of hair.
Pro Tip: When you pancake be sure to tug on different parts of each braided loop in succession. Pay attention here because this sums up what you’re trying to do.
- Start by tugging the hair on the very outer edge.
- Move in a little, grab on and loosen that bit.
- Move in a little more and loosen that just a tad.
Simple, right? This is all it takes to create the fattened, fanned out look you’re going for.
Beyond those basics here’s the …
11 Little Known Tricks To Get Bigger More Voluminous Braids
Trick#1: Braid a little tight
Going tight like this works because it adds some tension to the style. That way when you pancake it the tension will help the hair to hold the shape as you fan it out. In the process each loop has a nice arch on the outer edge which is pretty.
On the other hand if you braid too loosely you will find your plumping efforts will result in a lot of orphan and half loops.
If not that, then the result can end up looking too messy, bedraggled and tattered. An out-of-control look is not the desired effect.
Trick #2: Try pancaking as you go
If you have the hair for it, every say five or six inches stop and loosen up what you just braided up. For some it’s just easier this way.
Trick #3: Product to the rescue.
This is an especially important hack if you have fine or super healthy hair. Yeah a little damage can actually help with this tactic. And if you lack that you’ve have to do the next best thing – add texture out of a can.
It’s best to apply dry shampoo or texturizing spray mid strand down since that’s the part of the strands you are braiding up.
Well, that’s it for the video. But guess what? Here’s the final …
8 Pancaking Tricks You’ll Definitely Want To Know
Trick#4: Focus on grabbing just the outside edges of each braided loop. Again think of it as making a little fan with the strands. As the fan expands you’re going to get the coveted pancaked appearance you’re going for.
Trick #5: Work with second day hair since it naturally has more grip and texture
Trick#6: No second day hair? Then pull out your favorite voluminizing powder, saltwater or texturizing spray, or dry shampoo. You know anything to give a bit of grit to your strands so they hold together better.
What this kind of product does is make your strands slightly stickier so they can’t slip out of the braids as you gently pull them apart. That’s why you want to make sure you spray the strands that are going to be braided.
Trick #7: Or if you prefer try this one from 15minutebeauty.com. If you’re going to blow dry anyway, and that’s recommended to maximize the volume of your braids, why not run a volumizer (like Redkin Guts 10) through your mane first. This is another way to get some fullness working with your strands.
Trick #8: It’s best to always leave a few inches of hair unbraided which you want to not tie off if you can help it. This leaves a little slack that you distribute throughout your braid when pancaking.
Trick #9: Just don’t go crazy here. Yes you want things to look thicker. No, you don’t want to pull the style apart.
Trick #10: This tip applies whether you’re going to pancake the resulting braid or not. But if you have layers curl your hair first. That way, as was pointed out on hairromance.com, the layers coil in on themselves and blend in rather than sticking out all conspicuous and such.
As a bonus the subtle texture generated helps to produce a more romantic, bigger looking braid.
Just remember curly perfection isn’t the goal. Texturized hair is. So don’t spend all morning glued to your curling iron. While you’re at it make that one with a smaller diameter, okay?
Trick #11: For best results you generally want to start at the base of the braid (the part closest to your head?) and work your way down.
Certainly there’s something in those 11 tips you didn’t know before.
Now obviously Elsa is a cartoon character who lives in Frozen not next door which is why her braids look eternally perfect. Let’s not be too quick to forget that. But that doesn’t mean you can’t create perfectly enchanting notice-me-hair with these simple pancaking hacks.
And while we’re talking awesome braids, if you could use more inspo like this why not follow our braided hairstyles board on Pinterest where we share all kinds of fabulous finds.