The Best Braided Hairstyles for Thin Natural Hair

There are plenty of options.

The Best Braided Hairstyles for Thin Natural Hair
Photo: Getty Images/InStyle

The versatility of braids makes them a popular styling option for every hair type. But according to Larry Sims, celebrity hairstylist and co-founder of Flawless by Gabrielle Union, braids

for thin hair can be both good and bad.

"Braiding is great for preserving your hair and staying away from use of heat on the hair, especially for thinner hair," says the stylist. "But you have to make sure that your braid styles don't have a lot of tension, especially around the hairline, and aren't heavy, but on the contrary, are really light."

To find out more about how to get thicker natural hair, as well as the best braided hairstyles for those with thin hair, we reached out to a few experts to get their insight.

What Causes Natural Hair to Get Thin?

Dr. Andy Goren, chief medical officer for hair wellness brand, Daniel Alain, says there are many reasons why hair begins to thin. "The most common reason for hair thinning is androgenetic alopecia which is caused by genetics and high levels of androgens," he explains. "But many cosmetic hair procedures and products can also cause unnecessary stress, and may lead to permanent hair loss or hair damage, like repeated ponytail hairstyles, tightly braiding the hair, flat ironing, and use of extensions. A dermatologist will be able to diagnose the cause of your hair loss."

How Can You Help Your Hair Regain Thickness?

To help your hair regain thickness, Sims says it's important to rebuild and hydrate the hair by applying regular moisturizing treatments like Flawless By Gabrielle Union Repairing Deep Conditioning Masque or Flawless By Gabrielle Union Detangling 5 Butter Masque.

"Keeping heat off of your hair and leaving it in its natural state helps to thicken it. A healthy, balanced diet also helps the health of the hair and can potentially help with enhancing thickness, and don't forget, drinking lots of water helps immensely."

Another tool Dr. Goren also recommends minoxidil, which is one of the most popular hair growth supplements. "Daniel Alain's Minoxidil Response Test reports if minoxidil will be an effective treatment for you within seven to 14 days and can help narrow down the cause of hair loss and get to the root of the problem faster."

The Best Braids for Thin Hair

Tribal Braids

This tribal inspired braid style is perfect for thinning hair because it's lightweight. Celebrity hairstylist Dhairius Thomas says the two ponytails are a great base for any braid to hang from and provide less tension.

"To complete this style it's crucial to focus on the style at the base of the head. Sectioning the hair before braiding is also key," he explains. "Apply an edge control or pomade to the cornrows for clean, sleek braids."

Micro Braids

The Best Braided Hairstyles for Thin Natural Hair
Courtesy Larry Sims

If you've heard of micro-braids you may be a bit hesitant to try them, the name alone suggests that they may take a while to install. But Sims says if you have thin hair, micro braids can make your head of hair look full. "Gabrielle Union is a fan of micro braids," says the stylist. "I like the lightness of them, they're not heavy like box braids. I would never suggest box braids for someone with thin hair because of the heaviness. You really should go for braids that are really thin so the weight doesn't pull too much on your hair."

French Plait

The Best Braided Hairstyles for Thin Natural Hair
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French plaits are a quick, easy style to do. "You can literally part your hair down the middle and do a feed in for two cornrows on each side," says Sims. Parting your hair down the center and splitting the difference makes thin hair look thicker, and helps to cover up any patches.

If you have thin edges, Sims recommends smoothingFlawless by Gabrielle Union Repairing Edge Control along the hairline to style the edges and to create sleek finish. "This non-greasy edge control is also ideal for smoothing fly-aways and delivers shine to help rebuild thinning edges."

Cornrow with Baby Hairs

If you have short, thinning edges, slicking down your baby hairs is a great way to leave them out and avoid creating tension. This look on Vanessa Hudgens is a great example of how hot slick baby hairs can look with a braided style.

"I love the duality of this braided look with its soft-hard textures," says Thomas. "A key to braiding hair of finer textures in a style like this is to use a pomade to slick both sides of the cornrow to create a narrow braiding path. I like to use Dark & Lovely's Blowout Shine Gloss Serum Balm. Also, it's good to create wide partings as this helps minimize shedding. To preserve the style and prevent any frizz, I usually recommend that my clients wear a silk scarf or bonnet by Silk Lab."

Braid Down

"This image is from Doechii's Iconic BET Performance where she ripped her wig off onstage. Underneath her wig were these cornrows that I braided in 20 minutes," says Thomas. "A braid down is a great protective style but also a message to women, letting them know they are beautiful underneath their wigs and braids are beautiful. In the African American community, this style is worn as a protective style and can help the hair to grow. Wrapping the hair nightly along with lightly oiling the exposed scalp, overtime should promote hair growth and thickness."

Braided Ponytail

The Best Braided Hairstyles for Thin Natural Hair
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"Using hair extension to add braided detail to a ponytail is a great way to make a cornrow ponytail look thicker," says Sims. "This look has braid details but I didn't braid Regina King's entire head of hair. Her hair is great because it goes into a ponytail. There are only a few braids, and they go into the ponytail. The long double strand twist piece that I added is light and gives a nice light touch. Again, it's not heavy."

Cornrows with Single Braids

The Best Braided Hairstyles for Thin Natural Hair
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"Karrueche Tran looks great with these cornrows, it's a good style for thin hair because it protects it," says Sims. "The single braids at the back of Tran's head make the base of the cornrows look fuller. "I love the fact that it has a lot of braids at the base, typically when you have less braids, you can see how thin your hair is between the spaces of the braids, this look sort of camouflages the thinness of the hair."

To keep the scalp hydrated and prevent product buildup, Sims recommends using Flawless by Gabrielle Union Soothing Scalp Tonic. "It's infused with aloe vera extract, rice oil complex and peppermint oil to help soothe itchy scalp and reduce irritation and inflammation from protective styling. The nozzle makes it easy to apply directly on your scalp. It's a must-have if you're rocking a braided style."

This is All Natural. From the kinkiest coils to loose waves, we're celebrating natural hair in its many forms by sharing expert tips for styling, maintenance, and haircare.

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