Big, thick, pull through braids are all over the Internet. Pancake braids creates these gorgeous, full hairstyles that make you look like a Disney Princess. And the concept is so simple–you just do a typical French or Dutch or Fishtail or any braid, use your fingers to loosen the strands to create volume and thickness, then boom, selfie time!
I’m pretty handy with French braiding–I taught myself by laying on my belly in front of a mirror with a library book when I was in the third grade. So this should have worked just fine for me…
Not at all! It was a hot mess! When I pulled and flattened the braid (known as pancaking), all it did was create bald spots on my scalp and millions of flyaways. Not to mention my already ridiculously thin braid (it literally takes 72 elastic twists to secure it at the bottom), now had holes in it and was super messy. My hair is long-almost to my elbows-but it is also really fine and thin. Not good for pancake braids.
So how do all these Instagram girls get their braids so darn thick?! They couldn’t possibly all have super long, ridiculously thick, flyaway-free hair!
I found the answer, and it only cost me $3.00 CAD (that’s $2.25 USD and £1.77 GBP): it’s not their hair at all, it’s hair extensions! So simple. Whether they are sewn or glued or clipped in doesn’t matter, all that matters is they have tonnes of extra, thick, long hair. I found a super cheap fake hair clip-in extension at the dollar store that was a close enough match and presto, braids that make me look like a mermaid!
Here are the steps for how to achieve the thick pull-through braid. I only used one extension because it provided enough extra hair for me. But if you need more than one just clip it in when you’re doing the third and/or fourth ponytails. This will absolutely work for those French and Dutch braided styles (crowns, half up, pigtailed…) and even a regular braid–just make sure you hide the clips with soft (not backcombed) hair.
Pull Through Braid Tutorial
one: section off some hair in your bangs region and a few inches behind and around it.
two: backcomb this area so you have some volume, then lightly brush over the top layer to hide the backcombing.
three: secure the first ponytail near the crown of your head (where it starts to curve downward). You don’t want your first ponytail to be pulled tight to your head, you want volume and looseness and wispy pieces framing your face.
four: flip up the ponytail and an extra inch of hair from underneath it to get it out of the way, using a clip if necessary. Clip your hair extension to the free hair underneath. Make sure your extension isn’t too tangled so that it can be split in two or else you will have trouble later!
five: release all the hair back over top of the extension. Make sure the clips are completely hidden with hair (you want the world to think you have long, luscious, insanely thick, natural hair!).
six: grab the hair above your ears and at your crown including all of the hair extension, and secure it into a second ponytail underneath the first one. Sometimes when you do this it unhooks the clips of the hair extensions which isn’t a problem if you can get them clipped again without being visible. Just be patient and keep trying until you get it smooth, and be prepared for a big heavy ponytail!
optional: this is when you would add a second extension if you need one. Just flip up the ponytails and an extra inch of hair and clip the extension to the free hair underneath.
seven: split the first ponytail in two. Grab hair from the area below your ears (as well as the second extension if you are using one) and brush it back to join both sides of the split ponytail.
eight: secure the split ponytail and added hair underneath the second ponytail. So now you have a third ponytail that has the second ponytail going through it. Make sense?
nine: split the second ponytail in two (this can be tricky because you have so much hair in this one and those cheap dollar store extensions are easily tangled). Grab the remaining hair from the sides and bottom of your head and add it to the split ponytail. Secure all of this hair underneath the third ponytail. So now you have a fourth ponytail that has the third ponytail going through it, and you have all of your hair secured into a ponytail.
ten: there is no more hair to add into the ponytails, so now we just braid the third and fourth ponytails together. Split the third ponytail in two.
eleven: secure the split third ponytail underneath the fourth ponytail. So now you have a fifth ponytail that has the fourth ponytail going through it.
twelve: split the fourth ponytail in two. Secure it underneath the fifth ponytail. So now you have a sixth ponytail that has the fifth ponytail going through it. See what we are doing here?
thirteen: repeat steps ten to twelve until you’ve used up all of your hair. Because I only used one clip in extension, the length of my real hair was my limiting factor–I could have probably done another two ponytails with the extension but my real hair was at its end, so I have a nice big curl of hair that isn’t braided. No big deal, it looks pretty!
fourteen: pancake time! Starting at the bottom where you’ve secured the final elastic, grab the two splits of the ponytail and gently pull them up towards the top of your head. You are pulling them loose from the elastic and making them more flat and wide. You do pull the hair upwards and out of the elastic but obviously not all of the way out. Then do the same with the next ponytail from the bottom, working your way up to the first ponytail. I find starting from the bottom is the best technique because you are loosening your hair as you move up the braid rather than trying to first release hair from the top where it is tightest. After you’ve made your way to the top you can go back down and re-pancake the other ponytails below so that they are all equally flattened and thick.
fifteen: done! Grab your camera, take a selfie, put it on Instagram and comment below with the link so we can see your big thick gorgeous braid!!!
I hope you have luck finding a cheap extension at the dollar store like I did! Or maybe you have nice, high quality extensions already (ooo la la!). Another option is always EBay, just try to match the colour as best as possible. Comment below with your pics!
Clip in hair extension: mine was 18″ by the brand Fab Design. I got it from Your Dollar Store With More.
Island Rains Bold Simply Gem Solitaire Ring (London Blue Topaz): Tacori
Turquoise dress: I got this years ago at Forever21 so it’s no longer available, but this and this look like a similar colour.