It seems like a lifetime ago, but it was just a little over a week ago that I was wandering the desert in Indio, CA, at one of the biggest music festivals in the country. While there I confirmed what I already knew in my heart to be true—flower crowns are out and beautiful, thick braids are in. Luckily for me, while at the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, I happened upon a Redken pop-up salon in Palm Springs where I would learn firsthand about a super easy way to transform my thin, fine hair into pretty, thick, Pinterest-worthy braids, and not just by pulling the pieces apart to give the illusion of thickness.
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As I was getting my own hair braided into a fishtail Mohawk, I looked over to see that my equally fine-haired friend was also getting a pretty braid. The stylist working on her hair, SalonCentric educator Brant Crosby, then did something I had never seen done before. He prepped her hair with what looked like a mini flat iron before assembling her braid. While he did his magic, I grilled him on how this hot tool, a Sam Villa Textur Iron ($120), or mini crimper, helped to make braids thicker. He said he often preps thinner hair this way in order to beef up the braid. “Thin-haired clients always want voluminous styles, and with braids it just makes the hair look even thinner and the braid just ends up falling into your style or blowout,” says Crosby.
While crimping the layers of hair that were going to be braided, making minuscule ridges down the length of her hair, Crosby explained how the mini crimper works: “It spreads the hair out and blows up the strand without causing damage. It adds texture and volume before you ever start making your braid. Just take half-inch sections of the hair you want braided, cut it in half and use the iron on that subsection, going down vertically to create a pattern of ridges in the hair.”
To ensure the best hold, Crosby recommends using a styling balm that won’t weigh fine hair down. “Definitely make sure to use a thickening product with some hold and heat protection during the initial blowout. Then when everything is good and dry and you’re ready to braid, I recommend any kind of pomade or balm with some slip and slight hold to get that braid where you want it. My current favorite is L’anza’s Brilliant Texture.”
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