If your hair is on the thinner/finer side of the spectrum, the first question to ask when considering a protective style is “is protective styling right for me?”
Protective styles commonly involve tension to the scalp. Tension can vary depending on the style and the stylist. When it comes to choosing a stylist it is important to remember that techniques to achieving the same style differ and some involve more tension than others. Be sure to choose the right stylist/technique for you.
The addition of extension hair will involve higher tension. This is because more tension is needed to secure the extension to the scalp so it doesn’t slip or loosen.
The point in which the extension hair is added will also contribute to the level of tension. The closer to the scalp, the higher the tension. The further it is from the scalp the lower the tension. Two common examples of high tension styles are Box Braids and Feed in Cornrows. Box Braids are achieved by attaching extensions once at the root of the scalp and feed in cornrows involve adding extensions several times at the root as you braid along the scalp.
Knotless Braids are unique because they incorporate braiding the natural hair, which involves significantly less tension, and then feeding in the extensions. Once you are away from the root of the hair you are able to add a decent amount of extension hair without putting any tension on the scalp. This clever technique is why this relatively new style has gained its popularity. It combines the aesthetic and painless aspects of natural hair plaits and the fullness/length that comes with traditional box braids (without the pain).
So, which one is best for thin/fine hair?
While traditional box braids will give you the coverage that many with thin/fine hair crave, it comes at the expense of our natural hair’s integrity. Box braids give you a fuller look because there is more extension hair on your head but it involves more tension. This combination can be harmful in the long run. By the time you take your braids down you will likely notice more shedding and possible breakage. This is a result of scalp tension.
If your hair lacks durability or not enough of it is used to sustain the extension hair you will experience elevated tension on your scalp. This is known as Scalp Tension. This tension can stress the area around the scalp and result in hair loss.
Because of this I strongly believe that knotless braids are the better alternative. Because you begin the plait with natural hair, you relieve any extreme tension to the scalp. However the magic is in the ability to control how much extension hair is added. At Amaka’s Daughter this varies from client to client. There is no specific formula for how much hair we add. We determine this based on many factors, one of the most important being the clients hair density.
Here I have included a picture of two clients. Both have our standard knotless braids installed, however you can still see the (slight) difference in their natural hair's density. The client on the left falls on the thinner side but more hair was used to achieve her look. The client on the right has fuller hair but needed less extension hair. In both cases the amount of extension hair added is carefully calculated to make sure the scalp is not overwhelmed and to allow more durability when styling.
Knotless Braids are sometimes referred to as a “scalpy” look. This is not wrong. How "scalpy" it looks is 100% dependent on the clients natural hair. For those with thinner/finer hair it’ll look more “scalpy.” However this shouldn’t deter you from exploring this style. I show clients ways they can style this look to achieve the most coverage. I also recommend selecting a larger size to achieve more coverage of the scalp with the natural hair.
If after doing your research, you decide that knotless braids are right for you but still have concerns about your hair’s ability to maintain them you can reach out directly to schedule an in person or virtual consultation.
*For clients with alopecia or severe hair loss please visit this site for resources. I do not recommend protective styling in these cases.