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The Best Braid Size For Length Retention Without Damage

For the ‘weavelistas’ among you braids are like the poor relation that you don’t visit very often. Even though they are not for everyone, I personally love braids and have use them extensively in my hair journey. They are a very effective protective style, they look great and are ultra easy to care for.

As promised in a recent newsletter, I would like to clarify the best braid sizes for maximum length retention and I would also like to look at braiding technique which is equally important to the health of your locks.

Braid Sizes

Best braid size for hair growth

Micro braids – They are very popular with braid wearers but they are also the most stressful braid size to your follicles. Some people have found success with micro braids but many have also found themselves with traction alopecia and excessive breakage.

Pen size braids – These are the ideal size in terms of tensile strength while also being small enough to adequately allow each strand to be equally coated with product when you wash or moisturize your hair.

Chunky braids – These are also great for length retention but they will have to be taken down more often to allow for thorough washing and conditioning. They may also be too big for some people to be aesthetically pleasing!

Of course braid sizes vary widely and you may find success with a braid size between a micro and a pen size braid but the take home message here is the larger the braid, the better your length retention in the long run. The reason for this as I see it are twofold; weight and tensile strength.


This is particularly important if you are using hair extensions. When you braid a very small section of hair as in micro or mini micro braids and you attach to this section to hair extensions, you are adding stress to your follicles from the extra weight of the extensions. A larger section of hair will be able to withstand the weight of hair extensions better than a small section.

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About Alma

Hi! I'm Alma Ruddock, a full time blogger. I stumbled on a hair care forum in 2008 frustrated with my breaking relaxed hair and the information that I found there changed the fate of my hair forever!. I started as a way to help both myself and other women of color achieve their dreams of long healthy hair. I have now achieved my goal length and I continue to bring new information about hair on both this website and my personal blog.

From Around The Web


  1. 1

    Thanks for the information

  2. 2

    Hey Alma.
    Thank you so much for all the information that you give us.
    God Bless You.

  3. 4

    Very helpful. I can’t braid normal tension to save my life, I always do high tension and I noticed that I wasn’t retaining length wigging for months. I thought that my hair just doesn’t grow! I think I will just get my sister to do the braiding for me

  4. 5
    BlueCornmoon says:

    I guess the same would hold true for twists. I’m currently still in summer mode with a head full of Kinky Curly but will have to change when weather gets colder & air gets dry

  5. 7
    LunaForever says:

    I am about to go for a trip in Africa (safari) so i decided to braid my hair because I am sure tat Im not gonna have the facilities to do my hair since its relaxed! My hair is at BSL length but i don’t want to damage it while wearing braids (with extensions)…the question is should i wash it or the water can damage it even further?

  6. 11

    I can definitely attest to how small (non micro) medium tension braids can be a BIG help in protecting your hair. They’re super easy to do and there are tons hair colors and textures to choose from. I’ve also see how TERRIBLE super tiny, high tension Micro braids can be on the hair scalp and hairline. I helped a friend of mine take down some of these teeny tiny braids and the shedding was unbelievable. More than I’ve ever seen with my own normal braids. It also did a NUMBER on her edges and took HOURS to take down. Def not worth it.

  7. 16
    JuliAna Beautiful says:

    Thank you Alma, for all the great and informative information you provide. I wanted to know your thoughts on the best size braids when wearing cornrows. I can’t wear the individual braids as I find them no matter what size very weighty on the hair. Is there a perfect size braid when wearing cornrows with extension hair? Thank you again.

    • 17

      Hi Juliana and you are welcome! You ask a really good question. Cornrows are actually more likely to cause thinning hairlines aka traction alopecia than braids. Because of their structure, the most tension will tend to be at the edges. Not many people do very small cornrows (although I have seen a few) but by and large I would say that braid tension is probably more important than the size when it comes to cornrows.

      Bottom line, I have lost hair to breakage with micros but I have lost my whole back hairline at the roots with a high tension average sized cornrow. For this reason I would say that the size of the braid is less important than the tension is it under. HTH

  8. 18


  9. 19

    the pencil size is also not good, according to me because, they are the reason for my thinning edges, if I was to have braids on, I would go for the chunky braids and make sure to tell my stylist to braid more of my hair with the extension, kinda like Beyonce’s box braids :-)

  10. 20

    The key is the START THE BRAID LARGE, THEN, braid the rest of the hair that is NOT attached at the scalp small(er), to your liking.

  11. 21

    Pencil size braids are safe enough..just tell your stylist not to grip the front hairline too tight to avoid thining…my cent..

  12. 22

    I do mini braids on my own natural hair. I can trust myself not to ruin my edges or hair

  13. 23

    As a liscensed cosmetologist & also having thin edges…..I’ve found that despite the type of braid u get, you have to style them with minimum to no tension. So this means buns ect. Best results are to wear them hanging majority of the time! And not pulled up

  14. 24

    Or bigger parts around the edges…or leave the shorter thinner edges out…….

  15. 25

    Tension is everything. The lighter the braid is in weight the less likely it is to weight the hair out of the head. More important than this is what I call the Hair to Hair Ratio. We must section greater amounts of our hair to be braided than the added amount to ensure the extension doesn’t over power and weight the real hair out. I braid micro size all the time and clients report Zero hair loss. Because my braids are both painless and have a good hair to hair ratio through out.

  16. 26

    I teach hair braiding for a living and find it amazing how uneducated most black people are about one of our oldest hair practices.

  17. 30

    Hair braiding is God’s gift to black hair even the time consuming aspect. There’s no other opportunity like it. When will you ever just sit and think or connect with another sister for 8 plus hours? Never. Hair braiding is our time out to regroup and reconnect. However very few people see it this way. Our impatience with our hair is why it’s in the condition it’s in. Much like fast food, quick isn’t the approach to black hair. Believe it or not. That’s why is so great when styles have a great return on investment such as lasting a few months.

  18. 31

    i can rock the the pen sized ones, but the chunky ones i cant. the bulkiness of the braids when i lay down cause me to have headaches. not from them pulling on my hair, but from the size of them and the pain when i lay down. i cant even do big twists on my natural hair because of the pain. i think its mostly because of my fibromyalgia, either way, im going to stick with the pen size.

  19. 32

    I’m trying to get some now! I didn’t believe you until I tried them lol

  20. 33

    The chunky one weighs my hair down an pulls my edges out.

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