It's not uncommon for those on a natural hair journey to take on a big chop at the beginning of the process. For some, this might come about by choice, while for others, it might be due to a lack of options (for instance, those dealing with so much damage that starting over is the best way to move forward). Either way, everyone should try a short haircut at least once.
Getting used to the mirror reflection without what many feel makes them pretty can be an adjustment. However, having shorter hair can lead to a personal renaissance of sorts—it's liberating and, better yet, can really showcase a personality. Whether you're already wearing a short style or you're interested in a beauty overhaul, there are plenty of options. "Short styles are definitely back and won’t be leaving anytime soon," says Andrea Dent, a hairstylist with Lake Worth, Florida's Mahogany Natural Hair Salon and Spa.
Below, we talk to Dent and stylist Nia Nowlin about 22 short, natural hairstyles to help you find your next signature haircut.
A Natural Fade
Witnessing Zozibini Tunzi take home the crown in the 2019 Miss Universe pageant donning cropped natural hair was truly a magical moment. This cropped look is pretty low maintenance, but you'll need to see a barber a few times a month to keep your cut crisp.
Pink-Hued Cropped Curls
Experimenting with color is an effortless way to switch things up when you've found your signature silhouette. These days, says Dent, "Women are expressing themselves with mohawks, undercuts, fades, flat tops, and even more fierce with a clean shave. Depending on the length and shape of the cut they also have curls, twists, and coils and can also spice it up with bright, bold colors." Now, thanks to hair paint wax, you can apply colorful hues without seeing any damage.
Gumby, but make it fashion. And, of course, really artful. Find a stylist who specializes in shaping natural hair for a look that's stylish and chic. Use your natural texture or add interest with braids or locs.
Straight Fringed Pixie
A sleek short cut with a bang gives the hair a classic edge. To achieve this style, having relaxed or heat-trained hair will provide you with the best results. However, if you want to try this look on natural hair, you'll need a serum that protects, smooths, and keeps frizz at bay. Moroccanoil's Moroccanoil Treatment ($44) and Mizani's Thermasmooth Smooth Guard Serum ($14) are two reliable products that help keep the frizz away when straightening natural hair.
Accessorizing short hair is simple. You can try everything from embellished bobby pins to hats, as you see here. Or, try a headband—Grace Eleyae's Turban Style Headbands ($22) are a great option since jersey knit material won't snag or dry out your curls.
Bantu knots work well on a range of hair lengths and are an optimal protective style for coily hair. As a bonus, the knots are also a solid way to achieve naturally curly hair with minimal effort.
This cornrowed protective style is giving us full-on glam with the addition of pearls. If you don't have the time for something as elaborate as this, you can also use stick-on gems to accentuate your baby hairs.
A curly cut is the key to achieving the ideal shape and length to complement your curl pattern. With the right cut, natural hair can stay perfectly in place for weeks on end. For a rounded shape, blow-dry your bob with a round bush while pointing a hairdryer downwards. This will help mold the hair and minimize frizz.
Textured Bowl Cut
Use your natural 'do or go faux to replicate this look (i.e. have a wig specialist cut this style to perfection if you aren't willing to commit). Wigs are a protective style option that are worth the investment.
Sleek bobs are always a yes, especially if you're a natural who rocks straight hair. Bobs can suit a number of face shapes and don't require much in terms of maintenance. Be sure to discuss with your stylist if you want layers, angles, or even bangs to add interest.
Deciding on a short cut can take some research, but a tapered look can sometimes give you the best of both worlds. Keep the sides trimmed shorter to really highlight the curls up top.
Short Box Braids
Short box braids will never go out of style since they offer versatility and are relatively easy to maintain. You can go chunky, mini, and even opt for a '90s-inspired style.
To keep box braids at their freshest, wrap hair at night. The friction from sheets can cause frizz and damage un-wrapped hair.
Zoë Kravitz can pull off anything thanks to her beautiful bone structure—but a pixie is a fairly easy style for anyone to rock. According to Nowlin, maintenance boils down to two key ingredients: "The secret weapon to styling pixie cuts are the dynamic duo: hairspray and pomade," she says.
Eva Marcille has served up short styles that wow since her America's Next Top Model days. If you decide to take your hair color this blonde, keep a protein-rich treatment on deck at all times. A product such as Olaplex's Hair Perfector No. 3 ($28) is great for maintenance.
Whether you're growing out a big chop or looking for the perfect way to highlight silver roots, Tia Mowry's natural look is simple and works for almost anyone with similar textures. The pair of gold hoops gives her cropped curls an instant boost of chic.
Bobs can be sleek, curly, and even blown out. Gabrielle Union's blunt bob can be worn on blown-out natural hair, and you can even add clip-ins to create more body and volume.
Fro Bowl Cut
Who doesn't love a perfectly round fro? One of the simplest ways to achieve a look like this is to have your stylist cut your hair into this shape, so you don't have to spend too much time manually trying to achieve it.
Whether you're relaxed or natural, Flexi-rod sets can give you up to a week of little to no hair manipulation. All you need is a good mousse and rods to achieve this minimal maintenance style. The result is a loose, funky curl.
Curly Fringed Bob
"When it comes to hair with a tighter curl, the definition is key," notes Nowlin. Yara Shahidi is a curly girl that enjoys trying new looks. If curling your hair isn't on the beauty to-do list, it's best to invest in a wig. Heat Free Hair's "Flo" Wig ($160) has been shaped by a stylist so you can try the look without any additional shaping.
Blonde Cropped Cut
I couldn't take my eyes off of Jodie Turner-Smith's face-framing cut on the big screen in Queen and Slim. If you're curious about trying a hair color that contrasts your skin tone like this bright blonde hue, consult with your stylist so you can find the perfect shade.
"The most fashionable style when it comes to tapered hairstyling with natural hair is the edgy drop fade—with a creative undercut topped with defined coils and a pop of color," says Nowlin. Short looks like this one take confidence to try, but once you go for it, your one-of-a-kind facial features will be in full view.
What's the easiest way to style short, natural hair?
Show off your natural texture by letting hair air-dry, then using your fingers to distribute mousse through the ends for a piecey texture.
How can I enhance my natural curls if my hair is short?
Keep hair well-moisturized (even use a product such as leave-in conditioner if needed, for very dry hair) and allow plenty of time for hair to dry or set.
How often should I wash and condition short, natural hair?
Most people can go two to three days without washing their natural hair. Try conditioning five times per week — less if yo can get away with it, so your hair isn't weighed down.