Rocking cropped hair for some might feel like an "only you can pull that off" style. While trying on short hair does mean putting your face and one-of-a-kind features on full display, cropped cuts aren't one size fits all. There are many variations of short haircuts, and we're here to showcase one of those options: the fade.
A tightly tapered hairstyle, the term "fade" originated in Black-owned barbershops. The style in its traditional form uses clippers to cut the sides and back of the hair closely with clippers leaving length at the top. Still, there are a lot more fade haircuts out there, which is why we're bringing you visuals of our favorite fade styles—along with pro tips from stylists Erinn Courtney and Nigella Miller—that complement a variety of face shapes.
Meet the Expert
- Erinn Courtney is an LA-based hairstylist who has worked with the likes of Rickey Thompson, Zendaya, and Willow Smith.
- Nigella Miller is a hair and grooming expert and member of Byrdie's beauty & wellness board.
Keep reading to see 18 black women's fade haircuts we love.
Jodie Turner-Smith shows us that rocking a fade can encompass a mix of structure and texture. "I think this futuristic afro look is different from your traditional afro. It allows you to aim for a certain style or look that elevates your everyday high top," Miller says.
To recreate the curls here—sans heat damage—try a twist out. Follow up by fluffing and structuring the hair with a pick, then lock in the style with hairspray. FYI: You'll need to keep on top of trims to make sure your shape stays on point, according to Miller.
Orange With Hard Part
When rocking a short fade, don't shy away from playing with texture and color. Here we see how beautifully this bright orange hue complements the skin. To keep bright ginger hair color vibrant, try using a conditioner like Overtone's Extreme Orange Daily Conditioner ($8), which is made exclusively for orange hair.
Going full-throttle with cropped hair, in our opinion, is a beauty do. Try it all at the same time for a fade that speaks to you and your stylist's creativity. With the platinum color, use a shampoo like Olaplex's No.4 Bond Maintenance Shampoo ($15), which promises to help keep color vibrant while rebuilding the hair bonds to keep your mane healthy and strong.
This icy blue fade puts the 'F' in fabulous. "The undercut is edgy and matches well with the long bangs and beautiful blue color," Courtney says. "This looks best on someone with a smaller, rounded head or anyone confident enough to rock the style." To keep the hair healthy and vibrant, try adding heated, hydrating conditioning treatments to your weekly routine. If you like to multitask while deep conditioning, a microwavable Hot Head Thermal Cap ($45) lets you get the laundry done while your hair gets the love it needs.
"This style requires the undercut to be touched up maybe once a week and the bang to be flat-ironed as required, especially if the hair isn't chemically relaxed," Courtney tells us. "Find a barber in your area and someone to make sure the hair stays deep-conditioned, as the color will take a toll on the health of the hair," she suggests.
A fade and long coils might sound tricky to mix, but this photo proves otherwise. To keep curls thriving, twist or pineapple the curls using a silk scrunchie. Then, wrap the entire head in a silk scarf before bed to keep the scalp and hair protected.
Looking for a way to dress up your fade? Follow Anika Noni Rose's lead and accessorize. Her hair clips add an element of interest (read: sparkle) to an otherwise subdued style.
We never thought to pair a curly mohawk with a fade, but now we're kicking ourselves for not having tried it sooner. Danai Gurira is nothing short of show-stopping. Incorporating layers into the longer hair on top creates dimension and a fringe effect.
Bubble Gum Pink
Does anyone else have a craving for cotton candy? Us, too. The beautiful, bright fade is a reminder that living out loud is always a great thing. Your stylist will likely recommend an at-home regimen to help keep the pink poppin', but if you're looking for suggestions, a depositing conditioner can be a big help. Moroccanoil's Color Depositing Masks ($8) come in nine shades, including a hibiscus color perfect for cotton candy-colored hair.
Playing with geometric shapes isn't just for kids on the playground. Adding designs to the side of the head adds your very own unique take to a classic. The addition of shapes might require more visits to the salon to maintain, so talk to your stylist or barber to iron out how often you'll have to schedule appointments.
Neon green might not be the most conventional hair color—but that's what makes it so head-turning. "I love a bright pixie; it's everything," Miller says. "It's a great way to step outside your average short hairstyle. The color and design give you an edgy approach to your style."
Aftercare will be essential since getting this hue requires bleaching, so don't skip deep-conditioning sessions. "Consistent color jobs are the upkeep for this look and a fresh cut. A grown-out look wouldn't serve as much," Miller adds.
Curls combined with a fiery red color give this fade edge. To prevent the need to curl the top of the hair daily, try pin-curling and wrapping it in an adjustable turban like the Grace Eleyae Silk Turban ($77). Your hair will stay secure all night long.
Locs offer up so much versatility. If short hair is more your vibe, ask your stylist for a loc'd fade crafted to complement your face shape. Whether you keep your locs short or let them grow long, a fade still pairs well. According to Courtney, "This looks best on someone whose locs are shorter at the top in order to let the cut part of the hair shine."
"This style would require a barber to touch up the part about once a week as the shorter hair would grow back pretty fast," Courtney says. "Keep a barber appointment to keep the line and fade sharp," she recommends. "If that's always neat and on point, it won't matter how wild the locs get on top."
Close Platinum Crop
Cynthia Erivo is one of our favorite short-haired muses. Take this close crop, for instance. The platinum color is enough to make an impact but combined with a fade is next-level. Add a hard part like Erivo to further accentuate contrasting colors and textures.
We love this fresh ginger fade. To recreate the coils at the length, you can twist out, wash and go, or finger-coil. With three options, we know you'll achieve beautiful curls in a way that works for you. To refresh coils, add a leave-in like Creme of Nature's Argan Oil Strength and Shine Leave-In Conditioner Spray ($6) to half a bottle of water in a continuous spray to spritz your curls when they feel parched.
Fades and texture are a duo beloved by hairstylists and hair lovers alike. If you're feeling adventurous, ask your stylist for a custom color that fits the season, your mood, your creativity, or all three.
Low With Heart Design
This low fade with natural curls and a heart design is gorgeous. To keep coils moisturized and free of frizz, style with a curl cream like Not Your Mother's Curl Talk Defining Cream ($9).
A fade doesn't mean cutting off all of your hair. This style features a full head of beautiful blonde curls coupled with the traditional fade. When deciding which fade is right for you, Miller encourages thinking outside the box: "Trying something new [that] forces you to have fun with the whole look," she tells us.
What do you get when you infuse cheeks, eyes, and hair with copper color? A covetable monochrome look à la Samira Wiley, apparently. It lends a certain cohesiveness to her overall aesthetic, especially given the contrasting textures of tight curls against a fade.
What's the difference between a tapered cut and a fade?
A fade blends from a short length to a longer one and is usually cut shorter, while the taper cut is found on the sideburn area of a longer-lasting hairstyle or cut.
What's the difference between a fade and an undercut?
A fade is cut to gradually go from short hair to no hair and can be located on the sides and back of the head. An undercut is an even cut with no fade, while the top is noticeably longer than the sides and back.