Raise your hand if you love spending a good hour on styling and flat-ironing your hair only to step away and see your slicked-down baby hairs pop up again in a flash…
We can’t see you, but we’re going to go ahead and guess you didn’t raise your hand. It’s okay, we didn’t either. The reality of these soft, wispy strands (which can be a result of either breakage or new hair growth—or both) is that they pretty much do what they want. But believe it or not, you actually can style them, control them, or shape them however you want, too. Baby hair (also known as edges) can be worn in a multitude of ways, including straight, curly, wavy, or slicked-down. Whether you’re in the mood to let your curls roam free or you’re more into a slicked look, the choice is yours if you're equipped with the right products and techniques.
If you have yet to master the art of styling your baby hairs, we’ve put together some tried-and-true steps to help. Keep reading to figure out exactly how to style and embrace the shorter strands along your hairline.
Water Them Down
First step: grab a spray bottle. The easiest way to shape and mold your baby hairs to your desire is to start with wet strands, but this doesn’t mean you have to do a full shampoo every time you want to style your fine hairs. In fact, washing your hair too often can cause dryness, which leads to damage and breakage—not ideal. Just a touch of water will do, so instead reach for a mist bottle filled with plain water and spritz along your hairline to dampen the strands. If you don't have a bottle, a good splash works, too. Use your fingers to ensure the water is evenly distributed throughout your hairline before moving on with drying them.
Style With a Blow Dryer
Once your baby hairs are wet, you can begin the blow-drying process. Secure hold on them with your index and middle fingers and gently press them against your forehead. Holding the hair while you blow-dry will train them to lie in the direction you want, so keep that in mind when setting your baby hair. Angle the nozzle of the blow-dryer toward the roots and lightly blast them with heat for three seconds. Then, switch to cool air for three seconds, which will close the cuticle and set the style. Alternate between hot and cold hair until all the baby hairs along your hairline are dried and finished. The goal is to style the hair without causing further damage, so avoid using the hottest setting of the blow-dryer to protect the delicate hairs from burning. Because everyone's hair is different, experiment with finding the optimal temperature for styling your baby hairs. Use the lowest setting possible that is still warm enough to effectively shape your hair without all the damage.
The Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer ($399), although pricey, is equipped with heat control technology to protect against heat damage. In other words, it's worth the splurge.
The baby hairs at the front of your head dry quickly, so be careful not to overdry or heat style them.
Use a Toothbrush as a Comb
If you're having trouble shaping your baby hairs exactly how you want them with just the use of your fingertips, grab a toothbrush for reinforcement. This trick is a classic favorite in the natural hair community for good reason. Since a big, bulky brush doesn't allow for the precision you need when working with such fine, small hairs, a toothbrush is a perfect fix. After you've applied the right styling product (we'll get to that in the next step) to your baby strands, run the bristles in small strokes over your hairline to separate the hairs as it smoothes them and lay your edges into place. Once you give it a try, you'll find that nothing beats the combination of your finger with a trusty toothbrush.
If you're looking for an eco-friendly option, this Living Zero Bamboo Wooden Toothbrush ($6) is a great alternative to a typical plastic one, so you don't have to feel guilty about stocking up on toothbrushes.
Set Your Baby Hair With Hairspray
When it comes to choosing the right styling product for your baby hairs, consider your hair type and the look you're wanting to achieve. For those with straighter hair types who want a strong hold without the feel or look of product buildup, use a medium- to firm-hold hairspray, like Sachajuan Strong & Flexible Hairspray ($35). Styling products from the Sachajuan line are meant to delicately build up the strength of your stands, so you won’t overdo it or weigh the hair down. This is especially important for applying product to these fine strands around your face. Mist the product onto the bristles, then gently brush over the baby hairs along the hairline and into place. If you have a toothbrush, you can also spritz a folded tissue with a small amount of hairspray and slide it across your hairline, smoothing down any stubborn baby hairs along the way. If your baby hairs behave more like flyaways, apply a lightweight hair oil (we like Ouai Haircare Hair Oil, $28) to add lost moisture back into the strands and take down the frizz.
Shape Them With Styling Cream
For those with naturally textured and curly hair who want to slick down their baby hairs, try these products: a pomade, like Form Polish. Pomade ($26); a control gel, like Ampro Shine ’N Jam Conditioning Extra Hold ($13); or a control paste (we love Aveda Control Paste, $34). And if you're not a fan of the alcohol in hairspray or many styling gels, which can dry out your strands and weaken your already-fragile baby hairs with continued use, you can opt out for a nourishing styling cream instead. We like Living Proof’s No Frizz Nourishing Styling Cream ($38). Use this styling cream to smooth frizz throughout your entire mane, paying special attention to the finer baby hairs that frame your face. To apply it, spread the product over the area with your fingertips or put a dab of it onto a toothbrush to smooth over flyaways. Don't have an extra toothbrush? Use the tip of a rattail comb to direct the hair in the pattern or direction you like.
Stick With Satin and Silk
Now that you've styled your baby hairs with a product and shaped them how you want, wrap your head and tie your hair down in a silk scarf to set the style. After about 15 minutes or so, you can remove the scarf to reveal your finished look. To preserve your baby hairs overnight and keep them from getting frizzy while you sleep, ditch the cotton pillowcases and opt for silk or satin ones instead. Why? Unlike cotton, silk helps to retain your hair's much-needed moisture to prevent dry strands. This Slip Silk Pillowcase ($85), which is made of mulberry silk, is not only good for maintaining hydration in your hair but also your skin. If you don't have a silk pillowcase, wearing your hair in a scarf or under a bonnet when you sleep will have a similar effect. But whatever you do, get rid of those cotton pillowcases once and for all.
Make Your Baby Hair a Part of Your Look
With the above tricks in mind, styling your baby hairs should prove much more manageable. But sometimes your hair has a mind of its own and does what it wants no matter the work you put into it, and that's okay! Instead of slicking them back and hiding them out of the way all the time, embrace your baby hairs from time to time by making them a focal point of your look. For instance, style your baby hair with undone with messy locks that are loosely tied in a braid, bun, or ponytail. A messy braid will allow you to twist and conceal stray baby hairs without having to use any products—the wispy hairs instead will just look like a part of the style. Or, wear your hair pulled back to put your baby hairs on display, like Rihanna's half-up style shown here. Rihanna’s baby hairs look amazing slicked down and paired with a half-pony, but you could also try a bun, a high ponytail, or another cool updo as well.
Next: According to the curly hair community, these are the very best products for naturally textured hair.
This story was originally published on August 12, 2015, and has since been updated.