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 hair cut 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.
Meet the Expert
Below, we talk to Dent and stylist Nia Nowlin about 25 short, natural hairstyles to help you find your next signature haircut.
"The hottest trend for 2020 with fine natural hair is the finger wave," says Nowlin. Finger curling the hair is one of the best ways to ensure your hair is defined, but the key to minimal frizz post-coiling is to keep your fingers off of them while they dry.
Starting with a deep side part ensures an asymmetrical style with sculpted waves.
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 bald. 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. Mona Baltazar is an NYC-based hairstylist hailing from the Philippines and specializes in shaping curly hair. As seen here, her asymmetrical cut is stylish and chic.
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 ($34) and Mizani's Thermasmooth Smooth Guard Serum ($20) 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 headbands, as you see here. Grace Eleyae's Turban Style Headbands ($20) 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.
Jeweled Baby Hair Cornrows
This cornrowed protective style is giving us full-on glam with the addition of crystals to the perfectly-laid baby hairs.
Micro Loc Bob
Locs are just as versatile as other hair types, and this micro loc bob proves my theory. As this style can take months to achieve, depending on how long your locs are, you'll need to be patient to see results.
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 straight 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.
If I told you this was a wig, would you believe me? Well, it is. Tonya, who is a well-known wig specialist, cut this style to perfection. 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, an 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 like director Melina Matsoukas did here.
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 Marcelle 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.
Traditional headbands aren't just for kids. Tia Mowry's leather headband gives her cropped curls an instant boost of chic.
Mini twists work on many hair lengths and textures. The loose ends give the look a two-toned texture that makes the style seem effortless.
Bobs can be sleek, curly, and even blown out. KiKi Layne'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 no to low 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 ($400) has been shaped by a stylist so you can try the look without any additional shaping.
Auburn 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 complements your skin tone like this auburn 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.