Hairstyles for Short, Natural Hair

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

Natural is in and it’s here to stay. And that includes short natural hair. Whether you’re leaving it down, styling it up a bun or braids, or even reaching for a flat iron every once in a while, short hair is beautiful. But, before we get into the hairstyles that inspire us, we need to hear what makes short natural tresses different from longer ones.

“The main difference between styling short natural hair and long natural hair is the amount of product one uses," says Anike Rabiu, a Nigerian-born and New York-based hairstylist. "The method is the same, but product distribution and execution varies depending on hair length and texture. When styling natural hair, the more you concentrate on hydration and moisture while your hair is wet, the better it will look and the healthier it will remain aside from trimming the ends.” With these expert tips in mind, onto the hairstyles. Here are 30 of our favorites for short natural hair.

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Meet the Expert

Anike Rabiu is a Nigerian-born and New York-based hairstylist who has worked on the textured locks in various New York Fashion Week and Bridal Fashion Week runway shows.

Blonde Box Braid Bob

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Box braids always make a statement. And that includes bob-length ones. We’re in love with the bright blonde box braids Amandla Stenberg wore at the 2020 Oscars.

Asymmetrical Pixie

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Short hair looks its most fabulous when it has a distinct cut. Just take Gabrielle Union’s gorgeous asymmetrical pixie hair cut from the 2019 Vanity Fair Oscar Party as an example. It was equal parts edgy and glam.

To replicate Union’s style, Rabiu advises detangling your natural hair, sectioning it and using a high-power blow dryer on a medium setting. Once that’s all done, you can follow up with a heat protectant and sealant before flat ironing and finish with an oil.

Messy Wired Bun

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If you like your natural hair but you don’t necessarily want it in your face, you might want to throw your tresses up into a messy bun. We adore the style Janelle Monáe wore and those loose tendrils that framed her face. And of course, we can’t forget to mention the eye-catching gold wire she threaded into her bun!

Braided Fauxhawk

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Issa Rae loves experimenting with her natural hair and you should too. The braided fauxhawk she wore at the 2017 Golden Globes should absolutely be added to your “try-next” hairstyle list.

Wavy Middle Part Bob

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If you’re looking for a natural hairstyle that is a little beachy but still fitting for a formal occasion, you should go for this wavy bob as worn by Queen Bey herself. The middle part evens out the chunky waves beautifully.

Slicked Down Pixie

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Zoe Kravitz is living proof that short cropped styles can still be sultry. All you need is a rattail comb and your favorite pomade and you can slick down those tresses into a swooping pixie shape.

Natural Victory Rolls

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Lupita Nyong’o is simply the queen of natural hair in Hollywood. And she’s not afraid to experiment with her coily type 4 tresses. For example, the retro “Victory Rolls” she sported at the 2020 SAG Awards is something we never knew we needed!

High Pony

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Having short natural hair doesn’t mean you can’t go back to basics. Just take a look at Logan Browning with her ultra-high ponytail. If your hair is short enough, it’ll resemble a topknot with its perfect puff.

Natural Finger Waves

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A lot of naturals with short pixie cuts opt for smoothing down their tresses with a heat tool, but you don’t need to if that’s not your jam. Alexandra Shipp’s adorable finger waves are an excellent example of what you can achieve sans heat.

Dip Dye End

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If you’re the type who yearns for pops of color, you can always try a dip dye ombre for your ends. For temporary color, you can buy a jar of Hair Paint Wax, or if you’re willing to commit, you can buy the hair dye of your choice. Regardless of which option you go for in the end, we’re sure you’ll look as amazing as Tyra Banks when she had her dip dye pink waves.

Tapered Cut

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Do you want really short natural hair, but you don’t want to commit to a full buzz cut? Don’t worry, you can try a tapered cut like Samira Wiley. It’s a great way to get the best of both worlds!

“Everyone looks great with a tapered afro and it’s easier to maintain And style. This goes for all wavy, kinky, curly hair textures,” Rabiu says.

Fulani Braids

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If braids are the way you want to go, you should totally take a page out of RiRi’s stylebook and get some Fulani braids. If you’re not familiar, they’re half cornrow half box braid and are 100 percent stunning!

Curly Pineapple

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Pineapples are a part of the natural hair bible. No exceptions! Just ask Kerry Washington and her defined curly pineapple from the 2018 Vanity Fair Oscar Party.

Curly Wash-and-Go Fringe

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Curls are a great option for short tresses because the texture itself really adds a pop of noticeable dimension and volume. This is especially true if you’re open to having a curly fringe (AKA the British word for bangs). Yara Shahidi wore a stunning curly wash-and-go in this style at the 2018 MTV Movie and TV Awards.

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Rabiu’s expert tip for this look? It’s simple, “Water is your best friend for styling.”

Faux Pompadour

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If you’re edgy and you know it, why not show it with a cropped and slicked- back do? Jurnee Smollet-Bell certainly did during the “Birds of Prey” premiere. We love the height she added to her hair when she swept it back into a faux pompadour. The stray pieces she left out were another nice touch.

Curly Shag

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Sure, Halle Berry is known for her short tresses, but we’re a fan of the look she wore the 89th Annual Academy Awards. It was a few inches longer than usual, and it really added to her gorgeous curly do – which was cut into a bold shag. Her balayage ends brought out the overall dimension and shape.

Halo Updo

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If there’s ever a day when you want to look like an ethereal princess, this halo-style updo is the way to go. Gugu Mbatha-Raw sported a simple headband with hers and we think you can totally rock the do and lowkey accessory yourself. It’s effortlessly elegant.

Half-Up-Half-Down Waves

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At times, deciding on whether you have your hair up or down can be one of the most difficult choices you have to make. We’re sure Anna Diop related to this struggle when she attended the 2019 Essence Black Women In Hollywood Awards, but she easily remedied that situation by going for a half-up-half-down number. Those sleek waves she paired with it were simply stunning!

Statement Side Pony

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The side ponytail is not reserved for high schoolers. Tessa Thompson proved this point with her ultra-sophisticated side pony at the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party. We love the volume she added to her asymmetrical side-part to create and overall balanced look.

Retro Hair Flip

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Having short hair gives you an opportunity to play with cuts and styles. And this includes the iconic gravity-defying hair flip of the 1960s. Ashley Blaine Featherson wore this retro style when she attended the 2018 Essence Black Women In Hollywood Oscars Luncheon. Even better, she threw in a few layers for added dimension!

Blonde Pixie

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There’s just something about a blonde pixie hair cut that seems so universal. Nearly every woman in Hollywood has sported one at some point, from Eva Marcille and Beyoncé to Mary J. Blige and more. But, this time, we’re focused on Meagan Good’s wispy cropped tresses. Don’t you just love?

Blunt Bob with Choppy Bangs

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Just when you thought you’d be all bobbed out, Zendaya shows up with a contrasting chin-length, blunt cut and choppy bangs. This sleek look is a beautiful option for those days when you want a break from curl maintenance.

Sideswept Blowout

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Do you like the look of blowouts but you don’t want your hair to be flat? No problem, you can try a voluminous sideswept style like Ella Balinska. Don’t forget to tease those roots to get that gorgeous front swoop.

Purple Topknot

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You can mix up classic styles with contemporary trends for a unique aesthetic. Justine Skye did just that when she attended the 2018 Harper's BAZAAR ICONS Party with her iconic purple locks wrapped up in a prim and proper topknot. If purple isn’t your jam, feel free to choose the color you love instead.

Asymmetrical Updo

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We absolutely love a good updo, and Teyonah Parris wore one of the best ones we’ve seen on a red carpet. Her side-parted twist out had just the right amount of volume in the front to create a fabulous asymmetrical fringe while the rest was tucked away into a lovely low bun. One word: flawless!

“For your best result, twist outs should be done on dry stretched hair,” Rabiu shares as her secret twist out tip. “The results will be fantastic.”

Cornrows

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Cornrows are a fantastic option for short natural hair, so long as your hair offers a few inches for braiding, of course. We’re fond of the very symmetrical cornrows Winnie Harlow wore to the 2019 GQ Men Of The Year Awards. Six braids were all she needed to polish off her look.

Messy Updo

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As the daughter of the legendary Diana Ross, it would be a crime for Tracee Ellis Ross to not be a natural hair icon in her own right. Even better, she doesn’t have to be flashy to look stunning. Her loose curly strands were the center of attention of her low messy updo at the 2020 Vanity Fair Oscar Party.

Crown-Like Braids

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If you like to play around with shapes, chunky braids are a great option. Alicia Keys is a great example with her 2019 Harper’s Bazaar Icons Party hairstyle, which was adorned with braids and statement chains. It was so glam!

Side-Parted Wash-and-Go

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Viola Davis is a pro when it comes to donning her short natural type 4 hair on the red carpet. We love the side-parted and voluminous wash-and-go she wore to the 2019 EE British Academy Film Awards.

Tapered Rose Gold

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Jada Pinkett Smith loves her tapered cuts and we’re sure you will too. And how could you truly resist when it’s paired with such a lovely rose gold hue?

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