3 Steps To Style Baby Hairs + How To Tell If You Have Breakage
Styling baby hairs has, by no means, just popped out of the woodwork; rather, styling baby hairs has historical and cultural significance—specifically, Black and Latinx communities have been showing off their baby hairs for years, swirling these face-framing wisps into styles that find that effortless yet immaculate equilibrium.
Now, all textures can have baby hairs, no matter whether your hair is fine or thick, voluminous or flat. And figuring out how to style yours might take a few pointers—as well as hair care tips to make sure the delicate strands stay as strong as possible.
Below, experts weigh in for this guide.
Baby hairs, defined.
"The finest hair on your head happens to be around your hairline," explains hairstylist Anthony Dickey, founder of Hair Rules. "Because of the fineness, that's why we call them baby hairs." No matter whether you have generally "thick" or "thin" hair, the strands framing your face will be more delicate than most. Just as how most people have multiple curl types on their head, your hair can also have a range of fine to thick strands.
These feathery hairs are quite short, too, as a result of a shorter hair growth cycle; when the growing cycle (the anagen phase) shortens over time, new hairs may sprout, but they never seem to grow as long as the rest of our strands. And thus, baby hairs (also commonly known as edges) are born.
Baby hairs versus breakage.
Just because they're shorter than the rest of your hair doesn't (always) mean they're synonymous with breakage. Rather, baby hairs are simply the result of a shorter natural hair growth cycle, like we mentioned above—that's why they tend to be shorter than the rest of your strands. Breakage along the hairline, on the other hand, typically happens due to physical damage (harsh brushing, treatments, and too-tight styles), or can even from overwashing.
Curious about whether your hairs are baby and growing versus breaking and damaged? Check the texture of those shorter strands. Baby hairs are soft, thin, and wispy; breakage, decidedly less so: "Hair breakage around the edges tends to be random lengths due to damage, has thicker strands, and is less fine," says hairstylist Miko Branch, co-founder of natural hair care brand Miss Jessie's.
That's not to say your fine baby hairs are damage-proof. Your edges can experience breakage as well, Branch notes, especially if you routinely blast them with hot tools. "Always apply a gentle touch," she advises, and never tweeze, wax, thread, or shave those baby hairs—they can be annoying and unruly at times, but learn to properly care for them, and they'll become an asset to any face-framing look.
How to style your baby hairs.
The process does vary a bit depending on your texture: "If you have a 1 or 2 texture that is straight or wavy, it's better to do it when the hair is dry," says Dickey. (Editor's note: Type 1 and 2 are straight to S-waves; Type 3 and 4 are springy curls to tight kinks.)
"For the 3's and the 4's that have a kinkier, curlier texture, it's better to start with hair that is wet or damp." (Remember, apply product when curls are sopping wet can keep the hair from frizzing.) That said, here's a three-step method to master the style:
- Choose the right product: For 1's and 2's, Dickey recommends a water-based mousse to offer a little more control without adding too much heaviness. Kinks, curls, and coils can get away with a little more weight, but you'll still want to find an edge control with a crunch-free hold (peek our recs, below).
- Swirl them into place: There are a number of styling brushes on the market, but a regular toothbrush or dry spoolie will work just as well, says Branch. Take your tool and play around with designs: "Very gently, softly, and carefully brush, smooth down, and swoop your baby hair flyaways into circles or wave patterns," she says. You can also add some additional hair along the edges to thicken up the baby hairs, she notes. The swoops look quite lovely with different lengths of hair blended together.
- Don't forget to set: One of the biggest mistakes, Dickey remarks, is forgetting to set your edges. "I advise putting a silk scarf around your edges for 10 to 15 minutes, maybe half an hour, and let your hair air-dry." That way, you can protect your fresh style and keep those artfully spiraled baby hairs in place.
Embracing baby hairs is by no means a new movement; beauty fans in both Black and Latinx communities have deliberately styled them for years. All you need is the right product to lay down those hairs; tools help you get that perfect swirl, sure, but the styler is what helps those baby hairs keep their shape.
That's not to say you have to lay those feathery hairs down. If you wish to sleek your baby hairs back into your hairline or let them simply live, sans edge control? That's fine, too: Beauty is a personal experience that's entirely yours. As for your baby hairs, treating them with (gentle) care is more than enough maintenance, if you wish.
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Jamie Schneider is the Beauty & Wellness Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.A. in Organizational Studies and English from the University of Michigan, and her work has appeared in Coveteur, The Chill Times, and Wyld Skincare. In her role at mbg, she reports on everything from the top beauty industry trends, to the gut-skin connection and the microbiome, to the latest expert makeup hacks. She currently lives in New York City.