Whether you're transitioning away from protective styles, growing out hair that's had a little too much chemical processing, or simply ready for a big chop, finding inspiration for short afro hairstyles can be tough. If you've tried scrolling through Pinterest and haven't found the style that's exactly you, worry not. Whether you're looking for everyday styles for type 4c hair, short natural hairstyles for weddings, or coloured styles for kinky hair, we've rounded up some of the best looks for natural, short afro hair to celebrate your crowning glory.
Before Styling: How To Prep Your Short Afro Hairstyle
"One of the biggest misconceptions of black hair is that it is really difficult to style and care for," says Rose Madagwa, founder of Lava Cap. "Once you truly know what your density, porosity and hair type is and get a hair care and styling routine tailored to its needs, looking after natural hair at home should be relatively easy.
"Too often, people add too many steps to their hair care regime, when in fact a lot of it may not be suitable for their hair type. Heat applied to treatments is a super important step in maintaining the health of natural hair, especially if you have low porosity, as the cuticles are closed so firmly shut, moisture isn’t able to enter the follicles unless heat is applied to open the cuticles to let it in. The journey to healthy, happy natural hair is a lot of patience, determination and consistency".
Going for The Chop? The Questions to Ask Your Hairdresser Before Getting Short, Natural Haircuts
'‘The best cuts for curly hair, as with any hair texture - kinky, coily, curly, wavy or straight - take into account your face shape, face size, and more, as there is no one-size-fits-all haircut for curly hair", says celebrity hair stylist Vernon François.
"Always see a hairstylist who understands your hair type, that's the key to hitting on the right style. They will give personalised options to suit your lifestyle as well as your physical features and they will help you to identify what cut will work best for you, your lifestyle and your hair.'
How To Style Short Afro Hair
If you're new to a short afro hairstyle, the best way to learn how to get it looking the way you want is to take notes from your hairdresser. They know exactly how to replicate your new 'do, so ask them as many questions as possible so that when you get home and make it to wash day you are ready with the right tools and products in your kit so that you can rock your style like the first time you walked out of the salon.
Products To Style Your Short Afro Hairstyle
Best Products For Short Afro Hair
Taking care of your afro hair is all in the prep, and a deep conditioner like this one by Dizziak will leave your curls feeling hydrated and nourished. Enriched with quinoa protein and babassu, coconut and argan oils it is rich and fragrant, and really feels like your hair is being treated well. Don't forget the hydration wash to cleanse your hair, but not strip it of all its natural hair oils.
Pros: Natural ingredients, stylish packaging
Cons: Small tube for the price, scent is strong
Tried and tested by Deputy Commercial Content Editor, Natalie Corner: "I only have good things to say about Dizziak, it is so creamy and nourishing and I love the refreshing peppermint scent. I used this on an extended wash day to really treat my hair, and another conditioner throughout the week in between gym trips."
If you're planning on wearing your short crop in Bantu knots, after parting your conditioned hair, twist two strands into a knot using a styling gel or custard like this product from Cantu that will hold your style in place.
Pros: Holds curls and styles, doesn't weigh down hair
Cons: Use sparingly as it can leave a white crunchy cast, strong scent
Review: "I've read mixed reviews about this product so I'm guessing it's not compatible with everyone's hair - BUT it really impressed me. Makes my curls really defined and shiny, especially if I use a little heat from my hair dryer. I have had so many compliments about my hair since I started using it."
To keep your Bantu knots or other braided styles in place secure with mini black hair elastics, available from Amazon and other online stores.
If your short afro hair has had a texture release to create a slicked-back look, make sure it is well cared for. Using a product like hair oil and wrapping it before you sleep at night will keep any dry or damaged hair nourished and hydrated.
Pros: Excellent for dry/damaged hair
Cons: Strong scent
Review: "Smells awesome and a little goes a long way. Although it is an oil it doesn't make my hair feel greasy."
The key to starting any afro hair style is moisture, so make sure you have a handy water spray to freshen any curls and reactivate any product. A fine misting bottle like this one from Ruka will go a long way, and of course, you can refill it with a water and conditioner mix for the ultimate hydration.
Pros: Easy pump-action, know the direction the water is going
Cons: Large bottle
Keep your hard work under wrap for bed with this chic Slip hair turban. The pure silk will protect your hair from getting frizzy and keep any products like hair oils locked in.
Pros: Stays in place, three different colours, can be worn as a hat
Cons: Only one size
Review: "I just bought this, as my hair has been in need of some extra TLC. I have thick, coarse, wavy hair and a medium/large head. I found this fit comfortably around my head and it fit all my hair in without issue. When I took it off in the morning my hair was smoothed (flyaways and frizz gone overnight!) and my style was completely intact! Cannot wait to see how this works for me long term and if it helps with growing my hair out."
You can still create a plenty of stunning short afro hairstyles, and if you desire a slicked finish an edge control get like this ORS one will complete your look. Wrap after you've shaped your edges and give them a quick blow-dry to set.
Pros: Tames hair, holds well
Cons: Product can build-up
Review: "Saw someone use this product on a tv show so thought I’d try it as an alternative to using lots of hairspray for taking the little hairs that stick up. Love this product! You only need to use a very small amount otherwise hair will look greasy but it tames hair in seconds and holds very well. A new must-have product for me, wish I’d found it years ago."
This Living Proof Born To Be Curly set genuinely caters for people with curls, no false promises, it actually delivers. Don't be concerned if the shampoo doesn't lather as the product has less chemicals in it so it really is cleansing your hair and not stripping it. The conditioner is thick and creamy and will leave your hair feeling moisturised without any grease. And when your hair is still wet slather on the curl definer and twist your curls into place to make them pop.
Tried and tested by Deputy Commercial Content Editor, Natalie Corner: "Not only are the bottles sitting pretty on my shelf, but the product inside is just as gorgeous. I carefully followed each step and can truly say my curls have never looked better. The curl definer stood out for me as my hair held its shape without going frizzy like it tends to do. But you can tell that Living Proof have made sure that all the products work well together to give you a fantastic end result."
If you have gone for a texture release or silk press, keep up your style with a Dyson Airwrap. Don't be fooled into thinking this is only for those with long hair, a short style will see as much benefit and it will make life easier when you're blow-drying those flyaways flat.
Pros: Promotes healthier hair, easy to use
Cons: Expensive, barrels are large for short hair
Review: "This is a great product, I’m two months in and already noticing the difference in the health of my hair. It is easy to use with lots of videos to show you ways to use the attachments. My only criticism would be that - having shorter hair, I’d have preferred the 20mm barrel as standard inclusion as the ones in there are too big to make my short hair curl!"
Looking to go bold with colour? SHRINE Drop It colour collection works well on afro hair. Of course for darker hair going lighter means opting for bleach, and we always recommend consulting a professional especially if your hair is already chemically damaged. Or you can try SHRINE's Better For Your Hair Bleach which has added plex within the powder which helps with anti-breakage and lightens hair without the damage. The unique ingredients will help to leave your hair strong and shiny. Then for the perfect clean base, the brand recommends using SHRINE White Blonde Toner first to even out any brassy tones and adding any colour on top once lightened. The latest on-trend hair colour like Drop It Copper will work depending on whether you would prefer a soft natural tone or intense auburn finish you can choose between 6 and 30 drops.
Pros: Can alter the shade to your preference, unique to everyone,
Cons: Temporary colour, needs a lot of upkeep, bleach can damage afro hair if not used correctly
With any afro hair you also need to nourish the scalp, it's where those locks are growing from after all. With shorter hair your scalp will also be more exposed to the elements, build-up of product and dryness can all occur. If you are wearing a protective hairstyle like canerows then this can also cause some tension and caring for it with an oil or serum will help the skin.
Pro: Cooling sensation on application, easy drop applicator
Cons: Small bottle
Review: "It really helped my edges grow out. There's not enough product in the bottle."
If you have short hair and switch between that and wearing a wig, your hair still needs caring for while it's tucked away. Afrocenchix's gorgeous Under The Wig kit helps to keep your scalp and hair clean and moisturised to promote healthy hair growth. As well as the shampoo and conditioner, the kit also includes a moisturising hair spray,hair cream and scalp oil to revive, soften and relieve itchy scalps.
Pros: Gentle ingredients, great value set, defines curls
Cons: Strong scent
Review: "I love everything about these products! Since using these products I can see a massive difference in my hair- my hair feels great after washing and my curls are more defined in comparison to when I used other products before. I also love soothe and my husband uses it too. I give this 4.8 stars Thank you."
For a simple wash and go, all you need to style your hair is your faithful hair pick. Fluff out those short curls with one like this from PATTERN Beauty by Tracee Ellis Ross which has just launched at Boots. Make sure your 'do smells great by adding a spritz of the PATTERN Hydrating Mist.
Looking to create texture and twists on your short afro, get yourself a curl sponge. By gently brushing the sponge in circular motions over your moisturised, slightly damp hair, the big holes will help to twist your hair into beautiful rugged coils.
Pros: Cheap, does exactly what it says
Cons: Can leave longer hair tangled if not used correctly
Review: "I thought that the product would feel cheap, flimsy and weak. Happy to write that I was wrong. Used on my hair as soon as I received it and I like the results. Never press hard on your hair just gentle circular movements, if you move clockwise, remain clockwise for the whole of the hair, if it is anticlockwise the same thing. Don't alternate the movement as should you do this you won't get the desired results."
There's no need to be scared of applying heat to your afro, especially when it's done in the right way. As previously mentioned heat treatments are a super important step in maintaining the health of natural hair as it opens up follicles to ensure moisture can enter. A steam cap like this one or the Lava Cap is the easiest way to treat your hair at home.
Pros: Makes hair treatments accessible at home, affordable
Cons: Cap is not adjustable
Review: "I was worried it wouldn’t get hot enough but it does. It’s really helped with deep conditioning and pre-shampoo treatments (4C hair). Fits well over my normal conditioning cap and is extremely comfortable and easy to use. Heats up quite quickly as well which helps when I’m limited with my time."
You can do anything with a tub of ECO Style olive oil gel, it doesn't dry crusty, it slicks back and moisturises and is also perfect for reviving twists and curls.
Pros: Suitable for all hair types, moisturising, perfect for soft curls
Cons: Bigger tub is always sold out
Tried and tested by Deputy Commercial Content Editor, Natalie Corner: "This is my saviour, every type of hairstyle I reach for this gel. It tames any frizz if I have my hair slicked back and holds it for an entire day. But it brushes out without any build-up left over. Ideal."
20 Natural Hair Styles for Short, Textured Afro Hair
Take these styles on your next salon trip for inspiration.
The Bantu Knots
Should your hair be long enough to twist, Bantu knots are statement making style with no heat required. Start with washed and conditioned hair sectioned into small squares or triangles. Using a styling gel, curl cream or custard, divide each section into two strands, twist together almost like plaiting, and wrap the twist into a bun secured with a small band. Top tip: Using the two strand method as opposed to one will ease detangling.