It's no secret that I'm practically always on the verge of chopping off all my hair. Despite my lifelong obsession with having long, flowy hair, something has come over me in recent years that's caused a serious shift in hair priorities. Suddenly, short cuts are so appealing, and while I've only gone through with a drastic cut once, I'm constantly tempted to do it again. Now that I've officially committed to learning to nurture my natural hair texture (proud 4b queen over here!), I'm especially interested in what it might be like to do the big chop and rock a short natural hairstyle.
"Having gone through the big chop three times now in my life, there are more benefits than downsides in my opinion," says celebrity hairstylist and owner of LunaBella Makeup & Hair Salon Christin Brown. "Although not everyone needs to resort to a big chop to begin their natural hair journey, it sure does get you closer to no longer having what I call split personality hair. By cutting off all the chemical- and heat-damaged pieces, it's a fast track to getting you one step closer to being fully natural, which can be incredibly liberating." London-based celebrity hairstylist Subrina Kidd agrees. "You don't have to, but I always feel like everyone should go short once in their life. It's like a detox almost," she told me. "When you do a big chop, particularly if you're someone who's spent many years straightening your hair, it's a real, honest way of familiarizing yourself with your texture."
Whether you're considering a big chop to lay the foundation for your natural hair journey or just want to try out a chic, short haircut for the fun of it, there are some things you should know. Ahead, get all the expert tips you'll need from Brown and Kidd along with 17 of the prettiest short hairstyles to try at every stage of your grow-out.
At 3 Months, Try…
Brown says that, as a general rule of thumb, human hair grows about a half inch per month. And while a number of factors can contribute to more or less than that, it's a solid estimate to help you set expectations around what styles you might be able to do in the months following your big chop. Depending on how short you go with your initial chop, you might find yourself working with a teeny-weeny afro (TWA) at the three-month mark. "If you go really, really short, the maintenance is super low. More or less, you don't do anything," Kidd explains." This mini afro is the perfect cut for minimal daily styling.
Kidd says it's easy to feel a little disheveled when the hair around the nape of your neck and ears starts to grow out but that, thankfully, this type of cut is an easy solution. "When it starts to get a little longer and you start thinking of growing the shape out, I would always advise that you take the sides and the back shorter. That way, you can focus on the length on the top, and once that gets to a length that you're happy with, you can start to grow the sides and back out proportionately from the top," she explains.
While this pretty shape has gorgeous grow-out potential, it's also such a cute look while it's nice and short.
Kidd also loves a good mullet and calls out that it's a cool shape that can almost happen by accident as your hair starts growing out if the back wasn't initially cut shorter than the front. Accident or not, this is a cool, edgy style we can always get behind.
"Doing a professionally inspired at-home treatment like Olaplex No.0 Intensive Bond Building Hair Treatment and Olaplex No.3 Hair Perfector ($28), for starters, can truly strengthen those curls and give them the fortification that's needed," says Brown. "When used together as a two-part system, Olaplex No.0 Intensive Bond Building Hair Treatment is scientifically proven to provide 68% more repair and three times more strength." We like those stats!
Give your cropped coils all the love they need with a nutrient-dense shampoo and conditioner combo like this cult favorite from SheaMoisture.
This moisturizing leave-in conditioner is the perfect product to round out your low-maintenance haircare routine while your tresses are at their shortest. As Kidd explains, "If you have a nice, cool shape, you can wash your hair or rinse it every other day, put a little bit of leave-in conditioner, use your fingers to tease it, and you're good to go." Easy.
At 6 Months, Try…
Brown says that if you're continuing to let your hair grow out, you will likely be seeing some real gains by the six-month mark. She says side parting is a changeup you can now swap into your repertoire.
Shrinkage is real, so your hair might actually be longer than your texture reveals. If you're interested in stretching your coils to get a better sense of how much length you've attained (or because stretched styles are hella cute), a perm-rod set is a great way to go about it that also looks excellent.
While it can be tempting to get length obsessed, Brown reminds us that it's more important to consider hair health at every length. "Instead, aim to focus on loving and appreciating your hair at any length, and make healthy, hydrated hair a priority," she says. This coily 'fro is so pretty and such a fun celebration of natural textures.
As mentioned above, Kidd thinks keeping the nape of the neck cropped a bit shorter than the rest of your hair is an easy way to keep short haircuts feeling neat and tidy. Another factor to consider at this point is all that your hair has gone through over the period of time since you last saw your stylist. You could have experienced a couple of seasonal shifts, possible changes in stress levels or physical activities, and a host of other shifts, so it's definitely time to schedule a trim if you haven't already. (She actually recommends getting a trim every three months.)
There's just nothing like a set of simple, straight-back cornrows. Even with short hair, you can fashion your tresses into small plaits that can be fastened at the base of your head or left to hang loose. Plus, once you undo your braids, you'll have a whole new style to work with for a few more days.
These dreamy eyebrow-grazers are proof that bangs are for everyone. Even if you don't actually have bangs, you can fake it by tying a scarf just behind the frontmost section of your hair to create the illusion.
At 9 Months, Try…
"Now, nine months of growth looks different to everyone depending upon your curl pattern," says Brown. No matter how you slice it though, your hair will have gained a lot of length after nine months of growth. Whether it's grazing your earlobes or about to hit your shoulders, big, voluminous shapes will look so pretty.
No one rocks a carefree 'fro quite like Solange Knowles.
If you're enjoying your length but want to create some additional shape without going in for another haircut, Kidd advises leaning into hair accessories to help. "You can disguise it by pinning bits away and doing a mock-up that looks like maybe the sides are a bit shorter than they are. You could also do cornrows or twists through the sides just to pull that area away and make it look like more of a proportionate shape."
Now that you've got some more length going, you can execute cool styles like these gorgeous Bantu knots. Just don't forget to continue infusing ample moisture into your hair via deep-conditioning treatments. No one likes breakage!
These big braids are it.
While you might still consider your hair "short" nine months after a big chop, there's no doubt that you've likely got plenty of hair to work into twist-outs, braid-outs, and more. You might also be going up to a week between washdays (we get it—washing natural hair can be a lot of work), so any style you choose will take on an effortless, lived-in look after a few days.
According to Kidd, it's all about the outline. She says that as long as you've got a great cut, your hair will hold a pretty shape and look great all the time. This A-line cut is absolute perfection.
This multiuse oil can be used as a pre-poo treatment just as easily as it can be worked through the hair to minimize frizz as you unravel braids and twists.