For many women of color, no hair look is complete without reaching for gel or edge control to get their baby hairs swooshed, sleek and slayed. Popularized in the 90’s by the likes of celebrities such as Chilli from TLC and LaToya Jackson, baby hairs or edges are experiencing a full on resurgence in the age of Instagram influencers. Ranging from the ‘I woke up like this” effortless, yet chic baby hair look to the crafty, intricate webs of waves, edges are the perfect finishing touch to textured hair looks.
When Beyonce belted “I like my baby heir with baby hair and afros" in her empowering anthem “Formation,” a chorus of Black women sang along with her, embracing those tiny yet mighty baby hairs they wear around their heads like accessories.
What are hair edges or baby hairs?
Baby hairs also known as edges, are shorter hairs situated at the hairline region at the perimeter of textured hair. They are most commonly found on Black and Brown women’s hair. For decades, women of color have turned them into works of art.
"That extra step to be like, 'You know what? I'm going to style it,’ is something a Black girl would do. To take something so normal and make it intricate and detailed," Buzzfeed beauty editor Essence Gant explained to CRWNMAG last year.
The art of ‘laying’ baby hairs has become a ritualistic phenomenon that many Black and Brown women huddle close up to their mirrors to perfect as a finishing touch to their hair looks.
How and when did the edges trend start?
Laying edges originated in the early 1920’s according to Essence Magazine. Dancer, singer and civil rights activist Josephine Baker was one of the early pioneers of the baby hair trend. Baker donned carefully crafted, swooshed down baby hairs that contoured and chiseled her face with her sleek short cut during her performances in Parisian theaters.
“It was sculptural,” British hairstylist Guido Palau described to The New York Times. “There was no part, and the way the gel broke the hair around the face, it looked like a mannequin’s head.”
Both Baker and jazz singer Baby Esther’s signature sultry hair went on to inspire the iconic animated character Betty Boop in the 1930’s as sculptural hair edges began to gain traction.
By the 1960’s, the Civil Rights Movement was sending shockwaves of change through the U.S., as Black people fought for freedom and equality. With the movement kicking into full force, Black people began rocking bold and beautiful afros. Black women sported their afros with gelled down baby hairs and the edges hair trend would once again pick up steam.
Fast forward to the 1990’s and baby hairs were ubiquitous in Black celebrity hair looks. The Mexican-American Chola aesthetic also became widely popular on the West Coast and soon Latinas began to embrace the baby hair look.
Like many Black hair movements, however, the baby hair aesthetic would unfortunately gain a stigma of perceived unprofessionalism attached to it. Because of this, many women of color went so far as to have their baby hairs surgically removed.
“I remember a time when girls had not just a little clean up but an extreme swirl. And it was considered ghetto,” Chelsea Rojas, host of Black Girls Texting told Essence Magazine last year.”
Others argued Black women’s fixation on hair edges were an effort to make their curly, afro-textured hair look presentable.
But in the last five years or so, as Black women have taken agency over their hair in the wake of the natural hair movement, baby hairs have once again become en vogue, embraced and recognized as works of self-expression.
What are the different styles of hair edges?
Soft & subtle
Soft & subtle baby hairs look effortless and natural. This is a perfect look for those with bouncy curls who have more of a Type 3A-3C curl texture. Applying a generous amount of edge control and tying a silk scarf along your edges for 15-30 minutes will do the trick to achieve this look. If you’re in a rush, blow drying your edges on a low heat setting while pressing your fingers onto your hair will also get the job done.
Swirly & sleek
Swirly baby hairs transform your hair into intricate works of art, fit for the Smithsonian. These swirls are perfect for sleek up-do’s like high ponytails. To add extra volume to your high ponytails, clip in Luxy Hair’s Clip-In Ponytails or install the Seamless Luxy Hair Extensions upside down. The clips on the Seamless collection are practically invisible and clipping them upside down gives you extra insurance that your wefts are undetectable.
The messy chic baby hair aesthetic will have you looking like you stumbled out of bed red carpet ready. This look quite literally requires very little effort and can usually be achieved without much heat or products. Simply sleep with a silk scarf tied over your edges overnight and you’ll wake up with messy chic edges.
Water waves frame your face with tiny crescent moon shapes permeating your hairline. Grab a spray bottle of water and lightly wet your hair, then grab a dollop of mousse and gently apply it to your edges, in a crescent-like pattern until it shapes the perimeter of your face. Water waved edges are the perfect way to top off a beach wave look. The best clip in hair extensions to achieve this look are the 240G Classic Luxy Hair Extensions if you are looking to rock long, bouncy mermaid curls. Grab your favorite curling wand or iron and part medium sections of your hair, curl, then finger comb to separate said curls and voila, you’re officially a water wave mermaid with laid edges.
Poof and slay
If you have Type 4 Hair and you’re keeping it au-natural with no heat, grab yourself an afro pick to perfect your poof and tie it back with a hair tie. Once it’s in a ponytail, grab some alcohol-free hair gel to slick down the front part of your hair and then lay down those edges with an edge brush.
Braided and laid
For those of you sporting braided protective styles, having laid edges is the perfect finishing touch to bring your look together. The trick is to melt your edges softly into the direction of your braids to allow your braids to look snatched and freshly installed on a daily basis.
What are the best baby hair/edge control products?
Carol's Daughter Black Vanilla Moisture & Shine Edge Control Smoother
Carol’s Daughter Black Vanilla Moisture & Shine Edge Control Smoother is a perfect two-in-one product to keep your baby hairs smooth and sleek. It’s suitable for those with Type 3A-4A hair looking for edge control products with long-lasting wear.
It’s also super affordable and leaves your hair permeated in the heavenly scent of sweet vanilla.
Purchase on Amazon Here
Creme of Nature Argan Oil Perfect Edges Control
Creme of Nature’s Argan Oil Perfect Edges Control is a holy grail product for people with all curly hair textures from Type 3A-4C. This edge control comes in both regular and extra hold for those who need an extra boost to keep their edges laid all day and night.
Purchase on Amazon Here
ECO Styler Professional Styling Gel
ECO’s Styler Professional Styling Gel is a timeless classic product to get your baby hairs laid without the prickly white residue that so many edge control products leave behind. The lightweight alcohol-free formula keeps your hair from getting dry, brittle and flaky and provides you with natural wispy baby hairs.
Purchase On Amazon Her
African Pride Black Castor Miracle Extra Hold Braid, Loc, Twist Gel
African Pride’s Black Castor Miracle Extra Hold Braid, Loc, Twist Gel is a must-have for those who like to keep it braided and laid. The Black Castor Oil and Coconut Oil ingredients in the gel stimulate hair growth while simultaneously locking down edges, sideburns and flyaways. This is a perfect edge control to put on overnight, whilst tying your edges down with a silk scarf.
Purchase On Amazon Here
What are the best brushes to lay down edges with?
Baby hairs can be laid down effectively with pretty much any edge control brush specifically designed for baby hairs that can be found at local drug and beauty supply stores. When going for the ‘messy chic’ look discussed earlier, simply pressing onto one’s baby hairs with one’s fingers will suffice. And if you’re really in a bind, you can grab a toothbrush as the bristles are practically identical to those of an edge control brush.
What impact does the baby hair trend have on the hair industry?
Black women have continued to be trendsetters in the hair industry and the baby hair trend shows no signs of slowing down. From its humble beginnings decorating the heads of Black flappers in the 1920s, to its heightened popularity in Hollywood in the 90’s to its current Instagram-inspired phenomena amongst millennials, baby hairs have proven to be timeless accessories. The variety of patterns and waves speak to the ingenuity and artfulness Black women embody every day in their beautiful textured hair. Baby hairs are the exclamation point in beauty when Black women want to make a statement.
Written by Ashley Inkumsah