When Beyoncé sings in Formation “I like my baby hair, with baby hair and afros”, she makes an ode to black aesthetics. The stretch refers to the strands at the beginning of the hairline that are styled in wave shapes and have become striking in black women’s hairstyles.
Baby hair even looks like an accessory that shapes the face. There are those who do it in a simpler way, with some curves, and those who do something more innovative, like a heart shape with thin, short strands. All this using gel and brush.
The hair grows in the forehead region and is classified as vellus hair — thicker than the down that grows on the arms and faces. This is what Mariana Mageschi, hair therapist, explains. “They’re a little weaker, sometimes less pigmented,” she says.
The origin of the hairstyle is uncertain. What is known, however, is that a version of baby hair became popular in the 1920s, in the United States, with the black singer and actress Josephine Baker. She was a singer and dancer, naturalized in France and became known as Black Venus. She was a star of the revue theater, a theatrical genre marked by sensualization and political and social satire. Baker was also an anti-racist activist and was part of the French resistance.
Decades later, baby hairs also appeared on cholas, American women of Mexican descent who were part of the street culture of the West Coast of the United States – such as the state of California – and became part of Latino culture.
If in the 1920s, women wore their hair sculpted and Baker made waves around their face and all over their heads, in the 1970s, baby hairs appeared in force accompanied by looser strands.
LaToya Jackson, Michael Jackson’s sister, became a reference in baby hair, which finished her ponytail. In the following decade, the American reference was Octavia St. Laurent, ballroom icon.
Currently, there is no shortage of references to pop divas who style their hair on their foreheads. In addition to Beyoncé, Rihanna, FKA Twings and Lizzo are artists who appear with their well-shaped baby hairs.
In Brazil, influenced by the American style, women also style their baby hair. This is the case of singer Ludmilla and influencers such as Josy Ramos and Maga Moura.
The braider and hairstylist Luana Alcantara says that her clients always ask for it. “It’s a much-requested aesthetic. It’s the finishing touch to the braid, the hairstyle.” She has done hairstyles for the Vogue ball and for Renner campaigns.
What to use to do baby hair?
To do baby hair you need a fixing product and something to style. In the past, a toothbrush or eyebrow brush was used, until the hair industry started selling specific brushes for styling.
Glue gel, which leaves the hair hard and wet-looking, can be used to fix the strands, but there are others. “I always recommend using a specific product for baby hair”, says the hairstylist.
Alcantara states that women also used ointments to style their hair, before Anvisa banned its sale and use in February following cases of temporary blindness and burning eyes.
What the trancist recommends is not using gel or paste to do baby hair and going to the beach or pool afterwards. “No matter how much you use a specific one, it is a chemical product, so it can cause problems when mixed with salty sea water and the sun.”
Mageschi, the hair therapist, says that it is recommended to remove the product after use. “Removal is important until the next day at most so that there is no impregnation in this region of the scalp and ends up accumulating fungi and bacteria.”
How to do baby hair?
Once you have the right product and equipment in hand, what else do you need to do baby hair? “In general, patience,” says Alcantara. The technique is acquired on a daily basis, after a lot of trial and error.
Start by separating all the fine strands that remain at the hairline. Then, with the product on the brush, go through it and create a curve, then hold it with your finger to fix it. The process must be repeated in the other parts, little by little.
One tip, according to Alcantara, is to use a scarf tied around the baby hair and wait a few minutes. This guarantees greater fixation.
Be careful not to overdo it. “If you use too much product, your forehead can become oily and cause pimples,” says the trancist.
Does baby hair grow?
According to the scalp specialist, it grows. But it doesn’t reach the length of the rest of the hair. The wires will have a size that varies between four and six centimeters.
Mageschi also states that they follow the natural hair cycle: they are born, grow and fall out.