Nothing I love more than a soft, curly ‘fro is a soft, curly ‘fro with perfectly laid edges. Actually, I don’t mind a bit of an unpolished edge — I think it can look really pretty and ethereal. Just ask Kerry Washington, who graced the cover of Allure‘s November 2017 issue with straight-back cornrows done by iconic hair pro Takisha Sturdivant-Drew. The stylist left Washington’s baby hairs conspicuously unslicked, invoking a mood of bohemian glamor. I can dig it. But on most days, as a personal choice, I prefer something a little (or a lot) sleeker.
I admit, I do not have the skill level high enough to create the artful, curling swivels beloved by the ’round the way girls of yore and the Instagram baddies of today. A simple trio of swoops on either side of my head (or, depending on the style, just one side) is more than enough for me — anything else is a beyond my abilities. I also don’t use a toothbrush to style those tiny hairs, as the bristles are typically too soft for my taste. I use a fine-tooth rattail comb or a brush specifically designed to finesse your edges. Right now, I’m loving the double-sided Baby Tress Edge Styler, which also has a pointy end for extra precision.
When it comes to edge control, the adage “you’ve used one, you’ve used them all” doesn’t apply. They’ve got different consistencies, textures, and levels of hold. Some give you edges that look slick with water, others a soft, matte, hold, and some will pretty much superglue your baby hairs the house down. Just as some people use different mascaras depending on the eye look they’re going for, the same rule applies to my hair. I’ve got an edge control for almost every situation. Below, five of my favorites and how I like to use them.
1. Shea Butter
What it is: It’s not exactly an edge control, but shea butter can help tidy your edges — it just takes a little bit of time and pressure.
How I use it: Before I go to bed, if I have a workout in the morning or I know I won’t have time to style my hair, I’ll gently apply a little shea butter (I like Hamamat Golden Shea Butter because it comes straight from the motherland, and I love the jar it’s packaged in) to my edges, put on a do-rag to hold them down, and go to bed. When I wake up and remove my scarf, my edges are definitely less all over the place. It’s not a super sleek look like you would get with a gel — it is a bit softer, but still polished.
Where to get it: Hamamat Safari or Golden Shea Butter, $15 (Shop Now)
2. Creme of Nature Perfect Edges Extra Hold
What it is: Probably the best option you can find at the drugstore.
How I use it: This is hands-down one of my favorite edge controls ever. Besides having an iron-grip hold, it has a nice texture and in all my years of using it, I haven’t seen it leave even a single flake or weird white residue. I mean, it won a Best of Beauty Award for a reason. What I love most about Creme of Nature’s thick, sort of waxy gel, is that the finish isn’t too wet-looking. This is not to say I don’t enjoy such a look (more on that later), but it’s definitely not one I want every day.
This pomade dries down with a sheen eventually, leaving your baby hair looking sleek, in place, and healthy. As for the hold? Oh, it’s real. Consider this: I went through for a full day of work and after-work cocktails (with a little dancing and a lot of bruising my knees) after using this stuff. When I finally got home, I tied down my hair, went to bed, and the next morning, my baby hairs were in place. All I needed to do was a little touching up if I wanted them sleeker, but I didn’t so I just left the house.
Where to get it: Creme of Nature Perfect Edges Extra Hold $6 (Shop Now)
3. Mielle Rosemary Mint Strengthening Edge Gel
What it is: An edge control that will make your hairline feel minty fresh.
How I use it: Styling the strands around your hairline so often can do a number on them if you’re not careful. My ancestors have blessed me with a full, flourishing set of edges, and I don’t plan on doing anything to make them change their minds about it. So that means in addition to minding my business and giving Beyoncé her due praise, I like to use edge controls that provide some more reinforcements for my delicate baby hair.
Mielle’s Rosemary Mint Strengthening Edge Gel is infused with biotin, which helps to reinforce and strengthen your hair — crucial, especially if you frequently style your edges. It’s also got babassu, coconut, and ginger root oils to keep your edges moisturized all day. And can we talk about the hold? If I use this on wet enough hair, my edges will have that wet look for most of the day, which is spectacular. The effect is super sleek, sexy, and it lasts all day. Plus, it doesn’t leave any residue, smells like a fresh herb garden, and it’s a nice compact size for your carry-on. I brought this edge control with me to New Orleans and it kept my baby hair in place, even in humidity as thick as Winston Duke’s left thigh.
Where to get it: Mielle Rosemary Mint Strengthening Edge Gel $7 (Shop Now)
4. Curls Blueberry Bliss Control Paste
What it is: An edge gel that smells like blueberries.
How I use it: When I want to go a few steps above shea butter, but I don’t want that wet-looking definition, I turn to this. What I love about this control paste is that it has a soft hold. This is what I use if I’m simply brushing my edges back into my hair, as opposed to when I attempt to swoop them down and around. I find that when it’s all going in one direction, this edge control has the kind of effortless, residue-free hold that’s great for an everyday look.
Where to get it: Curls Blueberry Bliss Control Paste $9 (Shop Now)
5. The Mane Choice Manageability & Softening Remedy Stubborn Edges Freezing Gel
What it is: A thick gel for type 4 hair in a squeezable bottle.
How I use it: If I need my edges to stay frozen like Walt Disney (just kidding, apparently he’s buried like the rest of us poors), this is what I use. As I mentioned before, I am no baby hair artist, but sometimes I want my hair to look like I just looked at a basilisk and my edges are the only thing that turned to stone.
This lays down my hairs and keeps them there. I like to rub the gel between my fingers to warm it up and thin it out just a bit (‘cuz she thick), then I like to use my finger to put it on, going in the direction I want to brush my baby hair so it’s easy to style. What is so great about this edge control is that it holds down your edges, but it doesn’t make your hairline feel crunchy. You’re left with some serious hold, but your hair also feels really soft and moisturized, which isn’t surprising since this gel was designed with type 4C hair in mind.
Where to get it: The Mane Choice Manageability & Softening Remedy Stubborn Edges Freezing Gel $11 (Shop Now)
More hair stories to check out:
Now, watch Emilia Clarke try nine things she’s never done before: