Air Force Hair Regulations for Females

Air Force Hair Regulation Females

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I have often been asked how females should fix their hair before heading down to Basic Military Training. It can be confusing navigating the hair regulations, especially as a new enlistee. That’s why I have made a point to write this post. I didn’t fully understand the hair regulations during Basic Training, and I wish I could have found a post like this. All hair regs for females will be highlighted here, from long to short.

Air Force Hair Regulation Females
Before you go to Basic Training, familiarize yourself with AFI 36-2903.

What is AFI 36-2903?

This AFI informs you of every personal grooming standard you could need while serving in the United States Air Force. I am going to highlight the hair portion here.

3.1.1.Hair-male and female. Will be clean, well-groomed, present a professional appearance, allow proper wear of headgear, helmet or chemical mask and conform to safety requirements. Will not contain excessive amounts of grooming aids (e.g. gel, mousse, pomade, and moisturizer), appear lopsided, touch either eyebrow, or end below an imaginary line across the forehead at the top of the eyebrows that is parallel to the ground. If applied, dyes, tints, bleaches and frostings must result in natural hair colors. The hair color must complement the member’s complexion and skin tone. Examples of natural hair colors are brown, blonde, brunette, natural red, black or grey. Prohibited examples (not all inclusive) are burgundy, purple, orange, fluorescent or neon colors. Commander may temporarily authorize cancer patients to wear approved caps (black/tan) or maintain baldness due to a temporary medical condition (i.e., radiation/chemotherapy).

3.1.1.1. Wigs/Hairpieces/Extensions. Are authorized and will meet the same standard required for natural hair, be of good quality, fit properly, and comply with safety, functionality and professionalism. (Note: Extensions are still prohibited for males.) Wigs/Hairpieces/Extensions will not be used to cover unauthorized hair styles. Synthetic hair or other materials are not authorized when prohibited by safety and mission requirements.

3.1.3. Hair-Female. Minimum hair length is ¼ inch, to a maximum bulk of three inches from scalp and allows proper wear of headgear. Hair will end above the bottom edge of collar and will not extend below an invisible line drawn parallel to the ground, both front to back and side to side. Bangs, or side-swiped hair will not touch either eyebrow, to include an invisible line drawn across eyebrows and parallel to the ground. When in doubt, assess correct length of hair with Airman standing in the position of attention. Exception:While wearing the Physical Training Uniform (PTU), long hair will be secured but may have loose ends and may extend below the bottom edge of the collar.

3.1.3.1. The intent is for pinned-up hair to be styled in a manner that prevents loose ends from extending upward on the head. For example, when using a clip or hairpins, hair will not present the appearance of a ―rooster tail. When hair is in a bun, the bun must be a single bun; no wider than the width of the head and all loose ends must be tucked in and secured. When hair is in a ponytail, it must be a single ponytail; that does not exceed bulk and length standards and does not extend below the bottom of the collar (except while in the PTU). As with all hairstyles, a neat and professional image is essential.

3.1.3.2. Hair accessories. If worn, fabric scrunchies, hairpins, combs, clips, headbands, elastic bands and barrettes must match the hair color (i.e., blonde, brunette, natural red, black, and grey). Hair must still comply with bulk and appearance standards. Headgear must fit properly. Headbands or fabric scrunchies will not exceed one-inch in width. Ornaments are not authorized (i.e., ribbons, beads, jeweled pins).

3.1.3.3. Braids, twists, micro-braids, French braids, Dutch braids and cornrows are authorized. A braid or twist is two or more portions of interwoven hair. If adding additional hair, it must be a natural looking color, similar to the individual’s hair color. It must be conservative (moderate, being within reasonable limits; not excessive or extreme) and not present a faddish appearances. Hair must not exceed bulk and length standards and must not extend below the bottom of the collar (see figure 3.6). Headgear must fit properly.

3.1.3.3.1. All braids/twists, when worn will be of uniform dimension, no wider than one inch, with natural spacing between the braids/twists and must be tightly interwoven to present a neat, professional and well-groomed appearance. When worn, multiple braids shall be of uniform dimension, small in diameter (approx. ¼ inches), show no more than ¼ inch of scalp between the braids and must be tightly interwoven to present a neat, professional appearance. A braid/twist must continue to the end of the hair without design and following the contour of the head, and may be worn loose or in a secured style within hair standards in paragraph 3.1.3 above. Exception: Micro-braids or twists are not required to continue to the end of the hair.

3.1.3.4.Unauthorized: Locs and shaved heads. Locs are defined as portions of hair that have been intentionally or unintentionally fused together to form a loc or locs. Shaved heads are defined as complete removal of all hair to the skin on the head or portions of the head. See figure 3.7 3.1.3.5. Hair color, highlights, lowlights, and frosting will not be faddish or extreme and will be natural looking hair color, similar to the individual’s hair color (e.g. black, brunette, blond, natural red, and grey).

AFI 36-2903 Female Hair

If you look above, you will see a lovely drawing of what hair is supposed to look like in the early 1980’s. The rules still apply today.

I know all that is a mouthful, but do you get the gist? I’m going to share some Pinterest images of long and short hair styles that will work in the Air Force to help you have a better idea. The shorter styles will make your life easier in BMT, but I’m not one to judge. Some people really love their hair.

A Breakdown of the Air Force Hair Regulations:

  • If you have long hair, it has to be in a low bun that allows you to properly wear a cap. Many people braid it and wrap it around the base of their pony with similar colored bobby pins and rubberbands.
  • Gel helps keep flyaways down and assists with pinning bangs back.
  • The bulk of the bun cannot sit more than three inches out from the head or three inches across the back. It can also not sit lower than the bottom part of the collar of your uniform.
  • I cut my hair as a pixie cut when going and it made life so much easier. The big thing with pixies is they can’t look boyish or faddish. No shaved sides, etc. No extremely long wisps in relationship to the back of the hair.
  • Pixies are great but the bangs grow out fast. You’ll have to keep some bobby pins to pin those back when they start getting close to the eyebrows because the hair cannot touch the eyebrows.
  • You can wear hair over your ears with short styles. This is something I didn’t think was allowed. I always put my hair behind my ears thinking it had to be that way, but I was wrong. You can keep it a bit shaggy on the ears if you want.

Long Hair Bun Links

Because it’s illegal to post other people’s photos on here, I’m going to link to some really great images on Pinterest.

Short Hair Links

I love short hair in the military. It is so easy, and one less stress during Basic Training.

I do not recommend getting a long bob style. If it is close to the bottom of the collar on your ABUs, they will make you go get a haircut at the place on base, and they are TERRIBLE. Go with something that won’t need cut or trimmed for more than two months. Don’t worry about how it looks – no one cares. I looked terrible during Basic, but I never wasted time on my hair like the other girls did.

Whatever you choose, follow the regs and you will be fine. Your MTIs will help you, in a firm and disciplined way, if you’re not getting it right.

Let me know if you have any questions! Learn more about the Air Force on my page “Interested in Joining the Air Force?

12 thoughts on “Air Force Hair Regulations for Females

  1. Hi Liz! I want to thank you for sharing information relevant to woman going into the Air Force. Although I am still in the stage of deciding whether or not to join, many of your posts have already helped ease some of my worries. I’m currently 17. After High School, I hope to get my Bachelors in Mechanical Engineering. But after College, I’ve been thinking about going into the Air Force. I have been discouraged to join the military because I am female, and since I don’t know anyone (personally) who is or has been in the Air Force, there’s little I can do to ease my fears. Joining sounds like a tough decision but I think it would be rewarding. I have some questions. Can women (who are qualified and who tested well on the ASVAP) have Engineering jobs in the Air Force? And, after college I’m sure that I will have student debt, like most people do.. but my point is, will there be any issues I might face in joining as someone who might have student debt? For example, will I not qualify based on that financial aspect? Thank you so much.

    1. Hi Isabel,

      If you’re considering going into the Air Force after college and pursuing a mechanical engineering degree, I highly recommend you look into schools with AFROTC. This would allow you to commission and make WAY more money than going in as an enlisted member like myself.

      Do not let anyone discourage you because you are a woman. Women are treated as equals in the Air Force and you will be respected no matter what you do or where you go. That’s not to say they’re aren’t pigs, but aren’t they everywhere? The Air Force does a lot to treat everyone fairly, and if you’re not being treated right, there are systems in place to protect you and stop the problem.

      As far as engineering jobs, I don’t believe there are actual jobs that play on mechanical engineering. There are jobs in civil engineering, but it doesn’t involve what you would think. It’s more like… heating/plumbing, pest management, and working on pipes, etc. This is why I recommend you commission as an officer, as this will open up more jobs for you that might actually utilize your degree.

      If your credit is good, your student loans shouldn’t pose a problem. Just don’t default or not pay them if they need to pay. As long as you stay on top of your bills, you’ll be fine.

      I hope this helps! Let me know if you have any other questions!

  2. So i could wear french braids and be fine with long hair? Or it cant be below my collar so itd have to be twisted upwards ?

    1. It cannot be below the collar. It can be twisted up into a bun while french braided. People do that all the time. If you’re good at braiding, long hair isn’t so bad.

  3. So I’m already in (stationed on Hickam) and I want to cut my hair shorter. Is a slight graduated bob allowed as long as it doesn’t touch the bottom of the collar? I tried looking at the AFI, but cat get a clear answer. Thanks!

    1. Hi Wendy! How are you liking Hawaii?! I believe you can grow an angled bob, as long as the difference between the back and the front isn’t more than one inch. That’s what I’ve been told at least. Hope that helps!

  4. Are bombshell/Bettie bangs allowed? They are cut above the eyebrows but I’m not quite understand the whole horizontal line statement

    1. They are allowed, but they will grow out quickly, so you’ll have to pin them back almost immediately. Plus, you will not have access to any kind of curling or hair straightening iron. This means your hat might push them down over your eyebrows on day one. While you can have them, just plan on pinning them back and gelling them up to keep it looking smooth.

  5. Hi, Liz! Your blog is so helpful!

    I’m deciding between cutting my hair into a pixie or just trimming the bob that I currently have shorter… My problem is that I have very naturally curly hair and I know I won’t be able to blow dry it so I have no idea how to make it not look crazy… haha. Were there any girls in your flight with curly hair?

    1. Hi!

      So the only girl with curly hair in my flight had long hair, so it was in a bun at all times. I would say go with the pixie, because it will be easier to grease up and pin down. It sounds gross, but no one looks good in Basic, and you’ll want the easiest style. Focus on growing it back out in tech school, when you’ll have more time and products/tools to fix it the way you want.

      Hope this helps!

  6. Hi! Great blog! Question-in mess Dress because there is no head gear can long hair be worn up like a French twist or a high bun as long as it’s not three inches in bulk?

    1. You know, I don’t actually know. I don’t have mess dress because it is so expensive. Usually only NCOs and officers have it. I’m sure it is covered in the full version of AFI 36-2903. There’s a link to it in this post.

Tell me what you think!