A July announcement providing updated Navy guidelines of authorized hairstyles and acceptable wear of hair and nail accessories for women in uniform missed an opportunity to clarify grooming questions that have long miffed sailors.

Perhaps in an effort to remedy any uncertainty stemming from the previous rendition, the Navy released another update to its grooming standards last week that delves into greater cosmetic detail.

Left out of the initial July guidance but included in the update is a new directive that promises sweeping uniform and grooming standards for all sailors assigned to Marine Corps units.


Gone are the days when male corpsmen attached to Marine units could maintain perfectly coiffed flowing locks.

Effective immediately, “sailors assigned to U.S. Marine Corps units who wear the Marine Corps uniform will abide by Marine Corps grooming standards,” the Sept. 21 release says. Barbers everywhere who specialize in the ol' skin fade rejoice.

Female sailors assigned to Marine units must also adhere to Marine Corps cosmetic regulations, including hairstyles, accessories, fingernail polish and makeup.


The July announcement authorized free-hanging braids and ponytails, lock hairstyles and expanded rules for hair buns for all female sailors in Navy units. "Free standing” ponytails or braids — previously only authorized in physical training uniforms — are now allowed for women wearing service uniforms.

Rules on lock hairstyles, meanwhile, specify that “locks must continue from the root to the end of the hair in one direction (no zig-zagging, curving, or ending before the end of the lock to dangle as a wisp or loose hair).”

Guidelines also state "parting must be square or rectangle in shape in order to maintain a neat and professional appearance.”

What you need to know:

  • The Navy defines this style as a single section of hair twisted from the root to the end of the hair, creating a cord-like appearance.
  • Short, medium or long lock lengths are acceptable but the Navy requires the style to “present a neat and professional military appearance."
  • Locks can be free-hanging and loose, where “no hair is added to the lock once it is started other than hair extensions that are attached to natural hair,” and can also be worn in a bun as long as the Navy’s grooming requirements are met.
  • Faux locks are also authorized as long as the hairstyle remains in compliance with Navy regulations. Locks are not allowed to be combined with other hairstyles.


While the July release provided some guidance on accessories — such as the requirement of hair ties or bands to match hair color — the Sept. 21 announcement added some details for other accessories, specifically the wearing of rings as jewelry.

What you need to know:

  • In uniform, rings have to be “conservative and in good taste. Eccentric or faddish rings are not authorized." So, if Ring Pops make a come back, don’t count on being able to enjoy them in uniform.  
  • Rings can be made of both natural metals and fabricated materials such as plastic, silicone or wood. 
  • Authorized colors include gold, silver, copper, grey, tan, brown, black, white or light pink.  
  • Sailors can still only wear one ring per hand — on top of a wedding and engagement ring combo. 
  • The wear of “wedding rings with military academy/educational institution rings is authorized on one hand.”


The subject of what nail colors are considered “authorized” has sparked heated debates among female sailors for years, with the exact definition of what complements skin tone eluding clarity. While length standards remain unchanged, the Navy clarified several details.

What you need to know:

  • Fingernails for women cannot be longer than a quarter-inch from the finger tip.
  • In terms of shape, nail tips can be round, almond, oval or square. 
  • Nail polish is authorized, but only using colors that the Navy calls “conservative and inconspicuous.” Wearing “white, black, red, yellow, orange, green, purple, grey, glitter, striped or any sort of pattern/decorative nail polish” is not allowed. The long-championed color of blue remains unaddressed. 
  • French and American manicures are authorized, but only using white and off-white tips with a neutral base color.


Aside from generic instructions to keep nails clean — seriously, keep your nails clean — male sailors must also adhere to a set of standards.

What you need to know:

  • Nails cannot extend past the fingertips.  
  • Tips of the nails should be round to align with the fingertip. 
  • Male sailors can buff their nails and are authorized to use clear-coat nail polish.
  • Colored nail polish is not authorized under any circumstances. 

For additional information, read the full Sept. 21 NAVADMIN.

Jon Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.

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