You are currently viewing Can Nuns Show Their Hair?

Can Nuns Show Their Hair?

  • Post category:Hair
  • Post last modified:May 22, 2024
  • Reading time:8 mins read

For centuries, it has been a long-standing tradition for nuns, members of religious orders within the Catholic Church, to cover their hair. This practice is rooted in various religious and cultural beliefs, symbolizing modesty, humility, and devotion to God. However, the specific rules and customs surrounding hair covering for nuns can vary among different religious orders and communities.

Biblical and Historical Roots

The tradition of women covering their heads can be traced back to the Bible, particularly in the writings of St. Paul. In his first letter to the Corinthians, he states, “Every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head—it is the same as having her head shaved” (1 Corinthians 11:5). This verse has been interpreted by many Christian traditions as a call for women to cover their heads during religious ceremonies and prayers.

Throughout the history of Christianity, various Church Fathers and theologians have expounded on this practice, emphasizing the symbolic significance of head coverings for women as a sign of modesty, submission to God, and respect for the sacred.

Vows and Consecration

For nuns, the act of covering their hair is deeply intertwined with their vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. By taking these vows, nuns dedicate their lives to serving God and the Church, and their physical appearance, including their hair covering, reflects this commitment.

The veil or habit worn by nuns is a visible symbol of their consecration to God and their separation from the secular world. It serves as a reminder of their vows and their spiritual journey, representing humility, simplicity, and a renunciation of vanity.

Variations Among Religious Orders

While the general practice of covering hair is common among nuns, the specific styles and rules can vary significantly between different religious orders. Some orders require nuns to completely shave their heads, while others allow for short or long hair to be covered by a veil or habit.

The color, design, and materials used for the head coverings can also differ, often reflecting the charism and traditions of each order. For instance, Benedictine nuns typically wear a black veil with a white veil underneath, while Franciscan nuns wear a brown habit and a white veil.

Modesty and Humility

Beyond the religious symbolism, the practice of covering hair for nuns is also rooted in the principles of modesty and humility. By concealing their hair, nuns are believed to be avoiding any potential for vanity or attracting attention to their physical appearance.

This emphasis on modesty and humility is a central tenet of many religious orders, as nuns are called to focus their lives on spiritual growth, service, and devotion to God, rather than on outward appearances or worldly concerns.

Contemporary Perspectives

In recent decades, there has been some discussion and debate within the Catholic Church regarding the necessity of nuns covering their hair. While some religious orders have maintained the traditional practice, others have adopted more relaxed policies, allowing nuns to wear their hair uncovered in certain contexts or during specific activities.

Ultimately, the decision to cover or uncover their hair is often left to the discretion of individual religious orders and communities, taking into account their specific traditions, charisms, and interpretations of religious teachings.

It is important to note that the practice of covering hair is not a universal requirement for all Catholic women, but rather a specific tradition within certain religious orders and communities. Lay Catholic women are not obligated to cover their hair, although some may choose to do so as a personal devotional practice or cultural tradition.


The tradition of nuns covering their hair is a long-standing and deeply symbolic practice within the Catholic Church. It represents modesty, humility, and consecration to God, reflecting the vows and spiritual journey of these dedicated women. While the specific rules and customs may vary among different religious orders, the act of covering hair remains a powerful expression of faith, devotion, and commitment to a life of service and prayer.

As with many religious traditions, the practice of covering hair for nuns is subject to ongoing discussion, interpretation, and adaptation within the context of contemporary society. Regardless of the specific practices, the underlying principles of modesty, humility, and devotion to God remain at the heart of the religious life for nuns and their respective communities.


Do nuns have to cover their heads?

Yes, nuns typically cover their heads as a symbol of their consecration to God and their commitment to a life of modesty and humility. The specific type of head covering, such as a veil or wimple, varies depending on the religious order and its traditions.

Are nuns required to cut their hair?

The requirement for nuns to cut their hair varies by religious order. Some orders require nuns to shave their heads or keep their hair very short as a symbol of their vows of poverty and humility, while others allow nuns to keep their hair long but covered.

Are nuns allowed to see their families?

Yes, nuns are generally allowed to see their families, although the frequency and duration of visits depend on the specific rules of their religious order. Some orders permit annual visits, while others allow more frequent contact through letters, phone calls, and occasional visits.

What is the history of nuns wearing head coverings?

The practice of nuns wearing head coverings dates back to early Christianity, influenced by customs of married women and widows covering their heads. Over time, this evolved into a distinct religious practice, with various orders adopting specific styles of veils and wimples to symbolize their vows and consecration to God.

Why do nuns wear habits?

Nuns wear habits as an outward sign of their consecration to God, their vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and their membership in a particular religious order. The habit serves as a symbol of their religious identity and commitment, often reflecting the traditions and charisms of their order.