Discovering a large, awkward cowlick on the crown of your head can be alarming and embarrassing. And while you might be able to tame it from time to time, it is not something you can keep down forever. Bad hair days happen. And when they do, you will find cowlicks always wanting to join the party.
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What is a Cowlick?
A cowlick, also known as a “hair whorl,” is a small, isolated grouping of hairs that stand up straight and/or lie in the opposite direction of the rest of your hair. No matter how much you comb it, wash it, or attempt to style it, the unruly patch just does not seem to cooperate.
Almost everyone has a cowlick (and some might even have a couple). But for most people, it is not noticeable. Cowlicks simply come down to genetics, if one of your parents has a cowlick, you most likely will be born with one or develop one too. About 84% of people have a clockwise hair whorl, whereas 16% of people have a counterclockwise hair whorl. The weight of hair pulls the cowlick down and hides it. For those with strong cowlicks, however, it is much more difficult to hide.
Cowlicks come in all shapes, forms, locations, and appearances. Most commonly, cowlicks occur at the back of the head near the crown. They can also appear at the front of the hairline, the nape of the neck, or even along the sides of the head (near the temples). Interestingly enough, some men even have cowlicks in their beards, though the scraggly, curly texture makes them much less noticeable.
In addition to being located on different parts of the scalp, cowlicks have several different appearances. The most common appearance is a spiral pattern (also known as a whorl).
When hair is longer, this spiral pattern usually causes hair to stick straight up or lay to the side at a slight angle. In people with shorter/buzzed hair, you may be able to see the entire spiral pattern. At the very center of the pattern, you will find a small circular space where the scalp is exposed.
We get the term cowlick from, well, cows. When a mother cow licks her calves, the movement of her tongue creates a unique swirling pattern on their fur that closely resembles the whorl of the scalp. This term was first used in the 16th century by a physician with the name Richard Haydock.
Although cowlicks can be annoying to deal with, they are typically not impossible to hide. The shorter your hair, the harder it will be to hide or cover them. We will discuss different ways to hide cowlicks later on in this article.
What Causes Cowlicks?
There is nothing overly complicated about cowlicks. They are simply a natural result of the scalp’s hair growth patterns.
Although cowlicks are typically the result of genetics, it is possible to develop one later on in life as the result of an injury, surgery, or even shaving your head.
The hair on your scalp can stand in just three directions: forward, backward, or sideways. Cowlicks occur when hair becomes confused and grows in a direction that is contrary to how it “should” grow.
Because there are no boundaries or rules that tell a hair which direction it can grow on any given part of the head, it is common for small patches to grow in the opposite direction of the other hairs around it. The result is a cowlick. Unfortunately, there is no way to permanently correct this direction of growth, but there are ways to manage it!
Interesting Facts About Cowlicks
Cowlicks are one of those strange, quirky aspects of the human body, and while they can be annoying, they are also pretty interesting. Here are a few facts:
- Genetics. Your genes play an influential role in cowlicks. According to one research study, right-handed people typically have a cowlick that appears in a clockwise pattern. However, left-handed people tend to show a random mixture of both clockwise and counterclockwise swirling patterns.
- External Factors. While most cowlicks are caused by genetics, certain external factors can come into play as well. Anything that may cause hair to grow differently – like an injury or surgery – can cause a cowlick to form. Hair transplants are also a factor (since it is difficult to tell a hair which direction to take when moving it from one part of the head to another).
94% OF NEWBORNS ARE SHOWN TO HAVE A COWLICK
- Babies and Cowlicks: In one study, 94 percent of newborns are shown to have cowlicks.
- Animals and Cowlicks: Did you know that animals can get cowlicks, too? Guinea pigs, for example, have them all over their bodies. (They are even considered a desirable breeding trait in some circles.) Horses, dogs, and cats are also known for having cowlicks.
- Hair Type: Those with curly or coily hair are less likely to get cowlicks than someone with straight hair. This is due to the fact that with curly hair, your hair grows up and out, whereas straight hair grows downwards.
- Famous Faces: Cowlicks can be a defining feature for certain people (and are often more noticeable in children). Just ask Dennis the Menace or Alfalfa! It is not just kids who have pesky cowlicks, though. Celebrities, models, and actors can also struggle with them. Claudia Schiffer, for example, has two cowlicks at the very front of her hairline. But rather than let them serve as a source of frustration, she has styled them into her hair to create a unique and iconic look.
- Race: Did you know that race can play a role in cowlicks? For example, caucasian Americans are more likely to have a cowlick than African Americans. This is largely because of the different hair textures. Those with wavy or curly hair are less likely to have cowlicks since their hair is already growing in multiple directions, and there is not one set pattern that it is supposed to grow in.
- Origins: Cowlicks are developed in utero as babies gestate in the womb. While there are certain external factors (like injuries, scarring, and hair transplants) that can cause hair whorls to pop up later in life, you are almost always born with them.
- Precursors of Underlying Issues: While cowlicks are usually nothing to worry about, doctors say that an infant with three or more cowlicks could be a sign of a more serious problem. For some reason, three cowlicks are often indicative of aberrant brain development. Scientists are not sure what the correlation is, but they see it enough to know it is a telltale sign. Of course, this is not a definite sign, so if you have any concerns, reach out to your doctor. There can be a plethora of other reasons for having multiple cowlicks.
The Difference Between a Cowlick and Balding
As mentioned, cowlicks can be tamed and hidden when hair is longer. The weight of the hair is enough to push the whorl down and prevent it from causing any issues. Over time, as a person’s hairstyle becomes shorter, the cowlick emerges. And because this typically happens in someone’s 30s, 40s, or 50s, there tends to be immediate concern: Is it really a cowlick, or am I going bald?
To the untrained eye, a cowlick can easily mimic the onset of balding. There is even a small area of exposed scalp at the center of the spiral. On top of all that, a cowlick often occurs at locations where balding usually presents itself. Although you may think a cowlick means you are balding, it is very important to know that cowlicks and balding are two different things.
A cowlick is simply a portion of the scalp where hair is growing in a different direction. With balding, you are actually losing the hair in that area. If you inspect closely, you will be able to tell the difference.
With balding, a phenomenon known as miniaturization occurs. This is where some external factor (or genetics) causes hair follicles to lose their integrity. The hair growth cycle is abbreviated, and shorter hairs are produced. Scientists have discovered that the mechanism behind hair loss has to do with the stem cells in your hair follicles getting damaged, which is usually just the result of aging. Once the stem cells in the hair follicles are damaged, they begin to turn themselves into skin. Overtime, as this process continues to happen, hair follicles will continue to shrink, and can eventually completely disappear if not treated. This is where baldness occurs.
With a cowlick, the hair will still be the same general length as the rest of the hair on your scalp, it just might look a little shorter due to its unique direction. When balding, hair actually becomes shorter and less evenly spaced.
What Causes Balding?
Hair loss, also known as balding, is a condition known as alopecia. It can temporarily or permanently affect any area of your body, but is most noticeable when it occurs on the scalp. Hair loss symptoms include gradual thinning on top of the head, circular or patchy bald spots, patches of scaling that spread or the scalp, full body hair loss, and/or sudden loss of the hair.
While hair loss is normal, balding occurs when the number of hairs lost exceeds the number of hairs grown. The average human has about 100,000 hairs on their head, and typically loses 50 to 100 hairs today, but it can vary from person to person. It will also likely be more apparent among those with longer hair. Our hair has an average lifespan of roughly two-six years, and each strand of hair on your head has a continuous growth cycle. As a result of this growth cycle, we typically produce more hair than we are losing, however, once we start losing more hair than we are producing is when hair loss will occur. Hair loss of more than 50-100 hairs a day usually contributes to hair thinning (and eventually balding)
Anyone can suffer from hair loss on their head, but it is more commonly seen in men. Hair loss can be caused by any number of factors, including family history and genetics, hormonal changes, medical conditions, medications and supplements, radiation or chemotherapy, acute stress, or even certain hairstyles and treatments.
It is possible to get hair treatments or medication to stop balding, as well as start the regrowth of hair. You can find more information on what we recommend down below under “Hairstyles and Tricks for Slowing Down Balding”.
Hairstyles and Tricks for Hiding a Cowlick
It is impossible to permanently get rid of a cowlick (other than shaving your head and going bald). There are, however, plenty of ways to temporarily hide one. Here are a few tips and tricks:
- Grow Out Your Hair: The easiest way to camouflage a cowlick is by growing your hair longer. As you add length to your hair, the weight of it will tame your cowlick and keep it from sticking straight up. Here are some thinning hairstyle ideas for men.
- Use a Little H2O: If you need a quick fix and do not want to fully wash your hair, wet the cowlick and surrounding area with some water and then run a comb or brush through it. This will help you matt it down and seal the cowlick back into place.
- Pull Out The Blow Dryer: If you have a little extra time and need a stronger fix, pull out your blow dryer. Dampen your hair and then blow-dry the cowlick in the opposite direction that it naturally grows. (If it grows straight up, try blowing it in all different directions.)
- Hair Product: If water and blow-drying do not take care of your cowlick, you may need to call in some reinforcements in the form of a special hair product. Strong-hold hair gel or hair spray can be your best friend. Get your cowlick where you want it and then douse it in one of these products. With thinner hair, using a flexible hold hairspray is a great option because it does not add any weight from being too stiff or sticky, and allows you to still brush through it. Another option is dry shampoo, which can help to eliminate some of the oil in your hair that may be working against you.
- Hair Clips: For women, or men who have long hair, you can use a bobby pin or small no-crease hair clip to set the area while the hair is still hot.
- Try the Squish Trick: After blow drying the hair, hold down the cowlick with one hand and use the other to “squish” and press down on the other area. Make sure to avoid the root, and instead hold down the cowlick from the middle of the strand.
- Switch your part: If you find yourself fighting with your cowlick on a daily basis, it is possible that you need to change up the location of your part. Meet with your hairstylist to discuss possible solutions for switching up your part. Let them know that the goal is to hide the cowlick. They should be able to provide a few options.
- Embrace Them: Almost everyone has a cowlick, and although it is possible to find ways to hide or tame them, you may not want to spend the time doing that every time you get ready. You may or may not have realized, but many celebrities with cowlicks understand the difficulty that can come with trying to hide them, and have chosen to embrace them, even on red carpet events. Some of these celebrities include; Anne Hathaway, Megan Fox, Lauren Conrad, Blake Lively and Madonna.
- Choose the Right Haircut: When getting a haircut, keep in mind the location of your cowlick, so that you can ensure the haircut that you are getting is going to look how you want it to. For example, if you are someone with a cowlick on the front part of your scalp, above your forehead, then bangs might not be the right move for you. Thinking about things like this can help make your hair easier to manage.
Hairstyles and Tricks for Slowing Down Balding
Perhaps you are dealing with a cowlick and balding. Or maybe after reading this guide, you have decided that what you thought was a cowlick is actually just the beginning stages of balding.
Either way, there are quite a few ways to slow down the hair loss process and even restore hair growth. Let’s check out a few of them:
- Proper hair care. Healthy hair begins with a healthy scalp. Make sure you’re taking care of your hair by practicing good hair care and hygiene. This includes proper washing and the use of natural hair products that are free of unnecessary chemicals and additives. When drying your hair, avoid vigorous towel drying. Instead, gently blot your hair and let it air dry as much as possible. Regular towels are rough, and can often cause damage to our hair by breaking – we recommend switching to a fiber cloth hair towel, which is much more gentle on the hair.
- Avoiding Damage: Dying your hair regularly can be very damaging to the overall health and growth of your hair. Limiting the frequency that you dye your hair can improve your hair health immensely. It is also important to not use heated tools on your hair too often. Heated hair tools can weaken the proteins that are in your hair, which can then reduce the strength of your hair.
- DHT Blockers: Excessive DHT production is often a leading cause of hair loss and balding. Use a DHT blocking solution, like Kiierr DHT Blocking Hair Growth Vitamins, to improve circulation and promote hair growth. It is made of all-natural ingredients and is enhanced with Vitamin B-6, Biotin, and Folic Acid.
- Optimized Diet: Improve your diet to strengthen hair and encourage new hair growth. This means eliminating as much processed ingredients and refined sugar as possible. Make sure you are getting plenty of protein, Biotin, vitamin D, and essential fatty acids (especially omega 3s). A recent study done in 2022 revealed that a diet that contains raw vegetables and fresh herbs, such as the Mediterranean diet may help to reduce the risk of male and female pattern baldness.
- Kind Hair Styling: Be gentle with hair styling. Avoid tight buns, braids, or ponytails. Instead, try natural, loose hairstyles that do not tug or pull on your roots. Tight hairstyles put stress on the scalp, and can reduce the hair production in that area.
- Laser Therapy: Try low-level laser therapy (LLLT), which can be administered at home on a DIY basis using an advanced laser cap like the Kiierr system. LLLT, also known as cold laser therapy or photobiomodulation, is a form of therapy that uses low-level lasers or LEDs to increase circulation. This improves blood flow, enhances cellular functioning in dormant hair follicles, and encourages them to begin growing again.
- Medication: There are two hair loss medications approved by the FDA to treat pattern baldness. The first is minoxidil (Rogaine), which can be applied directly to the scalp to slow down hair loss. The second is finasteride (Propecia), which is taken in a pill form and is shown to stop and even reverse hair loss. The two can be taken together in certain situations (based on your doctor’s advice).
- Vitamins: Vitamin A is made up of retinoids, which are found to support hair growth, as well as influence the hair cycle. Taking a vitamin A supplement that is 10,000 IU per serving once a day is recommended in order to support healthy hair growth.
As you can see, there are plenty of different ways to treat hair loss and/or disguise balding. It is up to you to determine which option makes the most sense for your health, well-being, and overall appearance.
Try Kiierr Today
Cowlicks are annoying, but they are not the end of the world. You can usually style or hide them without much trouble. Hair loss, on the other hand, must be dealt with quickly in order to prevent it from becoming a serious issue that could potentially be irreversible. If you are looking to address premature balding, LLLT should be one of the first treatment options you consider, and the Kiierr 272 Premier-MD Laser Hair Cap is the best on the market. Features include:
- Used in a number of doctor’s offices and hair restoration clinics throughout the country (boasting a 93 percent clinical studies success rate).
- Upgraded battery gives you an additional three treatments per charge.
- With a programmed sensor, the cap automatically shuts off if it falls off your head.
- Risk-free seven-month money-back growth guarantee.
- The Kiierr 272 Premier MD Laser Hair cap bundle comes with shampoo, conditioner, vitamins, carrying case, three-year product extended warranty, and biotin gummies for hair growth.
For more information regarding any of our industry-leading hair loss products, please contact us today!
Jolene Anderson is the proud Co-Founder of Kiierr Hair Growth Experts. She has 11 years experience in natural healing, laser therapy hair loss. She’s a caring mom of 2 and passionate about helping others. Connect with her on LinkedIn: Jolene Anderson – Co-Founder @ Kiierr.com