What is a Cowlick in Hair: Defining, Preventing, Styling and Embracing Your Natural Hair Pattern


Cowlicks are a natural occurrence in hair where the hair grows in a different direction than the surrounding hair. They can be frustrating for those who are unsure how to manage them, but with a better understanding of what causes them and how to work with them, incorporating cowlicks into your styling routine can be a breeze.

Origin and Definition of Cowlicks in Hair

A cowlick is a hair pattern where a section of hair sticks up or grows in a different direction than the surrounding hair. The term “cowlick” originates from the way cows have a similar pattern of hair growth on their forehead. Cowlicks form due to an irregular direction of hair growth, where the hair follicle’s shape can affect the angle at which the hair grows.

The predictable unpredictability of a cowlick is due to a whorl in the scalp’s hair follicles. This pattern of hair growth is mostly determined from birth, and it generally remains consistent throughout life. Each person’s cowlick pattern is unique and can be located at different areas of the head, such as the crown, nape of the neck, and hairline.

Due to their unique pattern, cowlicks can be a positive attribute to hairstyles. They can allow for better volume, direction, and movement within hair, allowing hair to have a unique look without additional product or styling. In some cases, the presence of a cowlick can add character and make one’s style stand out from the rest.

Can You Prevent Cowlicks?

Unfortunately, there is no way to completely prevent a cowlick from forming because it is a natural hair pattern influenced by genetics. Often, babies will develop cowlicks as their hair begins to grow and change in texture. However, as one ages, cowlicks typically become more defined and prominent.

One of the primary factors that cause cowlicks to stick up and be more prominent is humidity. Hair that is exposed to humidity will absorb the moisture, and the cowlick(s) will intensify in shape and size. Likewise, using inadequate styling products on the hair can exacerbate this, especially if the hair is styled in such a way that it restricts the cowlick from flowing in a natural direction.

Science behind cowlicks

Research suggests that cowlicks happen because of hair growth patterns and the direction of hair follicles. When hair follicles change directions as hair is growing, it will create a small spiral, creating the cowlick. Cowlicks occur when groups of hairs, growing in a roughly circular direction, form in different angles before or after fusing and causing a visible anomaly.

Tips for minimizing/preventing cowlicks

Although cowlicks can’t be prevented, there are ways to minimize their appearance to achieve more manageable hair. Here are a few tips:

  • Keep your hair clean and dry. Avoid wet or damp hair when trying to minimize the appearance of the cowlick.
  • Apply hair products to create a smooth base to the hair. This can help your style stay in place without the need for excessive product usage.
  • When styling your hair, use a light touch. Gently run your fingers or use a brush to create a loose, natural hair pattern that complements your cowlick.
  • If you’re going for a more polished style, try the 5 strands braid that you can make with all types of hair lengths. This will hide the cowlick and provide a consistent pattern for the hair.
Professional Styling Tips for Managing Cowlicks
Professional Styling Tips for Managing Cowlicks

Professional Styling Tips for Managing Cowlicks

When it comes to professional styling, some hairstylists and professionals in the hair industry know tips and tricks that work exceptionally well for managing cowlicks. Here are a few tips they recommend:

Advice from hair industry professionals

“The best way to manage a cowlick is to work with it, not against it,” says Emma Morris, a professional stylist. “For example, parting your hair on the side where the cowlick is can make the cowlick flow in the same direction as your hairstyle.” Another Stylist, Ali Ryan, recommends styling the cowlick so that it fits with the rest of your hairstyle. “Instead of making the cowlick so prominent, style the hair around the cowlick a certain way so that the hair has a more natural look,” she says.

Techniques for styling hair to minimize/hide cowlicks

  • Choose a style that emphasizes your cowlick’s unique pattern, such as a slicked-back look or layered bangs.
  • Embrace a more natural, tousled look. Cowlicks can work in your favor if you let them be the focal point of your style and build around them. For example, you can create beachy waves that will give your hair texture and style.
  • Use clips and bobby pins to hold hair in place and prevent a cowlick from sticking out.
  • Consult with your hairdresser or stylist for personalized tips and tricks that work for your hair type, texture, and cowlick pattern.
How to Embrace Your Cowlicks
How to Embrace Your Cowlicks

How to Embrace Your Cowlicks

It’s important to remember that cowlicks are just a natural part of hair growth and can add a touch of personality to one’s style.

Instead of struggling with ways to manage or minimize your cowlick, embrace it and try new hairstyles that work with your hair’s natural pattern. You might be surprised at the styling options that become available to you once you work with, instead of against, your cowlick.

Worst Celebrity Cowlicks

Cowlicks have been around for ages and have even made their way into the fashion world. However, not everyone has rocked their cowlick with style and grace. Some celebrities have tried, and failed, to make their cowlicks work in their favor. Here are a few of the worst celebrity cowlicks:

  • Donald Trump – Trump is known for his signature hairstyle, which features a dramatic cowlick in the front. However, there’s no denying that the style is not the most flattering on him.
  • Shia LaBeouf – LaBeouf’s hair has always been a bit questionable, with an unruly cowlick adding to its untamable nature.
  • Charlie Sheen – Sheen’s cowlick in his youth was an interesting addition to his already unique hairstyle, but he couldn’t pull it off in his later years.

History of the Cowlick

Cowlicks have been around since the beginning of human hair, and their significance has evolved over time. In medieval times, cowlicks were seen as a sign of royalty and an indication of a person’s leadership abilities. In the 1920s and 1930s, cowlicks were popularized as a styling technique, with men often spiking their hair into a cowlick for a dramatic look. In modern times, cowlicks are more of a natural occurrence, and people are embracing their individuality through their unique hair patterns.


Cowlicks are a natural part of hair growth and can add an aesthetic uniqueness to the hair. They may be challenging to manage, but with the right techniques and styling products, anyone can work with their cowlicks to create a customized hairstyle that suits them best.

Whether it’s embracing a tousled, beachy look or experimenting with new styles, cowlicks are not something to be ashamed of but rather something to embrace as a unique part of one’s hair journey.

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