Are Cowlicks Hereditary

Lindsay Lohan, Nick Jonas, Brad Pitts, and Alexander Skarsgard also have a cowlick so you are not alone. 

In fact, if you noticed someone with an anti-clockwise whorl direction, you can predict that they are left-handed as there is a linkage in researches.

Therefore, are cowlicks hereditary? Cowlicks are genetic and permanent due to polarity genes in our bodies. Polarity genes cause cells to combine together and form opposing patterns or cowlicks. In scientific research, the polarity genes could also be linked to whether you are right-handed or left-handed and also linked to a cancer suppressor protein.

Why do cowlicks happen?

By examining the processes controlling polarity genes, Michigan State University (MSU) researchers discovered cowlicks are linked to retinoblastoma (eye cancer in children) suppressor protein. 

The MSU researchers removed the retinoblastoma suppressor protein from fruit flies and found it developed poorly-oriented wing hair, indicating that it also controls the expression of polarity genes as well as having anti-cancer functionality. (

This was a surprise as people always thought cowlicks were due to housekeeping' genes that are devoted to basic cellular functions instead, David Arnosti, a professor of biochemistry at MSU and contributing author of the study said.

Retinoblastoma is actually part of a larger family of " cell guardians " that regulate DNA repair, cell reproduction, and other cancer-fighting tools. Therefore, having cowlicks might be a good sign for fighting cancers.

Another research look at handedness and whorl direction. Right-handed people and left-handed people might notice a difference in whether or not their cowlicks swirl in a clockwise whorl or anti-clockwise direction. 

Mr. Amar J. S. Klar conducted research to see if there was a genetic link between right- or left-handedness and hair-whorl direction (clockwise or anti-clockwise). He found that 8.4% of right-handed people and 45% of left-handed people have anti-clockwise hair-whorls. His research suggested that a single gene may control both handedness and hair-whorl direction. 

There were further researches on ethnicity and whorl. Wunderlich and Heerema (1975) could see a hair whorl in only 10 percent of black newborns, and Ziering and Krenitsky (2003) reported that 80 percent of African-American men had a diffuse pattern instead of a whorl. (

How To Stop Hair Sticking Up At Crown

The easiest way is to cut your hair at the crown properly by highlighting the problem to your hairstylist. Shorter hair also hides cowlicks which is why it is harder to spot cowlick in women.

If not, you will need to apply some hairspray on your hair or in the worse case some pomade or hair gel depending on what caused your hair to stick up. 

For cowlicks, get your hair wet first before applying a small amount of gel into your hands and rubbing them together. Run your fingers over the area with the cowlick, and rub in all directions for maximum coverage up to the root area. Once the gel is applied, take a comb and comb down the cowlick.

You can also read our post on why hair part down the back.

When was the term cowlick first used?

The term "cowlick" dates from the late 16th century when Mr. Richard Haydone used it in his translation of Lomazzo: "The lockes or plaine feakes of haire called cow-lickes, are made turning upwards." Mr. Richard Haydone was a physicist who has an amateur interest in the visual arts and taught himself engraving. 

When the follicles in one specific location aim in a direction contrary to those around that spot, you can develop a cowlick. Cowlicks happen when the growth of the hair forms in a spiral pattern, usually at the crown of your head. It looks like a cow licked your hair in one spot (see image below a comic).

Cowlick Comic

Cowlick originates from the cow’s habit of licking its young, which results in a swirling pattern in the hair.

How to get rid of cowlick forever

For people who are more concerned about cowlick management, more drastic measures may be used. Electrologywaxing, and even cosmetic surgery can be used to more permanently correct the cowlick.

If you want to read more about the history of hair, do read our popular post on why did Vikings braid their hair.

Efforts have been made to get the information as accurate and updated as possible. If you found any incorrect information with credible source, please send it via the contact us form
Sky Hoon
Hair Lover, Idea Starter. He started HairQueenie, which is ranked #27 in the FeedSpot Top 40 Hair Care Blogs and mentions in ManeAddicts and Tempest. Hair is not everything but something. He started Hairqueenie to share great hair products. Over time, he found there are more value to share answers to hair problems that cannot be found easily.
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