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Here’s Why Science Thinks Your Curly Hair Might Be an Evolutionary Advantage

Have you ever stopped to wonder why curly hair exists at all? I know I haven’t given it much thought beyond styling frustrations. But as it turns out, scientists are now suggesting that curly and coiled hair textures evolved for some key biological advantages that aided human survival over time. Yes, you read that correctly – your uncontrollable frizz ball might actually have evolved to provide you with improved health, fertility and vitality compared to your straight-haired friends!

Intriguing new research shows that curly hair likely delivered meaningful evolutionary advantages that enabled better adaptation for humans across changing environmental conditions and geographical locations. But before diving into why curly hair textures may have been preferred by natural selection, let’s quickly recap some background on the origins of different hair types.

Where Did Curly Hair Come From? A Brief History of Hair Texture

Human hair comes in four main texture categories, which produce varying degrees of curliness or coil: straight, wavy, curly, and coiled. Interestingly, the approximate distribution of these hair types worldwide correlates strongly with geographical ancestral origin.

So when and why did curly hair first emerge?

The earliest humans originating in equatorial Africa likely had tightly coiled hair to aid in water retention as well as provide protection from the intense UV radiation there. As groups migrated north into areas with less sun exposure, scientists theorize that curly and wavy hair textures evolved for better thermoregulation.

In particular, curly hair features irregular asymmetrical shape and increased volume, giving it advantages that straight fine hair cannot replicate. Let’s analyze what some of those benefits are.

Evolutionary Perks of Curly Hair carried on to modern day

Still on the fence? Fine. Don’t take my word. Let the study results at hand convince you about the marvelous curls you’re slaying with. Here’s what science has documented about the superpowers hidden in your spirals:

A Natural Shield Against the Sun

Curly hair gets a bad rap for being difficult to handle, but those coils and kinks are no accident. Research shows that curly hair likely evolved as an thermoregulatory accessory to sweat glands to protect humans from the solar radiation by.

Tight curls create a denser covering on the scalp. The dense growth blocked (and keeps blocking) more sunlight to prevent overheating in hot climates, especially in Sub-Saharan Africa where humanity is said to have originated. It all makes sense now, doesn’t it?

Just like animals with thick fur, the more impenetrable the hair barrier, the better protected we are from the environment. Curly locks act like natural insulation, keeping us warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s hot.

Defense Mechanism Against Predators

When our evolutionary ancestors encountered threats from animals or other humans, having a head full of snarly, thick hair may have helped protect them.

Curly hair forms an impenetrable yet springy mesh that makes it difficult for predators (and modern-day creeps) to get a grip on the scalp. Trying to grab a fistful of tight curls is like trying to hold onto a thick, fuzzy rope. A predator/attacker’s hands would slip right off the slick surface of the dense curls before they could get purchase.

So while curly hair may be difficult for you to comb, it likely shielded our ancestors’ scalps from becoming an easy target during conflicts and attacks and keeps shielding us from pervs even to this day. Those unruly locks were and will be the original helmet!

Curly Hair Is Known to Retain Less Moisture

The curly hair shape forms a more hollow shaft that doesn’t absorb as much liquid. Limp, straight hair tends to soak up and retain more moisture than textured curls. This made straight hair less advantageous in hot, arid environments where water availability for the rest of the body was key to survival.

One study found that curly hair holds about 6% water content by weight. Straight hair retains over 20% water content by weight. The curly shape acts like a straw, with less capacity to hold water inside the hair shaft.

By retaining less water in the hair itself, curly locks left the precious resource free for the body to use. Less water evaporation from the hair resulted in better hydration for early humans living in hot climates with scarce water sources.

Slow Growth Rate Makes Curly Hair Denser

Don’t even get me started on trying out short hairstyles with that curly mane. I’ve been there, done that, and let me tell you – it’s a struggle! If you end up dissatisfied with a short curly style, it feels like an eternity before the hair grows out enough to try something new.

On average, curly hair grows at a slower growth rate than straight hair. One study found growth rates of 6 inches per year for straight hair compared to just 4 inches per year for curly hair. Sounds like a real deal breaker doesn’t it? Well, there’s a significant advantage to the snail’s pace at which your curly hair grows.

The slower growth rate means curly hair stays anchored in the follicle for longer periods between shedding. This translates to a denser head of hair overall.

Hair Shafts Are More Resilient

Multiple studies have confirmed that curly hair shapes distribute mechanical stress more evenly. Combing and styling typically cause less breakage damage on textured hair.

The curved shape of curls better handles strain placed on the hair. Curly hair retains integrity with fewer split ends or breakage over time.

Curl Strands Are Thicker

Scientists have determined that curly locks have thicker individual hair strands compared to straight hair. A higher curliness grade corresponds with greater strand thickness.

One study showed that Type 3 and Type 4 hair on the curl classification scale had thicker strands than Type 1 and 2 hair. Tighter coils demonstrate more resilience against breakage.

Your hair texture tells a story going back thousands of years to the origins of humankind. So, next time your ringlets feel unruly remember they’re part of your genetic identity.

Rather than fighting your curls, try embracing them as the gift of evolution they are: a badge of resilience passed down to you over generations. Your hair carried unique benefits that allowed your ancestors to grind through the harshness. Now your curls are part of the vibrant legacy you’ve inherited as their descendant. Maybe it’s time to retire the straightener and let that inner curly girl out!

Gwenda Harmon

Gwenda Harmon

Gwenda Harmon, our esteemed hair stylist and resident beauty expert at Power Your Curls, boasts over a decade of experience. Her specialization lies in dispensing invaluable advice on hair care, styling, and beauty techniques. Frequently featured in reputable publications such as Yahoo!, VEGAMOUR, BestLife Online, and more, Gwenda is dedicated to helping individuals attain healthy, beautiful hair by sharing her wealth of knowledge in effective hair care practices.