What is a Cowlick?

wiseGEEK Writer

A cowlick is a segment of hair that grows in an opposite direction from the rest of the hair. This typically causes part of the hair to stick out or move in the wrong way, and it can be a pain for people who want to make hair lie flat or go in a certain direction. The most common places people will have cowlicks are on the crown of the head, but they can also grow around at the forehead, sides of the hair or nape of the neck. They’re something people tend to be born with, and as hair coarsens as kids age, they may get more obvious.

Two young boys
Two young boys

There are plenty of things that may be done to keep a cowlick from wrecking hairstyles, and it usually takes consultation with a knowledgeable hairstylist. Sometimes, for instance, the weight of the hair can pull a cowlick down. A stylist might recommend growing the hair longer so that part that wants to “stick up for itself” simply can’t. At other times, a hairstyle can be designed that cleverly conceals the cowlick’s independent ways.

Cutting the hair in different directions or disguising it in layers or curls may work well. Sometimes cutting the cowlick short helps. If a cowlick is the spiky type, one plan would be to let the rest of the hair mimic it by creating a spiky top hairstyle.

There are some people who are deeply troubled by large cowlicks they can’t conceal through skillful styling. Some permanent or semi-permanent measures exist for getting rid of these. Some people opt to have electrolysis performed on the hair which damages the hair follicle so that hair won’t grow back, and a few people elect laser hair removal of the cowlick. A less permanent method is to do wax hair removal of the offending tuft. These procedures can be painful and pricey, but they are an option.

A less expensive option is to use a variety of firm control hair products like gels, waxes, or creams that may slick the hair into place. These usually have to offer very firm control because otherwise the cowlick will pop back up. Applying these products on wet hair may be the most effective. Usually once the hair dries it is harder to tame.

There are many people who have cowlicks. Supermodel Claudia Schiffer has two along her forehead hairline. They clearly don’t stand in the way of being beautiful, and with a little crafting, other people may never notice their presence. Some people also celebrate these hair eccentricities. One of the most beloved fictional characters of all time, Harry Potter, could never make keep his hair flat or orderly.

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Discussion Comments


I know someone that has such a strong cowlick right at his hairline, that people have started to refer to it as a "crop circle" not a cowlick.

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