cowlicks 700

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Before I discovered NaturallyCurly, chemically relaxing the front of my hair was an annual June event. Spot-processing what I believed to be my particularly unruly bangs was what I did in order to keep them flat in the Philadelphia humidity. These weren’t edges, rather they were big chunks of hair that stood straight up from my scalp, and defiantly refused to find a curl pattern. I didn’t realize it at the time, but these roots on steroids were cowlicks, and it seemed to me that they were hell-bent on ruining my otherwise good hair days.

A cowlick is several strands of hair that grow straight up, out, or at an angle. Typically, hair grows in a spiral pattern, but cowlicks grow in opposition to this pattern. The word “cowlick” was coined in the 1600s and references a mother cow’s habit of licking her calf to create a swirling in its fur.

It’s easy to spot a cowlick at the crown of the head, as the swirl pattern with the opposing section of hair is visible. Cowlicks at your hairline are not as easily identified, but if you have them you know it. And you also know they are both a blessing and a curse. While they can provide you with instant volume with the flip of a part, they can also be a challenge to work with.

Follow this how-to to help them look their best.

  1. Get the right cut. For the cowlicked-curly, this means a longer bang (think chin-length or beyond), or a style that works with the cowlicks, like a pompadour. Longer bangs are heavier than shorter ones and will prevent the cowlick sections from springing up, and then sticking up. A pompadour, conversely, can help you achieve height using the natural direction of the cowlick hairs.

  2. Part your hair with your cowlicks in mind. If you have cowlicks in the middle of your hairline, for example, avoid a middle part, and create a side part instead. If you want your hair to look smooth and chic, part the hair in the direction that it naturally wants to go. If you want volume, create a side part against the direction of the hair growth, and then spritz the front of your hair with hairspray or spray gel to hold in place.
  3. Use duckbill clips to coax damp hair in the right direction as it dries. Starting with freshly washed hair, or damp hair to which you’ve applied the product, create a side part. Clip your hair vertically just past the cowlick section, making sure that it is clipped tight enough to hold the cowlick flat as it dries. 

Alternately, you can use a DevaFuser to hold the hair in the direction that you want it to lay. Dry the roots on a cool setting.

Once your hair is dry, gently scrunch it, or pick out the roots with an afro pick. Be careful to not over-manipulate your hair in the front. Slick down any flyaways, and lay your edges with a heavy butter, balm, or edge tamer. If at any time you want to move apart because your hair is not laying right, do not use a comb or pick. Instead, part it with a chopstick or the tip of a barrette.

What are your favorite tips for managing cowlicks in the front of your hair? Let us know in the comments. For the best in edge tamers, see The Top 10 Edge Controls to Slay.