Where Does Curly Hair Come From? Curious Human Hair Facts For Kids

Deepthi Reddy
Mar 07, 2023 By Deepthi Reddy
Originally Published on Oct 27, 2021
Fact-checked by Niyati Parab
Portrait of Mother and her son having natural curly hair

Wavy, straight, curly, thin, thick, bushy, or wiry, there are countless types of hair that people have all over the world.

As humans evolved from other mammals like chimpanzees, the amount of dominant visible hair on the body indeed decreased. However, surprisingly, we have the same number of hair on our body as a chimpanzee which is around 5 million!

Hair is a way to keep the body warm inside naturally for all animals when you consider the thermoregulation process. On chimpanzees, hair protects their skin from the sun and provides warmth.

In modern humans, the hair protects our head from the sun's rays and allows sweat to travel along the hair shafts and evaporate, cooling us down, but it doesn't keep our bodies that warm anymore.

Asians are known to have long beautiful straight hair that is shining and gleaming. Some people have thinner or thicker hair, people from Africa are known to have beautiful bouncy and wavy hair.

The combinations are numerous, but the science behind how each person has a different hair type is quite simple to understand. Let's take a look into where does curly hair come from?

If you like reading about such exciting topics, why not check out more exciting articles like where does food come from? And where does feta cheese come from?

Where does the curly hair gene come from?

A 2009 Cambridge research study found the genes for hair were 85-90% inherited, though some could be affected by the environment. What hair you have depends primarily on your genes and ancestry. Some people's hair is easy to comb, whereas for some people combing the hair becomes a nightmare, a tangled mess.

Hair is composed of keratin, a fibrous resilient protein that gives hair its strength. The keratin protein comprises long chains of amino acids bonded together, the most abundant of which is cysteine.

Cysteine can form strong bonds with itself called disulfide bonds, where these bonds accumulate on the hair shaft and decide the shape of the hair, whether hair will be curly or straight!

For example, in curly hair, the protein builds up more on one side of the hair, causing it to curve. Whereas in straight hair, it's distributed more evenly throughout, causing the hair to be straight.

Where does white females' curly hair come from?

Some people believe that curly hair is from African ancestry, while others believe they are from Europe. But the ethnicity or nationality or race of curly hair is hard to determine and is purely dependent on genes inherited.

A research study in the American Journal of Human Genetics identified two genes that cause curly hair in European descendants. Still, even they cannot precisely point out when curly hair evolved over the years.

A white female might carry a straight hair gene or a single gene (curly hair gene) passed on through DNA by her parent, ancestor, or genetic mixing.

There is a specific cellular receptor called the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) that regulates the growth of hair.

If the EGFR puts too much keratin on one side of the hair shaft as it grows, it will come out curly. The frizz and texture of curls are often associated with curly hair because the natural oils secreted by the human scalp can't move down the hair as quickly as they do in straight hair.

Those oils trap moisture in the hair, which is why humidity makes curly hair even more frizzy.

Where does red curly hair come from?

Red hair is a result of a gene mutation in the MC1R gene that causes freckles and red hair. But they are not just a Northern European phenotypic phenomenon.

Like many recessive traits, red hair is found in many other populations worldwide, although less common. For example, in much of South and East Asian countries, redheads are very common, appearing in the population at a rate of about one in 12. And in the Middle East, you can expect to find a redhead for every 20 people.

Curly red-haired people are quite rare, which makes us wonder if it's natural and in their genes. The redhead color results from a genetic mutation, which causes your hair to have more of an orange hue to it.

Red hair is a very recessive gene, but with the right combination of genes, science says it can be dominant.

If you are naturally red-haired, your parent likely had a dominant gene. Apart from this, the curliness of red hairs could be due to the shape of the follicle that a person has.

Why is African hair curly?

African hair generally is known for its tight curls and wavy nature. We all have different hair, but there's no hard evolutionary reason why. However, there is a multitude of hypotheses as to how we got it.

African hair growth is prolonged and the type of hair that produces the most sebum. It is in their genes.

Even Caucasian hair produces fewer oils than African hair. Their hair growth is prolonged, slowest to be precise, and the tight curls (a part of their genetics) make it difficult for essential oils to spread across the hairs.

Frizz and texture are often associated with African curly hair because the natural oils secreted by the human scalp cannot move down the hair as quickly as they do in straight hair. Those oils trap moisture in the hair, which is why humidity makes curly hairs even more frizzy.

The shape of hair follicles, the structures in your skin that grow hair also influence the shape and thickness of your hair. Larger follicles produce thicker strands, whereas smaller follicles produce thinner strands.

But if follicles are oval-shaped or asymmetrical, then the hair that comes out of them won't be perfectly round and instead bends to one side producing curls. It's just like a gift wrapping ribbon, when you run scissors along one side, it will curl.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for where does curly hair come from?

Curious human hair facts for kids, then why not take a look at meal facts, how often should I eat throughout the day? Or do you know how tall is a giraffe? Are giraffes the tallest?

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Written by Deepthi Reddy

Master of Business Administration

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Deepthi ReddyMaster of Business Administration

With an MBA under her belt, Deepthi has discovered her true calling in content writing. Her writing repertoire is diverse, covering travel, movies, pet care, parenting, animals and birds, and more. Her joy of learning and creating has helped her craft well-written and engaging articles. When she isn't writing, Deepthi enjoys exploring new cultures, trying different foods, and spending quality time with her two children aged 7 and 12.

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Fact-checked by Niyati Parab

Bachelor of Commerce

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Niyati ParabBachelor of Commerce

With a background in digital marketing, Niyati brings her expertise to ensure accuracy and authenticity in every piece of content. She has previously written articles for MuseumFacts, a history web magazine, while also handling its digital marketing. In addition to her marketing skills, Niyati is fluent in six languages and has a Commerce degree from Savitribai Phule Pune University. She has also been recognized for her public speaking abilities, holding the position of Vice President of Education at the Toastmasters Club of Pune, where she won several awards and represented the club in writing and speech contests at the area level.

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