Cowlick vs Balding is it actually an early sign of hair loss Cowlick and Balding

Cowlick and Balding – is it actually an early sign of hair loss?

Posted by IHLS

When looking at cowlick, what does it mean as a possible precursor to hair loss and eventual baldness?


This term may mean slightly different things to different people but generally, it relates to a portion of the hair that is growing in a curved or slightly spiral-like shape. As the name suggests, it comes from the shape of a calf’s tongue when licking itself or its mother.

It’s normally noticed mainly when it happens towards the front of the head around the hairline, though statistically, it is most common in the area around the crown.

The causes of it are typically fairly simple. The affected hair is just growing in a contrary direction to the rest of the hair, due to the distribution of the follicles. This is pre-set at birth so, as such, there is nothing permanent that can be done to correct a cowlick.

On the positive side, a good hairstylist will usually have a variety of styling techniques available which can cause the effect to become largely unnoticeable, though this is usually short-term and will need to be repeated as the hair grows or the style washes out.

What does cowlick mean for hair drop and baldness?

Although there has long been a folklore association with the cowlick and subsequent baldness, in practice, there is no direct causal link between the two.

Thinning hair and eventually baldness, are caused by ‘miniaturisation’. That is the developmental process whereby at each hair renewal cycle the follicle shrinks in size, producing shorter and thinner hair. As that continues, a stage is reached where the hair is so short and/or weak that it cannot penetrate the scalp.

There are many known (and many unknown) causes of why that happens. Some of the better-known ones include genetics, DHT sensitivity, stress, some forms of illness and certain medications.

However, it is perfectly possible to have a cowlick with a fine healthy head of hair – in other words, where no miniaturisation is taking place. In such cases, the cowlick means nothing at all in terms of a prognosis for future baldness and hair drop, even if the affected person might consider it to be unsightly.

Just to confuse the picture slightly though, if you suddenly notice a cowlick then it may (but only may) indicate that the increased visibility is due to the fact the surrounding hair is thinning.


Many people see what they believe to be various symptoms in their hair and worry entirely unnecessarily that they presage baldness. Of course, they may do – but they also may not.

It can be difficult for non-specialists to spot genuinely concerning symptoms and it’s also typically the case that the sooner problems are spotted then the more successful various treatments may be in stopping the hair loss or slowing it down.

The conclusion should be straightforward, whether it’s a cowlick or any other symptom you’re concerned about, get to a hair care specialist for a diagnosis sooner rather than later.

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