Skip to main content

The Anthropology of Human Scalp Hair

  • Chapter
  • First Online:
Dermatoanthropology of Ethnic Skin and Hair

Abstract

Hair is predominantly a proteinaceous fiber that originates from hair follicles located within the subcutis and/or dermis of the skin. It is one of the defining features of mammals, serving important functions, such as thermoregulation and endothermy. Among mammals, humans are exceptional in lacking a full covering of body hair. Instead the growth of terminal hairs is limited to specific body regions, such as the scalp, axillae, and groin. Our aim in this chapter is to provide an overview of the anthropology of human scalp hair. We will explore approaches to the study of variation in human scalp hair phenotypes, as well as the genetic and evolutionary basis of this diversity. The biology of human scalp hair, with emphasis on quantitative and qualitative differences among populations, as well as impact on hair grooming practices will also be discussed.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this chapter

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Chapter
USD 29.95
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
eBook
USD 129.00
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Available as EPUB and PDF
  • Read on any device
  • Instant download
  • Own it forever
Softcover Book
USD 169.99
Price excludes VAT (USA)
  • Compact, lightweight edition
  • Dispatched in 3 to 5 business days
  • Free shipping worldwide - see info

Tax calculation will be finalised at checkout

Purchases are for personal use only

Institutional subscriptions

Similar content being viewed by others

References

  1. Lasisi T, Ito S, Wakamatsu K, Shaw CN. Quantifying variation in human scalp hair fiber shape and pigmentation. Am J Phys Anthropol. 2016;160(2):341–52.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  2. Rees JL. Genetics of hair and skin color. Annu Rev Genet. 2003;37:67–90.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  3. Loussouarn G, Garcel A-L, Lozano I, Collaudin C, Porter C, Panhard S, et al. Worldwide diversity of hair curliness: a new method of assessment. Int J Dermatol. 2007;46(S1):2–6.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  4. Sulem P, Gudbjartsson DF, Stacey SN, Helgason A, Rafnar T, Magnusson KP, et al. Genetic determinants of hair, eye and skin pigmentation in Europeans. Nat Genet. 2007;39(12):1443–52.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  5. Suter D. Hair colour in the Faroe and Orkney Islands. Ann Hum Biol. 1979;6(1):89–93.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  6. Candille SI, Absher DM, Beleza S, Bauchet M, McEvoy B, Garrison NA, et al. Genome-wide association studies of quantitatively measured skin, hair, and eye pigmentation in four European populations. PLoS ONE. 2012;7(10):e48294.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  7. Norton HL, Werren E, Friedlaender J. MC1R diversity in Northern Island Melanesia has not been constrained by strong purifying selection and cannot explain pigmentation phenotype variation in the region. BMC Genet. 2015;16(1):1–15.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  8. Ito S, Wakamatsu K. Diversity of human hair pigmentation as studied by chemical analysis of eumelanin and pheomelanin. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2011;25(12):1369–80.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  9. Deedrick DW, Koch SL. Microscopy of hair part I: a practical guide and manual for human hairs. Forensic Sci Commun. 2004;6(1).

    Google Scholar 

  10. Trotter M. The form, size, and color of head hair in American whites. Am J Phys Anthropol. 1930;14(3):433–45.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  11. Frost P. European hair and eye color: a case of frequency-dependent sexual selection? Evol Hum Behavior. 2006;27(2):85–103.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Medland SE, Zhu G, Martin NG. Estimating the heritability of hair curliness in twins of European ancestry. Twin Res Hum Genet. 2009;12(05):514–8.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  13. Hrdy D. Quantitative hair form variation in seven populations. Am J Phys Anthropol. 1973;39(1):7–17.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  14. Vernall DG. A study of the size and shape of cross sections of hair from four races of men. Am J Phys Anthropol. 1961;19(4):345–50.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  15. Westgate GE, Botchkareva NV, Tobin DJ. The biology of hair diversity. Int J Cosmet Sci. 2013;35(4):329–36.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  16. Hrdy DB, Baden HP, Lee LD, Kubilus J, Ludwig KW. Frequency of an electrophoretic variant of hair alpha keratin in human populations. Am J Hum Genet. 1977;29(1):98–100.

    CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  17. Branicki W, Liu F, van Duijn K, Draus-Barini J, Pośpiech E, Walsh S, et al. Model-based prediction of human hair color using DNA variants. Hum Genet. 2011;129(4):443–54.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  18. Guenther CA, Tasic B, Luo L, Bedell MA, Kingsley DM. A molecular basis for classic blond hair color in Europeans. Nat Genet. 2014;46(7):748–52.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  19. Kenny EE, Timpson NJ, Sikora M, Yee MC, Moreno-Estrada A, Eng C, et al. Melanesian blond hair is caused by an amino acid change in TYRP1. Science. 2012;336(6081):554.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  20. Fujimoto A, Kimura R, Ohashi J, Omi K, Yuliwulandari R, Batubara L, et al. A scan for genetic determinants of human hair morphology: EDAR is associated with Asian hair thickness. Hum Mol Genet. 2008;17(6):835–43.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  21. Fujimoto A, Ohashi J, Nishida N, Miyagawa T, Morishita Y, Tsunoda T, et al. A replication study confirmed the EDAR gene to be a major contributor to population differentiation regarding head hair thickness in Asia. Hum Genet. 2008;124(2):179–85.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  22. Mou C, Thomason HA, Willan PM, Clowes C, Harris WE, Drew CF, et al. Enhanced ectodysplasin-a receptor (EDAR) signaling alters multiple fiber characteristics to produce the East Asian hair form. Hum Mutat. 2008;29(12):1405–11.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  23. Medland SE, Nyholt DR, Painter JN, McEvoy BP, McRae AF, Zhu G, et al. Common variants in the trichohyalin gene are associated with straight hair in Europeans. Am J Hum Genet. 2009;85(5):750–5.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  24. Held LI. The evo-devo puzzle of human hair patterning. Evol Biol. 2010;37(2):113–22.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  25. Jablonski NG. The evolution of human skin and skin color. Annu Rev Anthropol. 2004;33:585–623.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Jablonski NG. Skin: a natural history. Berkeley: University of California Press; 2006. p. 266.

    Google Scholar 

  27. Lieberman DE, Bramble DM, Raichlen DA, Shea JJ. Brains, brawn, and the evolution of human endurance running capabilities. In: Grine FE, Fleagle J, Leakey RE, editors. The first humans: origin and early evolution of the genus Homo. Vertebrate paleobiology and paleoanthropology series. New York: Springer; 2009. p. 77–92.

    Google Scholar 

  28. Coelho LGM, Ferreira-Junior JB, Martini ARP, Borba DA, Coelho DB, Passos RLF, et al. Head hair reduces sweat rate during exercise under the sun. Int J Sports Med. 2010;31(11):779–83.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  29. Jablonski NG, Chaplin G. The evolution of skin pigmentation and hair texture in people of African ancestry. Dermatol Clin. 2014;32(2):113–21.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  30. Kim MJ, Choi JW, Lee HK, editors. Effect of hair style on human phsyiological responses in a hot environment. In: Environmental ergonomics: proceedings of the 13th international conference on environmental ergonomics. Boston, MA: University of Wollongong; Aug 2–7 Aug 2009.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Walsberg GE. Consequences of skin color and fur properties for solar heat gain and ultraviolet irradiance in two mammals. J Comp Physiol. 1988;158(2):213–21.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  32. Wolf BO, Walsberg GE. The role of the plumage in heat transfer processes of birds. Am Zool. 2000;40(4):575–84.

    Google Scholar 

  33. Bernard BA. Advances in understanding hair growth. F1000Res. 2016; 5(F1000 Faculty Rev).

    Google Scholar 

  34. Bernard BA. Hair shape of curly hair. Am Acad Dermatol. 2003;48(6, Supplement 1):S120–6.

    Google Scholar 

  35. Wolfram LJ. Human hair: A unique physicochemical composite. Am Acad Dermatol. 2003;48(6, Supplement):S106–14.

    Google Scholar 

  36. Shimomura Y, Ito M. Human hair keratin-associated proteins. J Investigative Dermatol Symp Proc. 2005;10(3):230–3.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  37. Banerjee AR. Variations in the medullary structure of human head hair. Proc Indian Natl Sci Acad Part B Biol Sci. 1963;29:309–16.

    Google Scholar 

  38. Das-Chaudhuri AB, Chopra VP. Variation in hair histological variables: medulla and diameter. Hum Hered. 1984;34(4):217–21.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  39. Loussouarn G. African hair growth parameters. Br J Dermatol. 2001;145(2):294–7.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  40. Loussouarn G, El Rawadi C, Genain G. Diversity of hair growth profiles. Int J Dermatol. 2005;44(s1):6–9.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  41. Loussouarn G, Lozano I, Panhard S, Collaudin C, El Rawadi C, Genain G. Diversity in human hair growth, diameter, colour and shape. An in vivo study on young adults from 24 different ethnic groups observed in the five continents. Eur J Dermatol. 2016;26(2):144–54.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  42. Sperling LC. Hair density in Afican Americans. Arch Dermatol. 1999;135(6):656–8.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  43. Bernstein RM, Rassman WR. The aesthetics of follicular transplantation. Dermatol Surg. 1997;23(9):785–99.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  44. Franbourg A, Hallegot P, Baltenneck F, Toutaina C, Leroy F. Current research on ethnic hair. Am Acad Dermatol. 2003;48(6, Supplement):S115–9.

    Google Scholar 

  45. Thibaut S, Bernard BA. The biology of hair shape. Int J Dermatol. 2005;44(S1):2–3.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  46. Thibaut S, Gaillard O, Bouhanna P, Cannell DW, Bernard BA. Human hair shape is programmed from the bulb. Br J Dermatol. 2005;152(4):632–8.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  47. Norton HL, Friedlaender JS, Merriwether DA, Koki G, Mgone CS, Shriver MD. Skin and hair pigmentation variation in Island Melanesia. Am J Phys Anthropol. 2006;130(2):254–68.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  48. Norton HL, Edwards M, Krithika S, Johnson M, Werren EA, Parra EJ. Quantitative assessment of skin, hair, and iris variation in a diverse sample of individuals and associated genetic variation. Am J Phys Anthropol. 2016;160(4):570–81.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  49. Shekar SN, Duffy DL, Frudakis T, Montgomery GW, James MR, Sturm RA, et al. Spectrophotometric methods for quantifying pigmentation in human hair—influence of MC1R genotype and environment. Photochem Photobiol. 2008;84(3):719–26.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  50. Shekar SN, Duffy DL, Frudakis T, Sturm RA, Zhao ZZ, Montgomery GW, et al. Linkage and association analysis of spectrophotometrically quantified hair color in Australian adolescents: the effect of OCA2 and HERC2. J Investigative Dermatol. 2008;128(12):2807–14.

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  51. Aryiku SA, Salam A, Dadzie OE, Jablonski NG. Clinical and anthropological perspectives on chemical relaxing of afro-textured hair. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2015;29(9):1689–95.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  52. Porter CE, Diridollou S, Holloway Barbosa V. The influence of African–American hair’s curl pattern on its mechanical properties. Int J Dermatol. 2005;44(s1):4–5.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  53. Syed AN, Kuhajda A, Ayoub H, Ahmad K, Frank EM. African–American hair: its physical properties and differences relative to caucasian hair. Cosmetics Toiletries. 1995;110(10):39–48.

    Google Scholar 

  54. Khumalo NP, Doe PT, Dawber RPR, Ferguson DJP. What is normal black African hair? A light and scanning electron-microscopic study. Am Acad Dermatol. 2000;43(5, Part 1):814–20.

    Google Scholar 

  55. Perez Perez GI, Gao Z, Jourdain R, Ramirez J, Gany F, Clavaud C, et al. Body site is a more determinant factor than human population diversity in the health skin microbiome. PLoS ONE. 2016;11(4):e0151990.

    Article  PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  56. Salam A, Aryiku S, Dadzie OE. Hair and scalp disorders in women of African descent: an overview. Br J Dermatol. 2013;169(Suppl 3):19–32.

    Article  PubMed  Google Scholar 

  57. Dadzie OE, Salam A. The hair grooming practices of women of African descent in London, United Kingdom: findings of a cross-sectional study. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol. 2016;30(6):1021–4.

    Article  CAS  PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ophelia E. Dadzie .

Editor information

Editors and Affiliations

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

Copyright information

© 2017 Springer International Publishing AG

About this chapter

Cite this chapter

Dadzie, O.E., Lasisi, T., Jablonski, N.G. (2017). The Anthropology of Human Scalp Hair. In: Vashi, N., Maibach, H. (eds) Dermatoanthropology of Ethnic Skin and Hair. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-53961-4_18

Download citation

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-53961-4_18

  • Published:

  • Publisher Name: Springer, Cham

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-319-53960-7

  • Online ISBN: 978-3-319-53961-4

  • eBook Packages: MedicineMedicine (R0)

Publish with us

Policies and ethics