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Are Men’s Curls Different from Women’s?

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Image of women and a man with curly hair.

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Curly hair, a unique and beautiful texture encompassing variations like thick hair and loose waves, has long been a subject of admiration and curiosity. Many individuals, both men and women, proudly embrace their curls. However, a common question arises: Are men’s curls different from women’s? And what warrants the need for male-specific products?

When it comes to features and properties of hair, such as the curl type, texture, shaft diameter, thickness, ellipticity, elasticity, porosity, and curl pattern, these aspects do not depend on gender. They are largely genetic and remain consistent across both genders. Therefore, while men’s and women’s curls may differ due to hormonal influences on hair density, the intrinsic characteristics of the curls, such as pattern and texture, are more closely tied to genetic factors than gender.

This article aims to comprehensively understand the nuances that distinguish men’s and women’s curls. I’ve sought assistance from a knowledgeable source on this subject – my friend who specializes in hair science. With a PhD in Chemistry and expertise as a cosmetic formulator, he brings a wealth of knowledge to the discussion.

Gender-Specific Hair Care: Hormonal Influences on Hair

Image of man looking at a hair care product.

I’m sure you’ve noticed that when you step into the store, there are distinct sections specifically catering to hair care products designed for both women and men. But what prompts the need for hair products tailored to specific genders?

The male hormonal system significantly differs from the female counterpart, impacting aspects like skin barrier function, lipid content on skin and scalp surfaces, and hair growth.1,2 Does this imply distinctions in men’s and women’s hair? And what about curls – are men’s curls fundamentally different from women’s?

Understanding Hormonal Influences on Hair: Exploring the Androgen Factor

Male and female consumers exhibit distinct hormonal setups that significantly impact various aspects of their hair. The key determinant of hair density on the scalp or other body parts is the influence of male sex hormones, particularly androgens, which belong to the testosterone family and play a pivotal role in the hair life cycle.2,3

Androgen Production: Unraveling the Gender Disparity

While both male and female genders produce androgens, men generally have higher quantities circulating in their bodies, contributing to increased hair growth.

As individuals age, a natural decline in androgen production for both genders affects the overall hair life cycle, impacting the hair follicles. Notably, men experiencing a more significant reduction in androgen levels tend to demonstrate a higher degree or extent of hair loss.

Key Distinction in the Life Cycle: Androgen Levels

Animated image of hair growing from the scalp.

Crucially, the primary difference in the life cycle of hair between men and women lies in the levels of androgen. However, other intricate details, such as the nature of curl, hair texture, and hair type (whether it’s straight hair, wavy hair, curly hair, or coily hair), are predominantly genetic and remain nearly identical across both genders.

Features like shaft diameter, thickness, ellipticity, elasticity, porosity, and curl pattern are independent of gender, emphasizing the intricate interplay of genetics in shaping hair characteristics. These factors contribute to the diversity of hair, highlighting the presence of different hair types across individuals regardless of gender.

In essence, men and women exhibit different levels of androgen, leading to variations in hair growth patterns, while the majority of other hair attributes are inherently tied to genetic factors rather than gender.4

Now, let’s explore whether there are fundamental differences in the curls and scalps of men and women.

Men’s Curls vs. Women’s Curls

Image of men and women with curly hair sitting while laughing.

Due to different biology and hormonal chemistry, some distinct features differentiate men’s hair compared to women’s.

High Sebum Deposition

One notable distinction is the higher activity of sebaceous glands in men, leading to the secretion of larger volumes of sebum on the scalp and other body parts. Men typically have 60% more sebum (natural oils) than women due to elevated androgen hormone levels.

This excess sebum adversely affects the scalp surface and hair shaft, causing greasiness and providing an environment conducive to dandruff fungi. As a consequence, the hair shaft and curls may become dull, greasy, and sticky, necessitating regular cleansing as the only way to remove sebum deposits.5,6

Limp-Down Effect

The accumulation of higher sebum on the hair surface results in a noticeable heaviness. The waxy materials add weight to the hair shaft, causing a limp-down effect. This weight can distort the definition of natural curls, alter the curl pattern, impact the curl diameter, and contribute to the development of frizzy hair.

Scalp Barrier and Protein Content

The scalp’s barrier function in men is weakened due to a lower ceramide content compared to women’s scalp. This makes the scalp more susceptible to protein loss, potentially impacting follicle activity and the overall lifespan of the hair. This vulnerability often results in reduced hair density on the scalp surface, a phenomenon commonly observed in a significant number of male consumers experiencing hair loss.

Length of the Hair Shaft

The length of the hair shaft varies between men and women, with men typically having short hair that is regularly trimmed. In contrast, women tend to have relatively long hair. This distinction significantly impacts hair quality.

Regular trimming in men helps eliminate split ends and high porosity fibers, contributing to improved hair health. The shorter hair fibers in men also enhance everyday manageability, grooming, and styling, resulting in hair that feels more natural with a shiny outlook.

Low Porosity

The length of men’s hair shafts is typically shorter due to frequent haircuts. Additionally, men tend to avoid chemical processing or straightening tools, such as a flat iron and curling iron, practices more commonly adopted by women.

This distinction contributes to men’s curls’ relatively good health and low porosity. The low-porosity nature of these hairs requires a careful balance of moisture to maintain their health and facilitate everyday grooming.

FAQs

Are Men’s Hair Products Different than Women’s?

No really. Although products may be targeted specifically for men, their formulation is not fundamentally different from women’s hair products, apart from minor differences in fragrances. Choosing the right products is crucial for achieving optimal results regardless of gender.

Summary

Men’s scalp biology and sebum production are different from women’s. Additionally, they exhibit different ceramide levels, underscoring distinctions in the scalp barrier function. This difference is further emphasized by the higher protein loss observed from the men’s scalp.

The underlying cause of these biological differences lies in varying levels of androgen in both genders. While these parameters influence the quality of the hair shaft and curl definition, it’s noteworthy that, apart from hormonal variations, men and women share the same chemistry in terms of hair fiber and protein composition. Their cosmetic features do not exhibit significant differences.


References

  1. Bingham, K., The metabolism of androgens in male pattern alopecia: a review. Inter. J. of Cosmet. Sci 1981, 3 (1), 1-8. ↩︎
  2. Zviak, C., The Science of Hair Care. Taylor & Francis: 2005. ↩︎
  3. Bernard, B. A., Hair shape of curly hair. J. Am. Acad. Dermatol. 2003, 48 (6, Supplement), S120-S126. ↩︎
  4. Pouradier, F.; Liu, C.; Wares, J.; Yokoyama, E.; Collaudin, C.; Panhard, S.; Saint‐Léger, D.; Loussouarn, G., The worldwide diversity of scalp seborrhoea, as daily experienced by seven human ethnic groups. Inter. J. of Cosmet. Sci 2017, 39 (6), 629-636. ↩︎
  5. Jacobsen, E.; Billings, J. K.; Frantz, R. A.; Kinney, C. K.; Stewart, M. E.; Downing, D. T., Age-related changes in sebaceous wax ester secretion rates in men and women. J. Invest. Dermatol. 1985, 85 (5), 483-485. ↩︎
  6. Pochi, P. E.; Strauss, J. S.; Downing, D. T., Age-related changes in sebaceous gland activity. J. Invest. Dermatol. 1979, 73 (1), 108-111. ↩︎

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