Curly hair may have evolved to protect early humans from the sun

In the first study to look at the evolution of hair types, researchers found tightly coiled hair provides a trade-off of shielding the head from the sun while minimising unwanted insulating


14 February 2023

Tightly-curled hair appears to maximise the shielding effect from the sun while minimising an unwanted insulating effect

Hair type has previously been studied by researchers in fields such as cosmetics and forensics, but not from an evolutionary perspective

Mireya Acierto/Getty Images

Hair that is tightly coiled offers the best protection against the sun’s potentially damaging rays, which could explain why this trait evolved in early humans in Africa and straighter hair emerged as some humans moved into cooler areas.

It has long been suggested that the reason our body hair became so fine that it is sometimes barely visible, while our scalp hair remained thick, is to prevent our heads …

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