The Evolutionary Advantages of Curly Hair: Protection, Cooling, and Brain Growth

The Evolutionary Advantages of Curly Hair: Protection, Cooling, and Brain Growth

…By Judah Olanisebee for TDPel Media.

The Evolutionary Benefits of Curly Hair: Protection, Cooling, and Brain Growth


Curly hair, which may have originated in early humans in Africa, is believed to have provided various evolutionary advantages.

Recent research suggests that tightly coiled hair helped protect the scalp from solar radiation and contributed to the body’s water conservation mechanisms.

These findings, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shed light on the potential role of curly hair in the growth of human brains.

Protection Against Solar Radiation:

Living in equatorial Africa, where the sun shines directly overhead for extended periods, early humans experienced intense solar radiation on their scalps.

The tightly coiled texture of their hair acted as a natural barrier, shielding the scalp from the harmful effects of solar radiation.


This adaptation allowed for constant levels of solar radiation to be managed as heat, preventing damage to the skin and underlying tissues.

Water Conservation and Cooling Mechanisms:

The study also revealed that curly hair aided in water conservation.

Sweating is the body’s primary mechanism for cooling down, but it results in water and electrolyte loss.

However, tightly coiled hair minimized the need for excessive sweating to regulate body temperature.

By reducing water loss through sweating, early humans could conserve this vital resource in their harsh environments.

Implications for Brain Growth:

The researchers speculate that curly hair played a role in the growth of human brains.


As humans evolved to walk upright around three million years ago, they lost much of their body hair.

The development of sweat glands enabled thermoregulation, but this cooling mechanism came with a cost – water and electrolyte loss.

Curly hair, by providing protection against solar radiation and reducing the need for excessive sweating, may have allowed early humans to allocate more resources towards brain growth.

Experimental Approach:

To investigate the effects of solar radiation, researchers conducted experiments using a manikin with different types of human hair wigs.

By simulating solar radiation using lamps and measuring heat loss, the study showed that all hair types reduced solar radiation to the scalp.

However, tightly curled hair demonstrated the highest level of protection against solar heat.



The presence of curly hair in early humans was likely an adaptive response to their environment.

Beyond its aesthetic appeal, curly hair served as a practical evolutionary trait, offering protection against solar radiation and aiding in water conservation.

Moreover, this hair texture may have played a role in the growth of human brains by reducing the need for excessive sweating and facilitating the allocation of resources towards brain development.

This research provides valuable insights into the intricate relationship between human evolution, environmental factors, and physical characteristics.


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