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What Is a Cowlick and How Do You Hide One?

There’s no permanent fix, but you can get rid of one temporarily.
August 07, 2023

Cowlicks can make or break a good hair and oftentimes, they make for a big struggle when it comes to styling your hair. If you have a section of hair that seems to grow in a different direction or pattern than the rest of your mane, you probably have a cowlick. While you can’t wave a magic wand and bid it farewell (oh how we wish you could), there are things you can do to hide it and make it more manageable with your hairstyle.

Below, we’re sharing everything you need to know about hair cowlicks: What they are, how you can get rid of them, and how to style your hair when you have a cowlick.

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What Is a Cowlick?

You may be wondering why that funny little piece of hair is called a cowlick. The name cowlick comes from the swirled effect left in the hair of baby cattle after being licked by their mothers. In humans, a cowlick is a small section of hair that grows at a different angle than the rest of the hair on your head. It gets its name because it resembles the same swirled effect on baby cattle.

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Is It Cowlick or Calic?

Cowlicks are sometimes mistakenly called calics, but they both refer to a piece of hair that grows at a different angle than the rest of your hair. Spelling-wise, the term is cowlick, but they both sound similar if you’re speaking about the subject. 

What Causes a Cowlick in Your Hair? 

Hair cowlicks are caused by genetics and are typically located at the crown of the head called a cowlick crown. They can also appear near the front of the hairline, in the middle of the forehead, called a cowlick hairline. Both can make styling bangs a bit more tricky, but not impossible — you just need to know how to hide it (more on that, below).  

Because cowlicks often grow straight up, they can also add a bit of desirable volume to the hair. While they can be annoying when they’re ruining a certain hairstyle you want to try, they’re not always a bad thing, and you can even use them to your advantage to enhance a specific hairstyle. 

How to Get Rid of a Cowlick: A Step-by-Step Tutorial

If you have a cowlick, your blow dryer will be your best friend when it comes to trying to get rid of it (temporarily). Basically, when your hair is damp, you’re going to want to blow-dry your cowlick in the opposite direction that it naturally grows. Follow our step-by-step guide, below. 

Step 1. If your cowlick grows straight up, then try blow-drying the section of hair downwards to readjust the direction that the hair is sitting. This trick also helps to create volume. Don’t forget to prime your strands with a heat protectant like the L’Oréal Paris Elvive Dream Lengths Frizz Killer Serum Leave-In before reaching for your blow dryer.

Step 2. If you have a cowlick hairline that affects your bangs or layers, use a brush to blow-dry your hair towards the left and towards the right to remove the cowlick. 

Step 3. Next, use a round brush to blow-dry your bangs back or forward (this depends on preference and the type of bangs you have), until they’re fully dry and the cowlick is unnoticeable. 

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Step 4. When you finally have your hair where you want it, switch your blow dryer to the cool-temperature setting for a few seconds. This cold blast of air to finish things off will help to set the hair in place. 

Step 5. After you’re done heat styling, use a small hair clip to hold your cowlick in place while you finish up the rest of your beauty routine. The longer you hold the hair down and train it in place, the more long-lasting it will be. Once you’re ready to head out, remove the clip, and top your hairstyle with a few spritzes of strong-hold hair spray, like the L’Oréal Paris Elnett Satin Extra Strong Hold Hair Spray - Unscented.

3 Ways to Hide a Cowlick 

Ahead, three styling tips you can also use to temporarily hide a cowlick.

Use Hair Products With Strong Hold Formulas

This one may seem obvious, but when you have a stubborn cowlick, you’ll want to use hair styling products that have an extra strong hold. When styling your cowlick, pat it down to keep it from sticking straight up and use a strong hold hair pomade like the L’Oréal Paris Studio Line Overworked Hair Putty. When you’re putting the finishing touches on your hairstyle, top it off with a strong hold hairspray, like the aforementioned Elnett Satin Extra Strong Hold Hair Spray - Unscented, so that your look stays put.

Change Your Part

Instead of fighting your cowlick every day, let it decide where it’s best to part your hair and enjoy the natural volume it provides. If your cowlick is noticeable from the front and you wish it weren’t, experiment with a middle part or a deep side part and see what’s the most flattering and natural for you.

Consider Your Hairstyle 

Just like changing your part, don’t be afraid to experiment with different styles like braids, buns and ponytails to see what works best for you. It’s also worth mentioning that cowlicks are usually most noticeable on straight hair, so to distract from the cowlick and make it less obvious, try sporting wavy or curly hairstyles, like bathrobe curls or a curly perm.  

Next: 10 Hairstyles That Make Butterfly Clips Look Cool Again

Photographer: Chaunte Vaughn, Art Director: Hannah Packer, Creative Producer: Becca Solovay, Digital Tech: Erik Dalzen, Photo Assistant: Sam Kang, Makeup Artist: Jonet Williamson, Hair Stylist: Mirna Jose, Hair Assistant: Keila Rivera, Wardrobe Stylist: Alexis Badiyi, Wardrobe Assistant: Jazmine Alzado, Model: Zlata Semenko

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