Cowlicks feature in a lot of clients' hair however, despite their commonality, clients are often desperate to hide them. So, HJ asked the pros to share their expertise – and discovered that by working with cowlicks rather than against them you can create a look that clients find easy to manage and love.
What's in a Name?
Cowlicks certainly have a memorable name, but where does it come from? “A cowlick is a small piece of hair that grows in a different direction to the rest of the hair,” Alex Thaddeus, owner of Alex Thaddeus Hairdressing, explains. “They create a swirled effect that looks like the hair on a calf after they have been licked by their mother.” Although there are ways to manage cowlicks, they can't be prevented and in most cases clients are are born with them. Tracey Ann Smith, owner of French & Ivi, states: “Usually, cowlicks are all down to genetic makeup and history.”
Fortunately, there are a variety of ways that you can control your client’s cowlick (if they want to), and ways your client can continue the good work at home. Applying heat to the cowlick will help direct it where you would like it to sit. Roman Sys, stylist at Brooks & Brooks London, recommends: “Blow-drying with a round brush can help set the direction of your client’s hair.” Afterwards, make sure to set the style. “Products like pomade, gel or mousse will keep the cowlick in place,” Roman adds. Another product to help manage cowlicks, on both wet and dry hair, is a root lifter. “These hold the root of the hair, working best on fine or normal hair types," Tracey Ann Smith comments. "Using the combination of a root booster and blow-drying the affected area down will really control the cowlick.”
If your client is after a more permanent fix, you can suggest they have a treatment done like a texture perm or keratin smoothing treatment. Matrix Artist Ambassador, Terry Longden, says: “The perm option will last longer as the cowlick will help support the curl as it grows. However, the smoothing treatment won’t last as long because the lift will appear as soon as it regrows.”
Alternatively, you can encourage your client to embrace their cowlick. Work with the cowlick’s natural direction and use a hairstyle to enhance it.
Every client’s cowlick will be different; whether it’s a different length, thickness or in a different placement on the head. Tracey Ann Smith summarises: “For clients with longer hair, a nape cowlick will not be noticeable. Meanwhile, cowlicks on your client’s crown, or the front of their head, can be an issue on short or long hair.” Therefore, make sure you consult with your client to discuss their expectations and the reality of this based on their hair and cowlick type.
Although cowlicks are clearly personal and diverse, there is one style that is usually incompatible with them all. “I most often advise against a fringe as your client will have to spend every morning with a straightening iron and hoping for good weather,” Terry Longden says. To be on the safe side, he recommends long haired clients continue to grow the hair as it will weigh the cowlick down. What’s more, you can incorporate layers to help the cowlick blend in, with Alex Thaddeus adding: “Side, face-framing bangs help cowlicks at the front of the head to blend in and sweep naturally.”
If your client is set on having a fringe and has a cowlick, check out HJ's article on different types of fringes to find the most suitable one for them.
For clients with short hair, cowlicks can also be hidden. On one hand, you can try to distract from the cowlick, Roman Sys suggests: “An undercut creates a sharp contrast with the cowlick, so the undercut becomes the focal point of your client’s hairstyle.” Depending on the placement of the cowlick, other short styles that work well are the Pixie Cut, (which works to cover cowlicks at the side of the head) and the Pompadour (good for controlling those at the front of the hairline).