Hair Callick or Cowlick

Lindsay Lohan with a cowlick in her hair
Lindsay Lohan's cowlick - Photo: Everett Collection/Shutterstock
Q: I would like to know what causes hair callicks and why is my hair getting worse as I age. I am 56 years old and my hair is so unruly. I have fine hair that seems to be filled with callicks.
How did this happen? Both of my siblings have beautiful long hair. Please respond so that I can understand what causes this. Thank you.

A: The term you want is actually "cowlick", which my grandmother said is called such because these hair growth patterns make you look as though a cow (known to have particularly sticky and thick saliva) has licked your head, making the hair stick up. However, since some cowlick sufferers have never been anywhere near a cow in their lives, it's best to explain what really causes a cowlick.
Cowlicks are anomalous growth patterns in the hair. As we all know the hair is produced in the skin of the scalp in follicles. The size and shape of these follicles can affect the texture and wave pattern of the hair that is produced. Yet, when most people picture the hair follicles in the skin, they imagine them as perfectly vertical with the hair growing straight up and out of the scalp.
The fact is that the hair follicles can and usually are slightly tilted and the hair grows in specific directions in most people. And in some cases the hair grows in very strongly oriented directions. The directions can differ depending on where on the head you are looking. When the follicles in one specific location aim in a direction contrary to those around that spot, you can develop a cowlick, which causes the hairs in opposite directions to push each other up and out. The hair then sticks up and becomes a problem when styling the hair.
Growth patterns can change as we age. Some children who have cowlicks will find that they disappear as they mature, and women who age may find that their hair develops more (or more prominent) cowlicks. These things are genetic and just a part of who you are.
The good news is that there are options for dealing with cowlicks. In some cases, women have used electrolysis and waxing to remove the offending hairs, but most women simply rely on the aid of a good stylist to help them come up with a flattering hairstyle that is workable with their particular growth patterns. In more extreme cases, plastic surgery has been employed, but this is indeed an extreme solution not to be considered lightly.
See also:
Is there any way to get rid of a cowlick in your hair?
What should I do with my cowlicks and hair whorls?
How do you wrap a perm for a cowlick?
Is there any help for cow licks?