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The science of summer haircuts

College Park, MD (June 30, 2003) -- As school-age children begin their summer vacation, many parents urge them to get extra-short haircuts for the hot months ahead. For those parents who receive resistance to this idea, science offers several reasons to back them up. Researchers who study the biology of hair suggest a few advantages -- from a scientific point of view -- of a short summer haircut:

--Less hair keeps the head cool. People can lose up to 50 percent of their body heat from the top of their head. This is why it's important for everyone to wear hats and earmuffs during the winter months.

But when we don't want to get overheated, having less hair can make it easier for that heat to escape the head. Thick overlapping layers of hair "insulate the scalp," says Desmond Tobin of Bradford University in England. "Short hair will reduce this during hot weather," he says.

Things get even better if the hair is not totally flat. Curly hair, such as an afro, is 'raised' above the scalp and can actually permit wind eddies to cool the head, Tobin says.

--Hair grows slightly faster in the hot months, suggests at least one study. A 1991 article in the British Journal Of Dermatology explored "androgen-dependent" hair growth in bald men living in temperate climate. Androgen-dependent hair includes some scalp hair and other hair whose growth is influenced by hormones called androgens. By contrast, androgens do not affect the growth in other types of hair such as eyelashes and eyebrows.

According to Tobin, the 1991 study suggested that androgen-dependent hair growth is faster during the spring and summer months and slower during the winter months in temperate regions such the US. Although this study was conducted in men, the results may also apply to women.

One caveat, however, is that the results may not apply to children since their hormonal activity is very different from adults', at least before puberty.

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Contact: Ben Stein
bstein@aip.org
301-209-3090
American Institute of Physics
2-Jul-2003


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