The what, why and how of curly hair: a review

Proc Math Phys Eng Sci. 2019 Nov;475(2231):20190516. doi: 10.1098/rspa.2019.0516. Epub 2019 Nov 20.


An attempt to understand and explain a peculiarity that was observed for curly fibres during experimentation revealed disparate literature reporting on several key issues. The phenotypical nature of curly fibres is only accurately understood within the larger scope of hair fibres, which are highly complex biological structures. A brief literature search produced thousands of research items. Besides the large amount of information on the topic, there was also great variability in research focus. From our review, it appeared that the complexity of hair biology, combined with the variety of research subtopics, often results in uncertainty when relating different aspects of investigation. During the literature investigation, we systematically categorized elements of curly hair research into three basic topics: essentially asking why fibres curl, what the curly fibre looks like and how the curly fibre behaves. These categories were subsequently formalized into a curvature fibre model that is composed of successive but distinctive tiers comprising the elements in curly hair research. The purpose of this paper is twofold: namely to present (i) a literature review that explores the different aspects of curly human scalp hair and (ii) the curvature fibre model as a systemized approach to investigating curly hair.

Keywords: curly fibres; curly hair research; curvature fibre model; hair biology; human scalp hair.

Publication types

  • Review