Why Do Black People Have Curly Hair?

Curly hair is a fascinating and diverse feature found in people of various backgrounds. When it comes to individuals of African descent, their distinctive hair texture is a result of a blend of genetic factors and evolutionary adaptations. Here, we'll understand the science behind why people with African ancestry often have curly hair, explore the role of genetics, and appreciate the cultural significance of hair within the African diaspora.

The Science Behind Curly Hair

Curly hair, in simple terms, owes its existence to the shape of the hair follicle, those tiny structures from which each strand of hair grows. The shape of the follicle is a key player in determining your hair's texture.

For individuals of African descent, their hair follicles tend to be oval or flattened, which leads to the formation of those lovely curls. The flatter the hair follicle, the curlier the hair. Conversely, people with round hair follicles typically have straight hair.

Another factor that influences hair texture is the structure of the hair shaft itself. The hair shaft consists of a protein called keratin. In those with curly hair, keratin proteins are arranged in a way that naturally causes the hair to curl or coil. This structural distinction in the hair shaft is influenced by your genetics.

The Role of Genetics

Genetics has a starring role in determining your hair's texture. The genes responsible for this trait come from your parents and can dictate the shape of the hair follicle and the structure of the hair shaft.

It's essential to grasp that hair texture is a complex trait controlled by multiple genes. These genes can come from both your mom and dad, making it quite a genetic jigsaw puzzle. For individuals of African descent, the combination of genes inherited from their ancestors often results in the distinctive curly or coiled hair texture.

Additionally, it's worth noting that there's a vast spectrum of hair textures within this group, ranging from tightly coiled curls to looser waves. This diversity is a reflection of the rich genetic tapestry within the community.

The Cultural Significance of Hair

Hair holds profound cultural and historical significance within the African diaspora. For centuries, hairstyles have served as a means of expressing identity, culture, and personal style. The myriad of Black hair textures has given rise to a treasure trove of hairstyles, each carrying its own cultural weight.

Many individuals of African descent take immense pride in their natural hair and cherish its unique texture. In recent years, there has been a surge in natural hair movements, encouraging people to embrace and care for their hair in its natural state. This has led to a celebration of afros, braids, twists, and other natural hairstyles that showcase the beauty of curly hair.

However, it's crucial to acknowledge that the historical context of Black hair hasn't always been positive. Eurocentric beauty standards have often championed straight hair as the ideal, prompting the use of chemical relaxers and straightening treatments in an attempt to conform. Thankfully, there's been a shift towards embracing natural hair and challenging these limited beauty ideals.


Ultimately, the curly hair frequently seen in individuals of African descent is the outcome of both genetics and the shape of the hair follicle. The oval or flattened shape of the follicle, combined with the structure of the hair shaft, gives rise to the beautiful array of curly hair textures observed within this community.

Furthermore, it's essential to appreciate the cultural significance of hair within the African diaspora. Hairstyles have played a vital role in expressing identity and culture, and there's a growing movement to celebrate and embrace natural hair textures.

By understanding the science and cultural significance of curly hair within the African diaspora, we can better appreciate the diversity and beauty of this unique feature.

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