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The wearing of fabric head coverings in worship was universally the practice of Christian women until the twentieth century. What happened? Did we suddenly find some biblical truth to which the saints for thousands of years were blind? Or were our biblical views of women gradually eroded by the modern feminist movement that has infiltrated the Church...? - R.C. Sproul

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The Biology of Hair Lengths: Why it’s Natural for Women to Have Longer Hair

The Biology of Hair Lengths: Why it’s Natural for Women to Have Longer Hair
In 1 Cor 11:14-15, Paul declares that “nature” teaches us that men are to have short hair and women are to have long hair. Is there a biological function that makes women have longer hair?

Yes, there does seem to be a built-in biological process that causes women to have longer hair than men (generally speaking, of course). This process is due to our hormones. First, I need to explain how our hair grows. Men and women’s hair grow at pretty much the same rate of about 1cm per month. So the difference is not that women’s hair grows faster. 1) Castro, J. (2014). How Fast Does Hair Grow?. [online] Live Science. Available at: https://www.livescience.com/42868-how-fast-does-hair-grow.html [Accessed 12 Feb. 2018].

Our hair grows and sheds in a three-stage process which keeps repeating itself. So we keep cycling through the phases and each of the hairs on our head are in a different phase at any given time (with about 90% being in the growing phase). 2) Geggel, L. (2017). Hair Loss and Balding: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments. [online] Live Science. Available at: https://www.livescience.com/34731-hair-loss-alopecia-treatment.html [Accessed 12 Feb. 2018]. However, our hormones are a major factor which can determine how long we stay in a particular phase.

These three phases are:

Anagen – Hair growth phase (lasts 2-7 years)
Catagen – Transition phase (lasts about 10 days)
Telogen – Resting or shedding phase (lasts about 3 months)

I recommend you watch this short video to help you visualize and understand these three phases better:

As mentioned our hormones play a significant role in how long we stay in a particular phase. Obviously if one stays in the anagen (hair growth phase) for a longer time, they will have longer hair. And this is exactly the case: women tend to stay in this phase longer than men.

Pastor John MacArthur explains,

“Men and women have distinctive physiologies. One obvious difference is the process of hair growth. Head hair develops in three stages: formation and growth, resting, and fallout. The male hormone testosterone speeds up the cycle so that men reach the third stage earlier than women. The female hormone estrogen causes the cycle to remain in stage one for a longer period, causing women’s hair to grow longer than men’s.” 3) MacArthur, John (2011). Divine design. Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, p.49.

Now that is a theologian’s perspective, but is that backed up scientifically? Since dermatology is not a field I’m an expert in, I had to do some digging and I found out that MacArthur is absolutely correct in his assessment.

Here’s what some authorities specializing in hair biology say:

“The cause of pattern thinning in men is primarily related to two sex hormones, testosterone and DHT. The body converts testosterone into the hormone DHT by way of an enzyme found in various tissues throughout the body…In men…DHT increases the resting (telogen) phase and decreases the growing (anagen) phase of hair.” 4) Rassman, W. and Bernstein, R. (2009). Hair loss & replacement for dummies. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, p.61.

“DHT affects hair follicles and seems to prolong the telogen (resting) phase.” 5) Sherrow, V. (2006). Encyclopedia of hair. Westport, Conn. [u.a.]: Greenwood Press, p.173.

“In women, hair loss or noticeable thinning of the hair often occurs when levels of the female hormone estrogen decline after menopause. Prior to that time estrogen helps to counteract testosterone, which can be converted into the hormone DHT, which can cause hair follicles to…enter the resting stage of the hair growth cycle earlier than normal.” 6) Sherrow, V. (2006). Encyclopedia of hair. Westport, Conn. [u.a.]: Greenwood Press, p.173.

“There is some limited trichogram data to suggest that estrogens decrease the resting phase and prolong the growing phase of the hair cycle, hence estrogens are used in the treatment of female pattern hair loss in some countries.” 7) Thornton, J. and Stevenson, S. (2007). Effect of estrogens on skin aging and the potential role of SERMs. Clinical Interventions in Aging, Volume 2, pp.283-297.

In these sources, we see that the hormone DHT (Dihydrotestosterone) keeps a person in the resting/shedding phase longer and in the growing phase for a shorter period of time. While both genders can produce DHT, the female hormone estrogen counteracts testosterone (which is what gets converted to DHT). So that’s why DHT has more of effect on men unless a woman has low amounts of estrogen. We also see that estrogen decreases the resting phase and keeps a woman in the growing phase of the hair cycle for longer. When your hair is in the growing phase for longer, it obviously has more time to get longer.

So despite men and women’s hair growing at the same speed, there are natural biological functions which keep women’s hair growing longer than men’s. Of course, there will always be exceptions to the rule, but this is the normative pattern which shows God’s original design. After studying hair for over 30 years at an academic level, Dr. Kurt Stenn (author, Hair: A Human History) noted that “[It is] almost universally culturally found that women have longer hair than men.” 8) Fabry, M. (2016). Now You Know: How Did Long Hair Become a Thing for Women?. [online] Time. Available at: http://time.com/4348252/history-long-hair/ [Accessed 12 Feb. 2018]. This is what we should expect to see, that despite the time or culture, there has been a normative pattern because there is a natural process guiding it.

References

1.
 Castro, J. (2014). How Fast Does Hair Grow?. [online] Live Science. Available at: https://www.livescience.com/42868-how-fast-does-hair-grow.html [Accessed 12 Feb. 2018].
2.
 Geggel, L. (2017). Hair Loss and Balding: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments. [online] Live Science. Available at: https://www.livescience.com/34731-hair-loss-alopecia-treatment.html [Accessed 12 Feb. 2018].
3.
 MacArthur, John (2011). Divine design. Colorado Springs: David C. Cook, p.49.
4.
 Rassman, W. and Bernstein, R. (2009). Hair loss & replacement for dummies. Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, p.61.
5.
 Sherrow, V. (2006). Encyclopedia of hair. Westport, Conn. [u.a.]: Greenwood Press, p.173.
6.
 Sherrow, V. (2006). Encyclopedia of hair. Westport, Conn. [u.a.]: Greenwood Press, p.173.
7.
 Thornton, J. and Stevenson, S. (2007). Effect of estrogens on skin aging and the potential role of SERMs. Clinical Interventions in Aging, Volume 2, pp.283-297.
8.
 Fabry, M. (2016). Now You Know: How Did Long Hair Become a Thing for Women?. [online] Time. Available at: http://time.com/4348252/history-long-hair/ [Accessed 12 Feb. 2018].

The Biology of Hair Lengths (Video Question)

In this video, I answer Jessica’s question. She asks “How does nature teach us that it’s shameful for a man to have long hair but a glory for women to have the same? Is there an inclination for men to cut their hair or is there a biological function?”. I answer her question and share some surprising scientific facts.

Click here for info on how to submit your own question and be featured in our next video.

Phillip Kayser Quote Image #2

William Kayser Quote Image #2

Source: Dr. Phillip Kayser – Glory and Coverings (Biblical Blueprints, 2009) page 1.

A Response to Steven Anderson on Christian Head Covering

In this video, I respond to a new clip posted of Steven Anderson where he argues against head covering. He gives two objections to substantiate his belief that 1 Corinthians 11 is only dealing with hair lengths (not a material covering). Watch the video below and then feel free to check out the additional links at the bottom.

Additional Resources:

Biblical Womanhood, Beauty, & Modesty Resources

Biblical Womanhood, Beauty, & Modesty Resources

At the Head Covering Movement we focus on one thing primarily: head covering & its symbolic meaning. Many sites have a more general focus, however, we’ve decided to be more strict in our focus. Having said that, our email is full of requests for resources on modesty and biblical womanhood. There are plenty of great resources and ministries that deal with these topics so today we’d like to introduce you to some of them.

Biblical Womanhood Resources

Beauty Resources

Modesty Resources

Conference Media

Listen or watch conference messages from good women’s conferences.

Ministries, Blogs, & Podcasts To Follow

Note: the books we linked to on Amazon are affiliate links. This does not affect the price you pay.

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