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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].

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.

Can Wedding Rings Replace Head Covering?

Can Wedding Rings Replace Head Covering?

Those who take the cultural viewpoint of head covering often argue that since the veil has no meaning in modern Western culture, believers can uphold the principle by substituting the symbol with something that has more modern relevance. The most often cited replacement is for women to wear a wedding ring.

As one example of this recommendation Dr. Roy B. Zuck in his book “Basic Bible Interpretation” says,

Should women today wear shawls on their heads in church? No, because the significance of women wearing shawls in the Greco-Roman world no longer holds true in our culture. The act does not carry the symbolism it once had. But is there a principle here to be followed, and to be expressed in a modern-day cultural equivalent? The principle of subordination (not inferiority!) of the wife to her husband still holds because that truth is stated elsewhere in Scripture. A possible modern cultural parallel, some have suggested, is the wife’s wedding ring (and changing her last name to that of her husband) which shows that she is married and thus is under her husband’s authority. 1) Zuck, Roy B.. (1991)., Basic Bible Interpretation: A Practical Guide to Discovering Biblical Truth (p. 97). Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook.

There is a foundational reason for why I don’t accept symbol replacement. We simply do not have the authority to change what God commands in Scripture. As his people, our responsibility is to accept what He commands and put it into practice, not modernize or update it. I’ve already covered this point in-depth here and shown how this hermeneutic actually undermines other biblical symbols (like Baptism and the Lord’s Supper). For this article, I’d like to narrow my focus on the “wedding ring” and share why I do not believe it is a suitable replacement for head covering. I’ll lay out my case through five reasons. Read more

References

1.
 Zuck, Roy B.. (1991)., Basic Bible Interpretation: A Practical Guide to Discovering Biblical Truth (p. 97). Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook.

If Paul appeals to the Creation Order, why didn’t Eve wear a Head Covering?

Why didn’t Eve wear a Head Covering?
The Objection: You say that Paul appeals to the creation order in 1 Corinthians 11 and I agree that it appears that way. The thing is, if that is the case, where was Eve’s head covering? Genesis 2 says she was naked, and not ashamed. And you can’t turn around and say that it only began after the Fall, because then it wouldn’t be a Creation mandate. How would you respond to such an argument?

In 1 Corinthians 11, the Apostle Paul grounds his argument for head covering in the pre-fall creation order. This is one of the strongest arguments for why veiling is not a cultural practice but rather is something that is to be upheld by all Christians. In making a distinction between the principle (biblical manhood and womanhood) and the symbol (head covering), some hold that only the principle needs modern affirmation. The symbol is seen as a cultural practice that pointed to proper gender roles in the first century, but that has no meaning today. Many complementarian theologians arrive at this conclusion because of a wrong expectation of continuity in practice. Meaning if the veil was truly grounded in the creation order, then not only would Eve have worn it before the fall, but also every godly woman throughout biblical history.

Head covering is not a practice that was required under the Old Covenant (though many women did cover throughout this time). It is only a requirement for those under the New Covenant (like us). So let’s first state up front that I agree that head covering was not supposed to be practiced in continuity from Eve onward. But that does not deal a death blow to the creation order argument. My position is that God has taken something common (a covering) and has infused it with creation order meaning. So he has set up a brand new symbol which he designed and gave meaning to, and then had His apostles deliver it to the churches for them to practice. This is not an anomaly as God has always been about creating symbols to visually teach different truths. Many of these symbols (like head covering) were only to be practiced under one covenant. For example, the sacrifices and the feasts (Col 2:16-17) were only to be practiced under the Old Covenant whereas Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are only for the new covenant. Read more

My Wife Didn’t Wear A Head Covering to our Church Prayer Meeting

My Wife Didn’t Wear A Head Covering to our Church Prayer Meeting

It’s true. The wife of the Head Covering Movement‘s founder was at a church prayer meeting without her head covered. Let me explain and tell you how I handled it.

Our church recently had a “week of prayer” and on one night they had child care to make it easier for the parents to come out and pray. We took advantage of this and came out as a family. I was in the prayer room a little early while my wife was downstairs getting our children settled away. When she came upstairs to the prayer room, I noticed she didn’t have her covering on. For those who don’t cover all day, it’s an easy mistake to make. So I quietly got up to let her know she had forgotten. She placed a hand on her head to confirm and said “oops”. We’re prepared for situations like this, and store a couple extra coverings in the glove box of our minivan, so she headed out to grab one. A few minutes later she came back to let me know, the back-up coverings were gone. I figured they were as the previous week we had forgotten as well. So on Sunday we used the back-up coverings in the glove box and forgot to replace them. So here we are, at church, about to spend some focused time to prayer and my wife doesn’t have her covering. What should we do? I’ve thought about this situation before, but this is the first time it wasn’t just hypothetical. There are two options 1) My wife sits in the foyer and doesn’t join us for prayer or 2) she comes in and joins us uncovered. Read more

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