What Decides Where Your Hair Parts, and Can You Change That?

Dad, why’d you have to do me like this?


Where our hair parts often defines how we style it on a daily basis. But what defines where that part lands, and is it something we change if we so choose? Snag a comb and keep on reading to find out. 

According to science (which is admittedly still somewhat limited on the subject) and veteran hairdresser Linda Mariano, the way our hair looks — the colour, shape, texture, and of course, the natural part — is primarily decided by our genes. For example, the MC1R gene informs our production of melanin, the pigment that colours our hair. Most people have two copies of the MC1R gene, one inherited from each parent, which results in an abundance of melanin, and therefore, a darker hair colour. Those with only one copy of the gene, meanwhile, have lighter hair.

Similarly, two genes — EDAR and FGFR2 — have been linked to differences in hair thickness, which can play a part, pun intended, in where our hair parts within Asian populations. Another gene, TCHH, seems to be related to differences in hair texture in people from northern Europe.

I could go on and on — there are even genes that decide how long our hair can grow, which again, can influence where it parts — but you get the point: Our parts are mostly decided at the moment of conception, when our parent’s genes intermingle to create a small combo-human with a peculiar hair pattern.

But what can also dictate where our parts land, to a lesser extent, is what we do with our hair on a regular basis. Colour and excessive heat, for instance, can damage our hair and change the texture, which could momentarily impact the part. Likewise, certain hair treatments can transform the makeup of our hair, changing the ways in which it falls until our hair grows out. Hell, evidence even suggests that stress can contribute to baldness, so you can see how life can impact how our hair looks in general.

Speaking of which, if you have enough hair and want to change your look, there are some simple ways to kind of train it, albeit in a mediocre way, to part in a different place for a day or so — e.g., combing it in that direction and using clips to keep it over to one side. But in general, Mariano says your natural part is always going to hold fast. “If you push the hair back, it usually kind of falls into its natural part,” she explains. “You could probably force it in different directions with products, but usually what happens if you go against the growth pattern is the hair tends to stick up more.” She does mention, though, that most right-handed men part their hair on the left — and vice versa — even if it goes against their natural part, something they can achieve, again, by using loads of product.

But in the end, your best bet, as usual, is to work with what you’ve got.