Shape Variability and Classification of Human Hair: A Worldwide Approach
Human hair has been commonly classified according to three conventional ethnic human subgroups, that is, African, Asian, and European. Such broad classification hardly accounts for the high complexity of human biological diversity, resulting from both multiple and past or recent mixed origins. The research reported here is intended to develop a more factual and scientific approach based on physical features of human hair. The aim of the study is dual: (1) to define hair types according to specific shape criteria through objective and simple measurements taken on hairs from 1442 subjects from 18 different countries and (2) to define such hair types without referring to human ethnicity. The driving principle is simple: Because hair can be found in many different human subgroups, defining a straight or a curly hair should provide a more objective approach than a debatable ethnicity-based classification. The proposed method is simple to use and requires the measurement of only three easily accessible descriptors of hair shape: curve diameter (CD), curl index (i), and number of waves (w). This method leads to a worldwide coherent classification of hair in eight well-defined categories. The new hair categories, as described, should be more appropriate and more reliable than conventional standards in cosmetic and forensic sciences. Furthermore, the classification can be useful for testing whether hair shape diversity follows the continuous geographic and historical pattern suggested for human genetic variation or presents major discontinuities between some large human subdivisions, as claimed by earlier classical anthropology.