During our steamy Florida summers, my bald scalp does give me some advantage over my thick-haired girlfriends when it comes to cooling down. Come winter though, I am convinced that no one with hair feels the cold like I and my bald sisters do. No matter how much clothing I put on, I absolutely cannot stop shivering unless I insulate my head. Is it just my imagination, or is there a heat valve on top of my head? During my “hair days” I never really enjoyed overly thick hair, so is it really my lack of hair that makes me so cold sensitive OR am I just becoming less and less tolerant of the cold, now that I’ve become a Floridian? Turns out I’m not the only one who’s wondered about the insulation value of hair.
Some Cornell students conducted a study exploring the extent to which hair insulates the head and whether bald people are at an extreme disadvantage in winter weather, even if they wear a hat or scarf. In their report “ Bald is Beautiful, but is it warm?”, the researchers concluded that individuals wearing a hat (regardless of how much hair they had) experience the cold temperature the same as those with a full head of hair with skin temperatures only varying a small degree. However without a head covering, the amount of hair can make a difference. Small amounts of hair seem to have very little effect on the overall temperature of the skin after twelve minutes in cold temperatures BUT the head of someone with thick lush locks of hair becomes significantly insulated and skin temperatures are much higher. Conclusion? The hair on your head can provide warmth and those of us without hair do in fact experience the cold to a much greater degree. As a bald woman, I certainly didn’t need a team of Cornell researchers to explain why I am sleeping with a sleep cap and socks! As the Arctic chill blankets most of the country (including the normally warm state of Florida) it is comforting to know that with a simple head covering, we can still conserve as much heat as someone with a full head of hair!
Thank you headwarmers and sleep caps - winter would not be the same without you!