Give twins a sense of personal identity with different haircuts.

Techniques for Telling Twins Apart

by Crystal Bonser

Many parents and relatives of young identical twins have trouble telling them apart. Sure, one might have an identifying mole on his bottom or a gap between his two back teeth, but looking for these identifiers isn't always possible, especially when you're out in public or in a hurry. If you can't quickly tell your twins apart by physical or personality traits alone, consider giving them unique haircuts or accessories.

Identify Differences in Appearance

One of the easiest ways to tell twins apart is to identify obvious differences in their physical appearance. Although identical twins have always been thought to have identical genetic profiles, new research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham has found that identical twins do have slight genetic differences. For example, Mirror twins, which account for roughly one-quarter of all identical twins, have opposite physical traits. This means one might have a birthmark on the left side of his face while the other would have the same birthmark on the right side of his face. Environmental factors can also lead to physical differences in identical twins, such as scars from falls, rashes or surgeries. Other physical differences can include height and weight, although these indicators are difficult to rely on when the twins are apart.

Identify Differences in Personalities

By the time twins reach their toddler or preschool years, many have developed individual personality traits that can be used to tell them apart. One twin may be more vocal, asking non-stop questions or talking incessantly, while the other may show more of an interest in quiet or creative play. Differences in personality can also lead to differences in speech, such as volume and tone of voice. Becoming aware of these differences and sharing them with your twins' caretakers or educators will help keep their identities straight.

Change Their Hairstyles

If your identical twins do not have significant differences in their physical appearance, you can change the way they look by giving them different haircuts. Not only will this help you and others around your twins tell them apart, but it will also strengthen their sense of personal identity, a factor that becomes important to children around their third birthday. It's best to involve your twins in the decision process by showing them several pictures of haircuts, such as bangs, a bob or layers, and letting them choose which look they prefer. This choice is especially empowering for toddlers and preschoolers, who generally don't have much control over such decisions.


Many parents of twins put identifying bracelets or anklets on their children to tell them apart. The problem with this method is that the jewelry can be taken off, bringing you back to square one. Another option is to paint your twins’ toenails different colors, or apply a drop of nail polish on one of their nails. For toddlers and preschoolers, look for baby- or child-friendly nail polish that is non-toxic, odorless and made from all natural ingredients. For a more permanent change, consider piercing one of your twin's ears. If you worry that the other will get jealous, pierce both of their ears but choose earrings that are a different style or color for each. For young children, have a doctor perform the procedure to ensure a safe and sterile process.

About the Author

Crystal Bonser has been working as a freelance writer and editor for an educational website since 2009. She is also the creator of a pet-loss website on which she facilitates weekly grief support groups. Bonser holds a Bachelor of Social Work and a minor in psychology from Ryerson University.

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