Why Is Your Beard Ginger? A Scientist Answers All.. But It Starts With Sex!

Possibly the most common question I am asked when people inquire about my beard growth. A ginger beard on a non ginger individual is surprisingly common and it can also manifest in families where ginger hair isn’t prevalent. As a scientist I decided to do some research in to the root cause of the crimson bush emanating from my jawline.

It turns out that a ginger beard is due to a slightly more complex inheritance sequence.

Are you sitting comfortably? Then it is time for a (basic) science lesson...When your parents decided to have the steamy night of passion that created you, genetic information from both parents was passed on to you.     

Each gamete (sex cell) contains 23 chromosomes which are made through the process of meiosis and have a combination of genetic characteristics from each parent. Upon fertilisation, these chromosomes pair up to complete your genetic footprint. Certain characteristics are dominant and others are recessive, eye colour being a good example of this, receiving a brown eye gene from your father and a blue eye gene from your mother will result in you having brown eyes because brown is a dominant gene. This of course could result in you having blue eyed children in the future as you carry this genetic information.

Hair colour is more complicated – proven by the sheer volume of red bearded gentlemen seen around and about.

Adriaan Schiphorst, blogger for Motherboard, contacted the Erfocentrum, the Dutch national information centre for genetics and hereditary traits for an answer to the aforementioned question. The response from Petra Haak-Bloem stated that the genes that code for hair colour are a result of ‘incomplete dominant hereditary traits’ which means that rather than just one gene being dominant over all others, all genes effect each other. This can actually mean that people have different coloured hair on their head, beard, chest, armpits and pubic region! A human traffic light in some instances!

The colour of your hair is caused by the proportions of the pigment melanin in your hair. Melanin has a couple of variants, pheomelanine (red pigment) and eumelanine (black pigment), effectively, the darker your hair, the greater the proportion of eumelanine you have. Red haired individuals have a large proportion of pheomelanine. It has been discovered that one gene, MC1R plays a key role in the ginger tinge in many people’s hair.

This gene is responsible for converting the pheomelanine into eumelanine, if it is mutated then this process does not happen effectively, meaning a higher chance of red hair.

Receiving two of these mutated genes from parents will mean ginger hair everywhere, getting just one of them will mean that the red hair will grow in unexpected places! So my ginger beard is a result of generations of genetic traits being passed on, mutated and mixed in different combinations. Those bearded brothers with dark beards now know you have a plethora of eumelanine in your genes and those lucky enough to have a mutated MC1R gene in their genetic make up, enjoy the fiery bristles poking their way out of the hair follicles on your face, and of course, keep them healthy with Beard Spunk oils!

Article Kindly provided by one of our esteemed brothers Matthew Briscoe, Beard 2.0, Physics Teacher. 

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