Why is my beard ginger when my hair isn’t?

Facial fuzz that doesn’t quite match up with the hair on your head is a pretty common phenomenon; but why do so many non-ginger guys end up with ginger beards?

Science to the rescue! Petra Haak-Bloem from the Dutch national information centre for genetics and hereditary traits has revealed the answer to this ‘burning’ question:

“The genes that determine hair colour are so-called ‘incomplete dominant hereditary traits.’ This means that there isn’t one single gene that’s dominant over the rest, but all genes influence each other,”

In non-scientific terms, we don’t have one set hair colour, and it’s all to do with our DNA. Genes are passed down from our parents, grandparents, and beyond, with combinations of genes presenting themselves differently amongst different people. So in theory, each part of your body could have a different hair colour, explaining why the carpet doesn’t always match the drapes.

But what about the gingerness? Well that’s all to do with a particular gene becoming mutated; MC1R, which affects the pigment in the hair and skin. For someone to be “fully ginger” they need to inherit two mutated MC1R genes, coming from both parents. When someone inherits just one of these mutated genes, ginger hair can sprout in unexpected places, most commonly the face and “downstairs” regions.

Although the thought of “mutated” genes sounds a bit like something from a science fiction film, it’s really nothing to worry about; and no, you won’t find yourself morphing into a werewolf any time soon. So to all you semi-gingers out there, embrace that splash of red!

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