You might have noticed that beards have been a bit of a thing recently. And by recently we mean… the last eight years.
That said, the trend has shown no sign of dying down (despite constant reports of us hitting peak beard) and with the increase in bearded faces across the land there’s also been a peculiar increase in men sprouting surprisingly ginger beards. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with having a ginger beard, far from it, but it is a little strange when the rest of your hair is not ginger.
We’ve all noticed it - maybe you’ve even got one yourself but have you ever actually wondered why?
Why, with your head of dark hair ,you’re suddenly sprouting ginger tufts straight out of your facial follicles?
Well, gentleman, let us introduce you to a little thing called science.
According to some hairy research by those people over at Viral Thread the answer is relatively simple, as Petra Haak-Bloem from the Dutch national information centre for genetics explains.
“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.”
Roughly translated as – you don’t have to have a ‘set hair colour.’ Your hair, eyebrows, and armpit could, theoretically all be different colours. Which probably goes some way in explaining Jim’s Dad from American Pie’s eyebrows:
And probably goes some way towards explaining your own gloriously two toned beard.
But it’s not the only thing that affects hair, as Haak-Bloem explains further: “Generally speaking, people inherit hair colour not only from their parents, but also from their grandparents and earlier ancestors. So it’s entirely possible that one distant ancestor had a hair colour that suddenly appears again through a certain combination of genes."
So if you’re one of those people with a fullhead of ginger hair, or a massive gingery beard but you don’t have any immediate family members with rusty bonces, then the chances are you probably have some ancient gingers in your bloodline. And it’s down to one specific gene.
“More than a decade ago, researchers discovered that one gene (MC1R) on chromosome 16 plays an important part in giving people red hair.
“MC1R’s task is making a protein called melanocortin 1. That protein plays an important part in converting pheolmelanine into eumelanine. When someone inherits two mutated versions of the MC1R-gene (one from each parent), less pheomelanine is converted into eumelanine. The feomelanine accumulates in the pigment cells and the person ends up with red hair and fair skin.”
And there you have it. Your mismatched beard is basically down to your mutated MC1R gene and some ancient older relative you may have never met.