I must admit I myself am a victim of the ginger beard syndrome. If you were to categorize the color of the hair on the top of my head I guess it’d be somewhere between light brown and dark blonde, but nothing whatsoever indicates that the hair growing out of my face would be ginger. Alas, whenever I take some time away from the razor those tiny red hairs begin to pop out of my face and confuse the shit out of me, because there’s NOT A SINGLE PERSON IN MY FAMILY that has red hair…Though I am a descendent on my mother’s side of the family of Rob Roy, the man known as ‘the Scottish Robin Hood‘. So I guess there’s probably some lingering ginger in there somewhere from Scotland. Anyways, I’ve been wondering about this for years: why do I have a ginger beard but not other red hair on my body?
Well, I’m obviously not the first or last person to ponder this question (but I might be the laziest). Adriaan S. from VICE’s Motherboard looked into this earlier in the year and his findings were synthesized in a recent post over on IFL Science. So here’s the answer as to why you have dark or light hair and a ginger beard:
Adriaan Schiphorst from Motherboard called up Petra Haak-Bloem from Erfocentrum, a Dutch organisation that promotes genetics and awareness of genetic disorders, to get the answers.
She told him it’s all down to the MC1R-gene. The gene coding for hair colour is called “incomplete dominant hereditary traits,” meaning hair color isn’t as simple as one gene coding for one color of hair. The genes can be expressed differently in different areas of your body, like your head, beard, eyebrows or pubes.
Haak-Bloem explained that it’s all to do with the genes that code for the amount of different pigments, called melanin, in your hair. She explained that hair color is dependent on two of these pigments: eumelanin, the black pigment, and pheomelanin, a red pigment.
She added: “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 [pheomelanine] accumulates in the pigment cells and the person ends up with red hair and fair skin.”
Haak-Bloem also said that if you only inherited one of these mutated genes, red hair can appear in sporadic places because of the variety of ways the gene can be expressed.
Soooo I guess this means I can comfortably call myself a member of the X-Men now? All I read above was ‘blah blah blah, mutated genes, Cass you’re an official X-Men member, blah blah’…That about sums it up, right?