Photo: Asim Bharwani/Wikimedia CommonsThe same genes can express themselves differently for anyone. That allows for lots of possibilities, one of which is that the color of your head hair differs from the color of your armpit hair, pubes, or beard. “Generally speaking, people inherit hair color 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 color that suddenly appears again though a certain combination of genes—and that can be quite unexpected for parents,” Haak-Bloem continued. No big surprise there: your genes define your hair color. But why do so many men have deviating red beards? The shade of hair color is determined by the amount of melanin, or pigment, in the hair. Your DNA not only encodes what kind of pigment you have, but also how much of it. “For white people the shades are dependent on two sorts of melanin: eumelanine (black pigment) and pheomelanine (red pigment). Hair cells of dark haired people only contain eumelanine. Blondes have less eumelanine. And redheads’ hair contains mostly pheomelanine,” Haak-Bloem says.
People are wondering. Screencap: Quora.com“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 proteine plays an important part in converting pheolmelanine into eumelanine,” Haak-Bloem tells me. “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.” The unexpectedly red beard is the effect of the same mutation in the MC1R gene. When you only have one mutated MC1R, red hair can appear in (unwanted) places. But even Haak-Bloem wasn’t completely sure of the mechanism. Having a deviant red beard has never been linked to any deadly diseases, so it’s pretty low on the research priorities list. In any case, it’s quite possible to have a sibling with red facial hair, without one of my parents having an extramarital secret. And for all those who suffer from this non-rare, non-life threatening condition: you can’t change your genes. That leaves only one option for all you half-reds: wear your ginger beard with pride. Beard wave to Vice Media for this article. Are you reading this and want to be on the site,or have something you feel should be on this site? Let us know contact us here or on Facebook, and Twitter.