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13th Jan 2017

Here’s why you might have a ginger beard even if you don’t have ginger hair

It makes perfect sense.


We’ve all got that one friend whose facial hair takes on a distinctly ginger tone in contrast to the hair on the top of their head.

If you don’t think you have one, it probably means that friend is you.

It has long been a mystery – not to mention an inconvenience – but it’s something that affects a surprising number of men.

And it turns out one specific gene is responsible.

It’s not called the Alexi Lalas gene…yet (photo credit: Todd Warshaw /Allsport)

“More than a decade ago, researchers discovered that one gene (MC1R) on chromosome 16 plays an important part in giving people red hair,” Petra Haak-Bloem – specialist at Erfocentrum (the Dutch national information centre for genetics and hereditary traits) told Motherboard.

“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.”

Essentially, the same mutation that brings about red hair on the top of your head will be responsible for red hair anywhere else on your body (yes, *anywhere*).

So you don’t need ginger parents for it to apply – it could come from further back in your family history, as genes from ancestors going back generations can (and often do) have an impact on the colour of this generation’s hair.

And people say science is boring.