It’s one of the great unanswered mysteries of the universe, a question which has baffled mankind for centuries – just why do so many non-ginger guys have ginger beards?
With the incredible popularity of beard growing among young lads nowadays, there’s something of an abundance of ginger flecked facial hair appearing up and down the country. But why are there so many orange beards when most of the lads growing them don’t actually have ginger hair?
Well, finally we have an answer.
Adriaan Schiphorst, a blogger at Motherboard, bit the bullet and got in contact with some genetics experts at Erfocentrum in Holland to finally get to the bottom of the issue.
Scientist Petra Haak-Bloem explained it was down to a gene we all have called MC1R.
Basically, hair colour is a complex thing and it isn’t as simple as one gene coding for one colour of hair.
That means hair on different parts of the body can be different colours, which explains why you might find the odd ginger strand in your beard. Or on your head, in your eyebrows, or in your pubes, for that matter.
Apparently, it’s all to do with the genes that code for the amount of different pigments, called melanin, in your hair. Hair colour is dependent on two of these pigments – eumelanin, the black pigment, and pheomelanin, a red pigment.
As Petra explains:
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.
So don’t worry if you’re the one ginger bearded guy in the family – you’re probably not adopted, according to science. Probably.