Beards are silent communicators. For most, they symbolize virility & power. For some, beards are a requirement of their religion or marital status (or, sometimes, both). An unkempt, scraggly beard could show economic status or a lack of vanity. But, how is it that some men can have one color of hair on their head, but a completely different color (or, in a lot of cases, colors) in their beard? Age can certainly influence hair & beard color, but it doesn’t explain why a younger dude can have a very different beard color than what’s on the top of his head. There have to be other follicular forces at play.
By default, our scalp hair is white. It’s melanin that gives our hair its color, turning it everything from jet black to strawberry blonde. Pheomelanin infuses hair with red & yellow pigmentation; eumelanin influences brown & black. Much like shades of paint, those two melanin types can mix within the same hair shaft. Then, melanin production decreases as we age, which is why hairs start to turn gray. But, not all follicles get the same dose of melanin, or in the same combination. While you might have a light brown top, your beard could be primarily dark brown, or have patches of lighter hair in certain spots. And then, there’s eyebrow hair, which tends to appear darker since those follicles usually produce more eumelanin.
What about those two-toned heads that often have a red beard but not red hair? Well, there’s a reason for that, too. While all hair color is genetic, one gene in particular, MC1R, is responsible for a red hue. If you inherit a mutated version of the MC1R gene from both parents, then you’re more likely going to have red hair from head to toe…though, hopefully, not too much toe hair…if you do, I’m sorry. But, if you inherit MC1R from only one of your parents, it could only affect a portion of your hair follicles.
Either way, if your swatch of color doesn’t seem to suit you for whatever reason, just remember…there’s always beard dye. Thank goodness for “Just For Men”!
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