The mystery of the ginger beard has long gone unsolved, and with the ongoing trend for facial fuzz showing no signs of abating, there are more on show than ever.
If red is your natural hair colour, then a matching mo’ will hardly come as a surprise – but what about those blond, brown and black-haired individuals who sport an entirely mismatched piece of facial attire?
The finger has often been pointed at beer up until now, as regular swiggers are often seen with patchy colour – or often, entirely ginger beards and moustaches. But contrary to popular belief, the beverage is not to blame – and nor are the likes of chlorine, smoking or the sun.
The real cause? Genes.
Varying hair colours often appear on different parts of the body, and thanks to our genetic makeup, it’s an entirely normal phenomenon. Certain genes are responsible for coding the amounts of pigments in hair, and balck pigment eumelanin and red pigment pheomelanin are the ones to watch.
Genetics boffins based at Erfocentrum in Holland have named and shamed gene MC1R for the mysterious mismatching, explaining that it is not as simple as one gene coding for one colour of hair.
MC1R, on chromosome 6, plays an important role when it comes to giving someone red hair, making a protein called melancortin 1 to convert pheolmelanine into eumelanine.
It’s when MC1R begins to mutate that things start to get interesting. Inherited two mutated versions of the gene – one from each parent – means a reduction in the amount of pheomelanine converted to eumelanine. The pheomelanine then accumulates in in the pigment cells, and voila – the result is red hair and fair skin.
Still with us? We wouldn’t blame you for skim reading. But for the long-suffering ginger beard-wearers out there, all you need to know is this: You are not a freak of nature, and you are not alone. Science says so, and that’s good enough for us!