Advice & Knowledge

Why do so many non-ginger men have ginger beards?

Written by Advice Team on September 12, 2017

As more and more guys jump onto the beard bandwagon, you might have noticed an odd phenomenon - that the hair on some men’s chins doesn't match the hair on their heads. In fact, a surprising number of men have ginger beards, when they don’t have a single red hair on their head of even a redhead in the family. So why do so many non-ginger gents have ginger beards we hear you ask? Well the answer’s not as strange as you may think - in fact science easily explains this age old question.

Basically the relative amounts of two pigments; eumelanin and pheomelanin determine the colour of your hair (and skin). Hair cells of dark haired people only contain eumelanin, blondes have less eumelanin and redheads' hair contains mostly pheomelanin.

These pigments are controlled by genes, and one in particular called MC1R. The MC1R gene provides instructions for making a protein called the melanocortin 1 receptor. When the melanocortin 1 receptor is activated, it triggers a series of chemical reactions that stimulate cells to make eumelanin.

When someone inherits two mutated versions of the MC1R gene (one from each parent), the melanocortin 1 receptor is not activated and cells make pheomelanin (red pigment) instead of eumelanin (dark pigment) and the result is a full head of red hair.

But it’s not a simple as red or not red. With two copies of the mutated gene you will have ginger hair all over your body, but with just one, the hair on your head will be brown or blond whilst your beard (and other regions) can be distinctly red!

Less than 2% of the world’s population are classed as a natural redhead - a result of both parents carrying the mutated MC1R. But even if you’re not a true ginger, 25% of the population are a carrier of the ‘ginger gene’ giving them the tell tale red speckles and the potential to bear red-haired children.

There you have it! So what to do with your two-tone hair? Well you have two options; embrace the red and be proud of your secret ginger gene or buy a beard trimmer!