Why Do Beards Have a Different Color Than Hair?

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You’ve got black hair, so why is your beard color a fiery red?
Read on to learn the answer.

why do beards have a different color than hair

Wondering why your head hair color looks different than your beard color? Join the club. I used to wonder the same thing about my beard. At first, I thought it was just me experiencing something weird, yet again. I was at a total loss about what to do about it. Like a lot of men, I considered dying my beard to the same color as my head hair.

But then I discovered that what I was experiencing with my beard was totally normal. In fact, it’s so normal to have different hair and beard colors that it would look odd if they were both exactly same color. So I decided against dying the dang thing and learned to love it just the way it is.

So what’s the lowdown? Why do our beards have a different color than our head hair? Let’s find out, shall we?

It’s all about your hair follicles

50801367 - human hair diagram

The human hair follicle is a very small sac found just under the surface of your skin. Inside each follicle is, among other things, one strand of hair. Meaning most of us have lots of these little packets tucked side by side in the skin on our heads and elsewhere on our bodies.

The distribution of these follicles depends a lot on our gender. Women tend to have loads of follicles on their heads, but not a lot elsewhere on their bodies. We men, on the other hand, have fewer follicles on our heads than women, but more on our arms, legs, chest, stomach, and just about every other part of our bodies. All that body hair is one of the things that makes us manly, after all.

Nestled deep inside each of your hair follicles are two distinct types of pigment. And pigment, in case you don’t know, is a natural organic coloring compound found in almost all living things. Everything that lives has color, right? That’s the pigment doing its job.

Different follicle pigments cause different colors

Why_Do_Beards_Have_A_Different_Color_Than_Head_Hair3

The levels and type of pigmentation inside your hair follicles determines the color of your hair. Every little follicle sac contains a varying mixture of two compounds, eumelanin and pheomelanin.

The pheomelanin carries the red and yellow pigments, and the eumelanin carries the black and brown shades. Men with high levels of black and brown eumelanin and low levels of red and yellow pheomelanin end up with black or brown hair.

But here’s where it gets interesting. You see, different pigment combinations in each follicle produce different hair colors.

So even if your head follicles are yielding mostly brown hair color, your beard follicles may have a slightly different mix of pigment compounds and yield more red than brown. Hence the brown headed, red-bearded man.

Different areas of the body produce different hair colors. The truth is that some hair follicles just generate more pigment than other follicles. The hair in our eyebrows tends to be the darkest because the eyebrow follicles generate lots of pigment.

Remember, your body created your beard hair follicles when you hit puberty, years after creating your head hair follicles. So it’s not surprising they’re constructed a bit differently, and can sometimes cause a different hair color.

The fact is, the detailed process of how hair gets its color is complicated, especially for those of us without a master’s degree in biology. But if you want to know more, check out this abstract, the Biology of Hair Follicle Pigmentation.

And if you’re an uber-nerd looking for an over-the-top, thoroughly comprehensive explanation, take a look at this incredibly complicated abstract describing how Hair Follicle Pigmentation works. Fibroblasts, anyone?

Genetics, stress, and sun all play a part

15398796 - dna double helix molecules and chromosomes

About ten years ago scientists learned that a gene on chromosome #16 has a big part to play in causing people to have red hair. That gene (MC1R) has the job of making the melanocortin-1 protein. This is the protein that helps convert pheolmelanine into eumelanine.

When a man inherits two (one from each parent) mutated forms of the gene MC1R, it causes less pheolmelanine to convert into eumelanine. This leaves extra pheolmelanine to build up in the pigment of beard-hair cells, causing the guy to sprout a red or blond beard, even if his head hair is dark brown.

The other factors that affect hair color are stress and sunshine. Ever heard about people’s hair turning gray overnight under extreme stress? Things like waiting to be executed in the morning can turn your hair gray. Or being under severe battle conditions. Or maybe having a crazy ex-wife. All gray hair inducers of the first order.

The second factor is too much exposure to bright sunshine over time. Nothing can lighten your hair, even your beard hair, more than lots of time spent outdoors (unless we’re talking about artificial causes, like dye). But clearly, the main cause is genetics and hair follicle pigmentation levels.

For more information on the subject of different beard colors and head colors, check out what Rose has to say in this amusing YouTube video, Why do Some Men Have Brown Hair and Red Beards?

The bottom line is that the pigmentation levels in your hair follicles determine your beard hair color. And those pigment levels are determined by genetics.

So now you finally know why your beard color is different than your head hair color.

I hope you have enjoyed this post. And I hope I’ve given you some solid information about why your beard is a different color than your head hair. For me, this information was a revelation since I’d always felt like some kind of freak with dark hair and a red beard. But no more. Now I embrace my strange beard and wear it with pride.

Please tell me what you think of this post in the comments section below. And if you’ve enjoyed what you’ve just read, be sure to share it with your friends.

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Mr. Wood has been growing a beard since he could first sprout facial hair. He lives with his wife, two boys and a mentally unstable dog. He loves to be outdoors and thinks that the best stories start with "Here, hold my beer..."