Friday, 26 September 2014

Free For All Friday - Why Are There Different Hair Colours?

As a matter of fact ...

I have light hair. Depending on the light and time of year, it can be anything from bleach blonde to copper red. 

I quite like it, it's a bit interesting. The downside is I struggle to grow facial hair. My dark haired mates can grow a beard the exact length and thickness of mine but theirs looks a lot thicker and fuller. Ups and downs. Hair colour comes in so many varieties and changing it can change a person's whole image.

So why are there different hair colours anyway? Why do they even exist?

The hair spectrum 

It all comes down to peacocking. Not literally of course. Humans have evolved, like many other species, to attract other mates in any way possible. There are many ways to do this but one of the most striking things is an interesting hair colour. 

Red hair , the rarest hair colour, is caused by higher levels of pheomelanins

Some time in our ancestors past, a random mutation would have caused a hair colour in a person. This individual would have attracted more mates than others and passed the gene onto their children; natural selection at work. Ever been attracted to someone with completley contrasting hair and eye colour to you? There you go. Variation is attractive to humans because genetic variation is beneficial to our species. Think about that next time you have a crush on a ginger. 

Blonde hair is caused by lower levels of eumelanins

The science behind this is simple. We all have pigments inside us called eumelanins and pheomelanins. They're often grouped under the term 'Melanin'. The more eumelanins a person produces, the darker their hair and less means lighter hair. Pheomelanins levels are responsible for red hair. If anyone reading this has bright red hair, you probably have more pheomelanins than most people you know combined. 

It's a myth that hair colours are dying out and only dark hair will be left. They work for our species, they're cool and attractive and this genetic mutation turned good will be around for as long as humans are. 
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