When you start growing a beard you probably image a nice mono color beard with a full chin and defined lines. As you grow it out you realize that your beard is a range of different colors and is much further away from one color – rather it is full of a range of different colors. Red, crown, grey blond, black, brown – they are all there! Let’s take a look at why your beard has different colors!
Your beard has a range of different colors because of the different levels of pigmentation (like color building blocks) in each hair follicle. Each hair follicle contains a mixture of brown and black pigments (eumelanin) and red and yellow pigments (pheomelanin). Different ratios of these pigments in your hair follicles will create different colors. Just like how paint can be mixed to create different colors – so can your hair pigments. The sun is also one of the biggest external influences to your beard color – by destroying the pigment and turning it blonder!
There is a load of different factors that combine to give your beard and it’s hair a unique array of colors – no two beards are the same. Let’s take a more detailed look at why your beard could be a mixture of all sorts of colors and how you can influence the color of your hair.
Is it normal to have different beard colors?
Yes, it is completely normal to have multiple colors in your beard. There are very few beards that have only one color in them. So consider yourself in the “normal bracket” if your beard is a wide variety of colors.
It’s best if you embrace your multicolored beard after all – it’s what makes your beard special!
What determines beard color?
There are a few really important factors that determine beard color these are your genes which, in turn change the pigments present in your hair follicles, and external factors like stress, your diet and they sun!
Let’s take a look at these in turn!
Your genes determine a huge part of your beard growing potential and your hair color. One of the biggest factors in determining beard growth is genetics.
It’s quite a complicated set up – no one gene will determine your beard color. The good news is that you don’t need to have an expensive DNA test to determine if you have the right genes to grow a beard.
All you have to do is look at your family. Take a good hard look at the men in your family.
That also doesn’t mean the men on your father’s side of the family either look at your mum’s side too! The genes required to grow a good, thick, and lush beard comes from both your maternal and paternal (mum and dad’s) gene pool.
The issue is that the inheritance of genes can get pretty complicated. For example, your brother may be able to grow a beard and you can’t! That’s because your brother, like you, inherits 50% of their genetic makeup from their father and 50% from their mother BUT they could be different genes!
We even get a very small amount of genes from even more distant relatives. You share about 0.78% of your DNA with your great-great-great-great-great grandfather (aka 5th great-grandfather). So, even though it is very unlikely that your beard growing potential comes from your great-great-great-great-great grandfather – it is a possibility.
These genes will not only determine the density or growth pattern of your beard but it will also determine the pigmentation of your beard too!
Like a fancy painters art board – your beard color is determined by the ratio of different pigments all called melanin – but it goes a bit deeper than that!
Your beard has a range of different colors because of the different levels of pigmentation (like color building blocks) in each hair follicle.
Each hair follicle contains a mixture of brown and black pigments (eumelanin) and red and yellow pigments (pheomelanin). Different ratios of these pigments in your hair follicles will create different colors. Just like how paint can be mixed to create different colors – so can your hair pigments.
The hardcore science of pigmentation:
The pigments are made in the body by melanocytes, tyrosine is converted into L-DOPA and then L-dopaquinone, which in turn is formed into pheomelanin or eumelanin.
External factors changing the color of your beard
Besides the biological factors determining your beard color – there are a few environmental aspects that can change it! Some of these may or may not be in your control…
Now, this one is a little wishy washy…there is not direct scientific evidence that stress can cause your beard to go grey! Stress in the human body releases a hormone called cortisol. We know that this stress hormone stays in the human hair but we still do not know if it has any impact on hair growth.
Despite a load of posts on the internet claiming that stress causes your hair to turn grey – the experts have proved that this is not true! Professor Rodney Sinclair from the University of Melbourne told the daily mail that this stress doesn’t cause hair or beards to go gray.
Professor Sinclair says that the genetic factor is the single biggest determinant in causing graying of head and beard hair. Despite many studies looking into it, there is nothing to suggest that stress, diet, or lifestyle has any impact on the color of hair.
We’ve all witnessed the power of the sun when our arm hairs go blonde in the summer after spending a lot more time out side! The sun is a powerful shaping force when it comes to pigmentation. UV light is so powerful that it can cause structural damage to the hair surface. The UV light can easily degrade the pigmentation found in hair.
Just like the outside of an old house your beard can get dull and lighter as the sun slowly works it’s radiation magic on your hair.
Apparently this bleaching effect is more common in people with a European heritage and up to 48 genetic markers have been identified as influencing the ease that hair bleaches! So if you want a lighter beard – getting out in the sun in a safe and sensible way i.e lots of sun cream!
There are a few medical conditions that will cause a genetic abnormality in the pigmentation of hair. These include:
- Albinism – this is where little to no pigmentation is found in the human hair, eyes, or skin. You may have seen the site hair of someone with albinism but it can be red, dark blond, or light brown too.
- Vitiligo – the result of an autoimmune disease where there is a patchy loss of hair or skin color.
- Werner syndrome – causing premature aging.
There are a couple of links to hair color change due to lifestyle factors that are completely within your control too:
Malnutrition is known to cause hair to become thinner and lighter – dark hair may become redder as the pigmentation production is decreased.
Smoking has also been linked to premature graying of hair with smokers up to four times more like to grey prematurely.
Keep it shorter will make it less noticeable
If you are concerned with the colors in your beard you have the option of keeping it shorter. Regular maintenance and close trimming will make the color changes much less noticeable.
The last option you have is to dye your hair using a beard dye. To be honest with you, however – because most men have a range of different colors in their beard, a dyed beard just looks…well…unnatural!
My recommendation to you is to embrace your natural beard colors in whatever form they take! Enjoy the journey of watching your beard color change and accept that every new shade is what makes your beard look fantastic!