Why do so many men, despite hair colour, have ginger beards?

If you have ever found yourself stroking your beard and wondering 'why all the red patches?' then you have your chromosome 4 to thank.

22nd July 2009
Bearded man

Asked by: Ricky Gellatly, Oxford

Beard hair is quite different to head hair; it is coarser, curlier and doesn't fall out as we get older. Comparatively little work has been done on the genetics of human hair colour, but it is believed that in order to have a ginger beard you must be a carrier for the recessive gene on chromosome 4. With two copies of this gene you will have ginger hair all over, but with just one, the hair on your head will be brown or auburn and your beard will be ginger.

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