Auburn drapes
June 22, 2009 10:58 PM   Subscribe

Wild hair, related to this. I am of truly unknown Northern European ancestry (closed adoption). My hair was brown with auburn highlights before charging on to grey over the past couple years. My abundant beard was always about 30% bright copper red. Am I a redhead gene carrier?
posted by mwhybark to Science & Nature (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
FWIW my maternal grandma was a redhead and I've got a similar phenotype in the hair & beard department -- dark brown with a tinge of red in the sun, and a somewhat reddish beard when it grows out.
posted by @troy at 12:04 AM on June 23, 2009

I am the daughter of a man with the same hair coloring and genetic history as @troy, and a mom with no red hair anywhere in her family. I'm a former redhead (darkened to brown/auburn as an adult).

Anecdotally, I've met a good number of people with brown head-hair and redder beard-hair. I wonder if there's a specific genetic reason for this pattern?
posted by heyforfour at 4:57 AM on June 23, 2009

I have the exact same thing going on in the hair department as @troy (darkish brown with hints of red in sun, noticeably reddish beard), only it was my maternal great-grandfather who was the Irish redhead.

Perhaps interestingly, I had copper-orange hair until I was about 6, at which point it quickly started darkening up until it settled into the darkish-brown-with-red-highlights state.

so while the plural of ancedote is not data, this does seem pretty common.
posted by namewithoutwords at 5:01 AM on June 23, 2009

I have no red hair anywhere in my family, and my hair is a dark blonde-to-medium brown that shows auburn highlights in the sun (in the darker sections; the top tends to sunbleach / streak lighter blonde). And I was white-ash-blonde as a baby, FWIW. I think a lot of "brown" hair contains red base colours.
posted by lonefrontranger at 6:45 AM on June 23, 2009

Nothing really new to add except I'm pretty much the exact same as namewithoutwords.

Brown with Auburn highlights and a red beard. Also was a copper top early on. As another data point my twin sister is a strawberry blond.

Grandmother on one side was a red head of Polish descent. Both grandparents on the other were full Irish but usually w/ darker hair.

Anyway - I'd say you definitely have some red in the genes but I'm not sure that means you'd have a kid with Howdy Doody red hair. (A "ginger" as the brits call em).
posted by bitdamaged at 7:07 AM on June 23, 2009

I'm a redhead, the first in a couple generations in my family. However, both my dad and my brother have red in their beards, which seems to indicate something. My brother in particular has a very striking red beard, despite being decidedly blonde.
posted by internet!Hannah at 7:18 AM on June 23, 2009

Same here. Fire engine red from birth to teens. Then it darkened to brown with red visible in the sun. My mom swore the color reddened by sun and pool swimming exposure, neither of which I get much of now. Beard is still fairly red and I've got really bushy arms that no one notices because it's all copper red colored and blends with the freckles and skin.
posted by jwells at 7:56 AM on June 23, 2009

I don't know if it means you carry the red hair gene so much as your brown hair has a heavy gold base instead of a blue or ash base.
posted by jerseygirl at 7:58 AM on June 23, 2009

Probably. My dad has brown hair/red beard (or did before it charged on to gray as you so aptly put it) and my brother is a redhead. Dad's ancestry is mostly Swedish/Irish/Scottish as far as we know.
Both my grandfathers were gingerish, and my mom is blonde and still not gray at 63!

I didn't seem to get any of the red gene--I was blonde then turned brown, and now the gray is creeping slowly in.
posted by exceptinsects at 8:33 AM on June 23, 2009

It's very possible. My mother and aunt had similar hair (they are Mexican, with Spanish ancestry). Their hair turned to black when they were adults, and it's gray now, but my sister and I are redheads. Our hair is darker now that we are adults, but it's still red.

We are the only redheads in at least 4 generations in the family.
posted by clearlydemon at 9:04 AM on June 23, 2009

Maybe. Lots of men who aren't redheads or have any history of red hair will have lots of red in their beards. It's a very common pigment variation for men, so don't bank on the bright copper colors in your beard to indicate a genetic predisposition for red hair. My stepfather, who's a Cherokee/Italian mutt and comes from a family of brunettes, has a bright red beard.

That said, you seem to have my hair color--coppery red-brown--and my dad was a ginger while my mom was a freckled brunette. You might be a carrier, but definitely bank on the highlights of your head-hair rather than your beard.
posted by zoomorphic at 9:15 AM on June 23, 2009 [1 favorite]

Thanks all, interesting anecdotes.
posted by mwhybark at 1:48 PM on June 26, 2009

I personally have very dark hair, as does everyone else in my family going back several generations. However, my beard is quite red. I asked my genetics teacher about it and was told "it happens".
posted by WhySharksMatter at 8:24 PM on July 5, 2009

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