Red hair operates slightly differently to the other hair colors. A Brown/blonde gene is not the only gene pair present in humans. Another gene exists, a non-red/red pair.
The non-red allele is dominant, and suppresses the production of pheomelanin, the pigment which colors the hair red, whilst the red allele is recessive. If a baby receives two red alleles, it will have red hair. Like
with blonde hair, because the chances of receiving two recessive alleles are less probable than receiving dominant ones, it explains why red heads are considerably less common than brunettes, as having blonde or red
hair in a recessive trait. Shades of auburn or orange are produced depending on whether the first gene pair has provided a brown or blonde allele.
Does the Environment Influence Hair Color?
The color of our hair is the result of several genes of both parents, acting together. To make it more complicated, with so many genes remaining muted, certain individual traits can be shaped by environmental factors,
most predominately personalities, but also physical characteristics like weight and the color of skin. Although you are ‘born with’ certain personality traits, the way you are brought up, the friends you have, and
even the school you go to, all influence and shape what kind of character you become. The same applies to a person’s figure and their weight. If somebody is constantly exposed to ‘skinny’ peers, they may diet and
exercise much in order to also be skinny, even if they are not genetically programmed to be so. Although the color of our hair determined in the womb by the genes from our parents, it is nevertheless a fact that
certain groups of people tend to acquire the same hair color. For example, surfers have a tendency to blonde hair. They obviously spend a lot of time outside, where the sun and the saltwater inevitably bleach their
hair. People also dye their hair regularly to follow a certain fashion or trend and it is not uncommon that a group of friends will have the same color of hair, just because they like it and because they “can”. The
sun and chemicals are a big part, wanted and unwanted, in the evolution of our hair color.
Why Does Hair Often Darken with Age?
Bruce Lee once famously remarked that his son Brandon was the only blonde Chinese in the world. Although when Brandon grew up his hair became as black as the ace of spades. The majority of blonde babies do not become
blonde adults, just as the many babies with blue eyes that later change to brown or green. Genes, like light switches, can be turned on and off and the color of our hair and eyes can change over time when the
respective genes are turned off.
Genes are a complicated issue, so complicated in fact, that even scientists do not yet fully understand them. The color of our hair is irrefutably determined by our parents and because of the innumerable random
possibilities at play at the moment of conception, it is rare that siblings are ever exactly the same and explains why many ‘hair color dissimilar’ families exist – until the children arrive at an age when they
are old enough to reach for a bottle of bleach.