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There's Actually A Reason Why So Many Non-Ginger People Grow Ginger Beards

Growing a beard is beyond my abilities, so I'm not speaking from experience here. But I know enough about them to be able to agree there is one strange phenomenon that has plagued had the bearded people of the world forever and left them scratching those beards in pure confusion: why is it so many non-ginger people sprout red facial hair?

When you really stop to think about it, you'll realize just how weirdly common this actually is.

Unsplash | Abby Savage

Perhaps you're a bearded fellow yourself and you've always wondered why your scruff consistently comes in with an auburn hue, despite the definitely non-auburn hair you sport on your head. Even if there isn't a single redhead in your family, you still seem to grow exclusively red beards.

Or perhaps you're a non-beardy, as I like to call us, and you've noticed some of the men in your life inexplicably grow reddish beards. This includes celebrities, like Bradley Cooper who definitely isn't ginger, but his scruff definitely is.

As it turns out, there's actually a legitimate reason for all this ginger-beard confusion.

Unsplash | Paul Kim

And don't worry, no one is suggest mom wasn't faithful to dear-old-dad.

According to VICE, it all has to do with your genetics. In order for someone to have red hair on their head, they need two copies of the same gene, one from each parent. But it's a whole different story to grow a red beard.

If even just one of your parents has this gene, despite not being a redhead themselves, you'll likely grow a ginger beard.

Unsplash | Abby Savage

In fact, your parents could not even know they carry this gene until it pops up unexpectedly, like on your face, for example.

"Generally speaking, people inherit hair color not only from their parents, but also from their grandparents and earlier ancestors," Petra Haak-Bloem, from Erfocentrum, the Dutch national information centre for genetics and hereditary traits, told VICE.

"The genes that determine hair color are so-called 'incomplete dominant hereditary traits."

Unsplash | Ömürden Cengiz

Basically, this means that those genes are influenced by other genes, which can make for a bit of a surprise when you first start growing hair.

"It's entirely possible that one distant ancestor had a hair color that suddenly appears again though a certain combination of genes - and that can be quite unexpected for parents," Haak-Bloem said.

Head hair and facial hair are actually controlled by different genes in your genetic makeup.

Unsplash | Radu Florin

Scientists have concluded that when a non-ginger person grows a ginger beard, it's because they have a mutated MC1R gene.

But before you go thinking you're ready to join the X-Men, just know this mutation is actually pretty common.

"MC1R's task is making a protein called melanocortin 1," Haak-Bloem explained. "That protein plays an important part in converting pheolmelanin (the red pigment) into eumelanin (black pigment).

"When someone inherits two mutated versions of the MC1R-gene (one from each parent), less pheomelanin is converted into eumelanine."

This is what results in people being redheads.

A surprisingly red beard is the effect of this same mutation in the MC1R gene.

Unsplash | Toa Heftiba

To put it simply, when you only have one mutated MC1R in your system rather than two, red hair can appear in unexpected places, like on your face for example.

The science on this still isn't exact, and since growing red hair isn't the worst thing in the world, it's not exactly at the top of any researcher's list to dive deep into. But at least we somewhat know what causes those unexpected ginger beards on non-ginger people.

It's all about them genes, people!

h/t: VICE