The Blonde Files – Some interesting stuff about fair hair
If I ask my kids opinion on my hair colour they mostly agree that it is brown, my hair is shown below in case you were wondering and it has not been dyed for around 3 years now.
Only I can’t get used to being referred to as a brunette for as far as I’m aware I have blonde hair because I was born blonde, was a blonde teen and got married blonde (Well OK, I was dying it then but only a bit) and still feel blonde. In fact I was quite a bit blonder than I am now until I got pregnant with said children.
And so I have concluded that if I am no longer blonde then THEY STOLE IT!
Which made me wonder.
Why do so many blonde babies end up brown-haired? That happened to my baby number one but less so to baby two who has the same colour hair as me – almost exactly the same.
Why did my hair change colour when I was pregnant?
Why is Pluto no longer a planet (OK, I’ve got that one covered….)
So I did some ‘research’.
It seems that blondness has been a bit of a mystery for a while now with several theories sprouting out like hairs from follicles as to where it came from and whether all blonde people share the same mother (I think I made that up).
The search for the ‘blonde gene’ was made all the more exciting in 1997 when the gene for red hair was discovered. Scientists felt sure that if there was a red hair gene there would be a blonde hair gene. But there isn’t……
My ‘research’ (I say it like that because I’m always rolling my eyes at that word and to be honest I’ve only done a day or so worth of googling on this one and most of the scientific papers I found and read were looking at the colouring in cattle or guinea pigs NOT humans….) showed a spike in news stories about blondness in June 2014. JUNE 2014!!! Not very long ago at all.
Anyway, genetic screening seems to be pointing at a number of factors playing a role in whether someone displays blonde hair or not and rather than it being a single gene that is set in a particular way. So rather than being ‘dumb’ the process that makes hair blonde is actually quite complex and what’s more it isn’t static!
The strongest predictor of blonde hair is a tiny mutation in a particular gene (KITLG) that gently turns down the melanin production in the hair. An overview of the research can be found here.
Additional work has found at least another 8 tiny mutations that can also lead to blonde hair being expressed. This might help to explain why blonde hair turns up in clusters all over the planet – it isn’t just a ‘Northern European’ thing at all.
In answer to my other questions related to why blonde hair often changes colour over time it seems that is because melanin production in skin and hair ramps up as we age and interacts with our hormones and environment. Research in humans have found that many people lose their blonde hair at the age of about 3 when it typically turns anything from mid to dark brown. Those that keep it may find it changes to brown during puberty while others stay blonde either forever or until another major hormonal change takes place – pregnancy would be one such thing as was my experience.
So there you have it, being blonde isn’t quite as simple or predictable as it looks and neither might it be permanent but one thing it sure is is fun.
I’m always going to be blonde on the inside no matter what my kids think.
Here is a close up of my hair follicle (40x magnification). It looks pretty gold and dry – that cuticle needs more conditioner!
Maybe I have gold hair then, I can live with that.
PS: Blonde hair has been found to be unrelated to skin or eye colour.
PPS: Red heads really are different and have altered genes which can be passed down through families. This gene alteration can also affect other aspect of the red head including making them more sensitive to pain. How very interesting.