Why Isn’t All the Hair on My Body the Same Color as the Hair on My Head?

That fun little game called genetics is responsible for those weird red strands you have in your beard. But, y’know, you could just dye it.

My boyfriend’s job requires him to look clean-cut. Naturally, now that he’s among those furloughed during quarantine, he’s letting his freak flag fly and attempting to grow a mustache. Thing is, he’s never really done so before, and it turns out, he’s not very good at it, either. Not only does the hair seem to grow in slower than his beard hair, but it’s also multiple shades lighter than the medium-brown hair that grows atop his head. I want to see him with a full, dark mustache, goddamnit! 

What gives?

Having different shades of hair throughout your body is actually perfectly normal, though it might look kind of silly. It all comes down to your genetics –– while the specific gene determining your head hair color might have fought its way to dominance, the recessive traits and other genes you’ve inherited might still make an appearance elsewhere on your body. 

As dermatologist Bobby Buka told HuffPo in 2015, hair color is genetically determined by how much melanin is transferred from the hair follicle to the remainder of the hair shaft. There are two types of hair melanin, with pheomelanin delivering blonde and red hair and eumelanin delivering darker hair. Most people have a ratio of each, but this ratio can also vary for different body parts. While you may have inherited your father’s dark hair on your head, your mother’s blonde hair might make an appearance on your arms or your mustache hair. Further, it’s possible for red color genes to make an appearance on you, and not your parents. 

Of course, if you don’t like the inconsistent coloring, you have some options. The first would be to just shave off your facial hair. But where’s the fun in that? Now, in particular, presents the ideal opportunity to experiment with dyeing it

I don’t recommend utilizing hair dye designed for head hair here, because the pigmentation will likely be much stronger than would look normal on your face. Few people have the exact same color and vibrancy on both their head and beard — instead, go for a product specifically designed for facial hair. The Just For Men brand carries a line of color specifically for beards and mustaches, and you can get about three uses out of a box. 

Alternatively, I use this Godefroy Professional Color Tint Kit to dye my eyebrows darker. It comes with 20 uses and couldn’t be simpler: The color develops immediately and gets deeper the longer you keep it on, so you have some control as to how dark it gets. I plan to give it a try on my boyfriend before quarantine is over. Notably, these products only work for darkening hair color — lightening hair is a different, more complicated chemical process that you probably don’t want to attempt at home

If it ends up looking ridiculous, you could obviously just shave it off. Or, keep it. Since we’re all supposed to wear face masks out in public, nobody will even know.