It is fairly common in Caucasian babies for their hair color and texture to change in their first few months of life. This can be from dark to light, light to dark or different shades in-between. Scientific research has meshed out many variables to try and better understand the change in hair color. Still, to date, there are not many determining factors that can be used to accurately predict the change in hair color relative to time and specific color shifts.
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Your baby’s first hair and how it changes
Hair follicles form the blueprint of your unborn baby’s “head of hair” and their hairline around the scalp when they are just 22 weeks old. This hair pattern created in the womb remains with a person for their entire life, and no new hair follicles are created after birth.
Although some babies are born completely bald, their hair follicles are busy creating hair that will begin pushing through within a short time.
At the beginning of hair growth, melanin is created to color the hair strands. The exact color of the hair depends on the melanin being produced, and this process involves the interaction of genes. Still, with the variables involved, your child’s hair color will remain a guesstimate or educated guess at best.
Scientists are yet to understand exactly how genes interact to create specific hair colors.
Hair loss begins at birth, and for the first six months, babies will gradually lose hair which is replaced with new strands of hair from the same follicles.
These new hair strands might be the same as the lost hair or may differ totally in color and texture. Here again, genes play a part in the outcomes, but environmental factors and diet also influence new hair growth.
Melanin is not constant througout life
A person’s genes pretty much control their basic hair color, but what has to be considered are the genes of the family trees from both mother and father.
Two dark-haired parents can have a blonde child if there are blonde genes in the family trees.
The production of melanin changes throughout a person’s life, so hair’s pigmentation is never really constant. For example, old age grey hair indicates that melanin production is low or has stopped altogether.
There are two types of pigment that determine hair color, namely eumelanin, and pheomelanin. The amount of eumelanin will determine the darkness of hair, ranging from blonde to brown to black.
Pheomelanin, on the other hand, creates red or orange hair. All people have a degree of pheomelanin, and a mix of both eumelanin and pheomelanin will create strawberry blonde or auburn hair. Redheads, or gingers as they are often called, have little to no eumelanin in their hair.
Eumelanin is primarily responsible for hair and skin pigmentation, including skin tanning. At the same time, pheomelanin is responsible for the color of lips, nipples, and genitals, which have different hues of pink, red, and orange.
The various shades of hair depend on the concentrate and mix of pigments which is measured using the Fischer-Saller scale.
The scale covers all hair colors from light to dark and includes white and grey hair from aging and albinism, where there is a total lack of pigment.
Are there dominant genes passed down to children from their parents?
Genes are stored in chromosomes, and they instruct your body how to grow. Every gene has two alleles, one from the father and the other from the mother, and if they differ, only one of them will influence your blood type, hair and eye color, and general appearance.
The dominant allele, which is usually the darker of the two, will define hair and eye color. The other allele is called recessive and will only influence appearance if a person has two of them.
Every person’s genotype contains parts that do not appear, but these genes can be passed to their children. This is why it’s important to look at the family trees on both sides to better understand your child’s appearance.
Can brunettes give birth to blondes?
Yes, this is possible, but only if both parents carry the recessive blonde allele, and even with this, the odds of two brunette parents having a blonde child is about one in four or 25%.
However, if one of the parents is blonde and the other brunette, the chance of a blonde child is good, but only if the brunette parent carries the blonde allele. If not, the brown allele will be passed on and dominate the child’s hair color.
Why are there so few redheads?
Only about 2% of people have red hair. Interestingly, the red hair allele is neither dominant nor recessive and is referred to as an incomplete dominant. The red allele will mix with the dominant allele, and if the dominant is brown, it will produce auburn hair, while a blonde dominant will produce strawberry blonde hair.
If both parents have blended hair, meaning they both carry the red allele, then there is a 25% chance their baby will be born with red hair. There is also a 25% chance that the baby will not have a trace of red hair because the dominant allele from both parents may prevail. But there is a 50% chance that the baby will also have blended hair, either strawberry blonde or auburn hair.
Hair color and texture change throughout a person’s life, and a change from dark to light is not uncommon in Caucasian children. The changes occur as a result of the two different pigments and the quantity and strength of each.
In older genetic studies, it was thought that color was the sole result of dominant and recessive traits only, but as recent studies reveal, this is not so.
Genetics plays a dominant role as a basic guide to what hair color a child is most likely to have, so the older studies still have merit.
Either way, your child’s hair color and possible change of color and texture within the first six months is always based on an educated guess.