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Baby hair colour

What colour hair will my baby have?

Of all the exciting conversations expectant parents will have about their baby, predicting hair colour can be one of the most uncertain. There is simply no way to predict with 100% certainty, what colour hair a baby will have. There are too many influencing factors and unknowns when it comes to predicting a baby’s hair colour, though it’s always fun to talk about!

It’s not until you’re holding your baby when they’re a newborn that you’ll know what colour their hair is and even then, be prepared for their hair colour to change as they get older.

Genetics of hair colour.

Each of your baby’s genes are made up of dominant or recessive alleles. Put simply, an allele is one of two or more versions of a gene. We all inherit two alleles for each gene, one from each parent. When it comes to hair colour, the dominant genes tend to be expressed in darker hair and the recessive genes in fairer hair.

When you and your partners genes unite, your baby will have their own unique phenotype – the physical trait that makes them an individual.

Melanocytes are what makes the pigment which gives us our hair colour. There are two types of melanin in the hair – eumelanin, making our hair brown or black and pheomelanin – which gives hair a red colour. Many different genes are involved in determining shades of hair colour. These genes control the levels of eumelanin and pheomelanin.

If you and your partner both have dark hair, your baby is likely to have dark hair as well. This is because darker colours are generally dominant over lighter ones. However, if you have blonde hair and your partner has dark hair, your baby is likely to have darker hair. This is because the blond allele is recessive and the darker hair gene is dominant. Keep a lock of your baby’s hair from their first haircut, you’ll be glad you did.

5 top facts about hair colour

  1. Babies are often born with darker hair than what their permanent hair colour will be.
  2. Genetics influence the colour of a baby’s hair. Even from the moment of conception, your baby’s genetic traits e.g. their hair and eye colour, height, body build and gender are all determined.
  3. The amount of pigment in our hair determines its shade. Pigment changes over time and this is why so many of us have lighter, or darker hair when we’re younger, compared with as we age.
  4. Red heads may have a genetic inheritance from the Neanderthals. The ‘ginger gene’ which leads to red hair, freckles and fair skin could be as old as 100,000 years.
  5. Hormones play a role in hair colour. With age, melanocytes start to die off, leading to gray and white hair.

Written for Huggies by Jane Barry, Midwife and Child Health Nurse, August 2021.