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medically speaking

“Does That Make Me More Desirable?” (the rareity of born blondes to not turn burnette)

An attractive twenty-something year old woman, shares with a gentleman that she finds blonde haired men particularly attractive. He pauses momentarily at this admission. He fancies her. But he’s a brunette.

“I haven’t been blonde since I was maybe 14.” He responds.

“Wait, you use to be blonde?”

“Yeah, I was born blonde. It’s actually really rare for most people to stay blonde after adolescence.”

“Really? That’s interesting.” She grins thinking about this.

He pauses again before responding, “Does that make me more desirable…?”

Akseli Kokkonen

Akseli Kokkonen (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hair color, when broken down into semantics isn’t nearly as alluring as it looks atop ones head. It’s simply the pigmentation of hair follicles responding to two types of melanin genes: eumelanin (black to brown) and pheomelanin (yellow to red-brown).

Melanin is found in most organisms. (Most but not all. Ex: It hasn’t been found in spiders.) In people it’s part of the determining factor in skin, hair, and eye color. The most common melanin is eumelanin, and that gene is either “on” or that gene is “off”. Parents each give four hair-color genes.

Depending on what these eight genes do for, and with each other, ends with the coloring you receive.

Generally, if more melanin is present, the color of the hair is darker; if less melanin is present, the hair is lighter.

Not too complicated. What’s interesting is how these levels of melanin can vary over time, and therefore cause a person’s hair color to change.


Ponytail (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Particular hair colors are associated with particular ethnic groups. Shades are assessed using the Fischer–Saller scale.

[“The Fischer–Saller scale, named after Eugen Fischer and Karl Saller, is used in physical anthropology and medicine to decide the shades of hair color. “] To learn more, click here

Blonde hair ranges from almost white, to strawberry, to a dark golden blond.

Blonde hair can have almost any proportion of pheomelanin and eumelanin, but both only in small amounts. More pheomelanin creates a more golden blond color, and more eumelanin creates an ash blond. Many children born with blond hair develop darker hair as they age, with the majority of natural blonds developing a hair color of a dark “gunmetal” hue by the time they reach middle age.  Natural blond hair is rare in adulthood, with some reports that only about 2% of the world’s population is naturally blond. Blond hair is most commonly found in Northern and Eastern Europeans and their descendants, but can be found spread around most of Europe.

This for lack of a better word, temperamental, eumelanin gene decides of its own accord, to stay off or turn on. Hence the result of many blonde hued children gradually receiving darker hair as they grow throughout childhood and puberty.

Blonde hair is exceptionally rare without European heritage, and it’s exceptionally rare period. Rarity has a way of making things sexy, am I right? Perhaps that’s why bottled blondes have become a dime a dozen; their all trying to be part of that exclusively natural two percent. (faking it because they can’t make it.) It’s humorous really that maintenance of the illusion of blonde hair– is practically on par with the difficultly of keeping it around naturally. Hair does what it wants, and changes how it pleases!

I agree with Calos Bustamante, a geneticist at Stanford University, who wrote in his fascinating May 2012,  New York article Island’s Genetic Quirk: Dark Skin, Blond Hair (yeah you’re going to want to look that one up!!), “Humans are beautifully diverse, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.” So did the pretty lady find the revelation of the gentleman’s earlier life as a blonde…more desirable? “Actually, yes.” (But maybe that’s another story…)



About maggie.

Maggie Barnes is a nonprofit and for profit business content specialist / social media consultant; and social sciences web writer interested in everything from psychology and sexuality, to technology, race, and economics. She is passionate about good communication and information accessibility.

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