Hair Types and Colour

The Different Hair Types and Colour


The hair type and colour you possess is inherited from your parents, more specifically the mixture of specific genes you have inherited from your parents. Scientists have identified three basic hair types and colour in today’s human population, and have related them to three early races: Asian, Caucasian and African.



These are people from the Orient, for example from China and Japan. Their hair is very straight, and always black in colour.



Caucasian is extremely varied; they range from the fair-skinned people of north-west Europe to the widely different people of the Indian subcontinent. Their hair may be either wavy or straight with great variations in width and usually from black to a pale blond in colour.



African people originated in Africa. Their hair is black and tightly curled. It tends to be woolly and dry, and is extremely easily damaged by heat or chemicals.


Variations in hair structure


Factors affecting variations include:


  • Arrangement of the large bundles of keratin within each hair shaft.
  • Position of the hair bulb in the hair follicle.
  • Irregular growth in the hair bulb.
  • Twisting of the hair shaft.
  • Shape of the hair follicle.


All hair undergoes twisting as it grows. The greater the number of twists in a given length of hair, the curlier the hair strand will become. Some African hair has up to 12 times more twists per centimetre as than a Caucasian hair type.

In Asian people the keratin bundles in the hair are all straight and the hair shaft tends to be thick, and almost completely round. Alternatively, Caucasoid people tend to have oval shaped shafts and the differing keratin bundles produce combinations of straight and wavy hair.

The hair of African people twists much more frequently than any other group and the hair bulb lying to the side in the follicle produces hair at an acute angle, this produces the characteristic tightly curled hair.

The hair shafts are extremely oval in shape with definite edges, which makes them susceptible to physical and chemical trauma. Extra care and attention is required for African hair.


Mixed types


Over many thousands of years of colonisation and interbreeding, descendants of these three original groupings have produced an array of hair variations.

Of the three racial groups, the Caucasians are by far the most varied in the appearance of their hair. It can straight, crinkly, wavy, large curled and near enough any combination in between.

Blondes tend to have straighter hair than brunettes; however the hair has to reach a decent length to show the true characteristics.


Hair Colour/ Pigmentation


Colour is probably the most obvious characteristic of hair, but apparently has no biological function in humans. It is probably a redundant evolutional trait for attracting potential mates.

The colour of hair is due to the presence in the cortex of granules of a pigment called melanin, which is formed in special pigment-producing cells (melanocytes) in the hair bulb during the growing phase (anagen) of each hair.

Melanin is found in two forms:~

Eumelanin are an oval (elliptical) shaped dark pigment which predominates in black and brunette hair.

Phaeomelanin are smaller oval and rod-shaped lighter pigments, which are mainly found in red and blond hair.
Most people’s hair comprises a mixture of the two.

The range of colours produced by melanins is limited to shades of yellow, brown, red and black. Grey hairs contain only a few melanin granules, spread out through the hair. White hairs contain no melanin at all: their whiteness is an optical effect, due to the way they reflect the light.


Red hair


A red hair type is relatively uncommon in Europe, except in Scotland: more than one in ten Scots are redheads. Red-haired people often have pale skin that burns easily.

In red hair, nearly all the melanin is present in the form of phaeomelanin. Coloring red hair is difficult because of this different pigmentation, and bleaching red hair to a lighter shade is especially hard.


Grey Hair


Grey hair is one of the most familiar signs of aging and is greatly dependant on your genetic inheritance. Half of all Caucasian people show signs of turning grey by the age of 50. The reduction in melanin production in the hair bulb is responsible for the greying of hair.

Occasionally, an individual will begin to turn grey prematurely – often before the age of 20 in Caucasians and before the age of 30 in Africans. Some cases could point to a medical condition, however more commonly it is due to the presence of a particular gene, which in turn could affect the hair strength.




Albinism is an inherited defect of melanin production that results in little or no colour (pigment) in the skin, hair, and eyes. An albino’s hair is startlingly pale, either light yellow or nearly white. Albino skin is also pale, even in African people.

Where the condition is severe the eyes can look pink: albino people often have poor vision and are extremely susceptible to ultra violet light. Although relatively rare, it is probably one of the most obvious arrangement of hair type and colour.


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