Whether it’s the fiery tones of redheads like Florence Welch and Sophie Turner, or the golden honey hues of blondes like Margot Robbie and Blake Lively, your natural hair colour has the power to instantly separate you from the pack.
And, up until this week, we were all convinced that a couple of genes were the determining factor in setting our natural hair colour.
However, researchers from King’s College London and Erasmus university in Rotterdam have found that 124 genes — 100 more than previously known — actually play a huge role in determining our hair colour.
The study, published in the journal , asked 300,000 people to describe their natural hair colour and compared this with their genetic information held in the UK Biobank and other sources. One interesting finding from the research was that more women described themselves as blonde than those who were found to be naturally blonde.
In the end, the scientists discovered that the new genes were more accurate than those already known in predicting hair colour and could explain 35 per cent of red hair, 25 per cent of blond hair and 26 per cent of black hair.
Professor Spector told the : ‘As the largest-ever genetic study on pigmentation, it will improve our understanding of diseases like melanoma, an aggressive form of skin cancer.
‘The genes that affect hair colour also affect other cancer types, while other pigment genes affect the chances of having Crohn’s and other forms of bowel disease.’
He added: ‘This will help melanoma researchers understand what it is about hair colour genes that affects the disease so much, regardless of sunshine.’
It is likely that hundreds of other genes also affect hair colour in ways that were too subtle for the scientists to detect.
The findings may even help forensic scientists in detecting the hair colour of criminals from DNA samples found at crime scenes. The test of genes is said to be 10-20 per cent more accurate than existing forensic tests.
‘If someone leaves blood at a crime scene, you could say from their DNA whether they had black or red hair with about 90 per cent certainty,’ Spector explained to the .
The team also found that women have significantly fairer hair than men, ‘which reflects how important cultural practices and sexual preferences are in shaping our genes and biology’, according to Spector.