MadSci Network: Biochemistry

Re: How does iron affect hair color?

Date: Fri Jan 8 08:16:44 1999
Posted By: Dr Jim Mullaney, Secondary School Teacher, Chemistry / Biology, Mandurah Catholic College
Area of science: Biochemistry
ID: 910267027.Bc

Hair color is determined by melanin from your pigment cells. The more 
pigment granules there are, and the more tightly packed, the darker the 
hair. Two kinds of melanin contribute to hair color. Eumelanin colors hair 
brown to black, and an iron-rich pigment, pheomelanin colors it yellow-
blonde to red. Whether hair is mousy, brown, brunette or black depends on 
the type and amount of melanin and how densely it's distributed within the 
hair. For example, deep-black African hair contains closely packed melanin 
in the cortex, a few in the cuticle. Very dark European hair, quite apart 
from having more melanin granules than lighter or blonde hair, has more 
melanin per granule. When pigment-producing cells cease to function, the 
result is the uncolored white or gray hair. 

Hope this helps - and thanks for using MadSci Network.


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