Hair Colours

Answer by Diane Eager

The most common eye and hair colour combinations in the human population today are brown eyes and black or dark brown hair, both of which involve the production and distribution of the brown pigment melanin, so can we connect the dots all the way back to Adam and Eve? After all the Bible is emphatic that all of us, whether black haired or blonde, blue, brown or even green eyed, are descended from one woman, Eve, and one man, Adam?

All these colour characteristics in present day humans have a strong genetic component, so note well, the Bible does give us a traceable family tree we can test some ideas against, and which includes the concept that all creatures, man included have produced their own kind so whatever we are like, has a direct link back to the first people. We even have a recorded history that includes several major genetic influences, starting with Genesis 1-2, which tells us of an initial perfect Creation not random evolution.  This is followed by Genesis 3, which describes the fall of man, and things have gone downhill ever since.  This means our genes have degenerated by means of mutations.  Further along in human history God’s judgement at the Tower of Babel resulting in the one Family of Man being split into separately reproducing genetic groups.  Therefore, we can make some inferences by looking at the genetics of people who are alive now, so enjoy the following, as we try to connect the dots in regard to eye and hair colour.

Both eye and hair colour involve the production and distribution of the brown pigment melanin. This has been discovered to involve many genes, so any failure or variation in even one gene in the process means variation of colour is possible.  Since the time Adam and Eve sinned mutations have occurred in descending generations to give the variation that we see now.  Since mutations are variations in genes that already exist, or variations in the regulation of these genes (i.e. when and where they are turned on and off) they usually result in decreased function of a gene, or sometimes over production of some gene product.  Both types of change are degenerative, even if they don’t cause any disease or defect. And note well – any changes resulting from such mutations are not evolution. 

It is now also known that the variation in eye colour is due to how much melanin is deposited in the iris of the eye and how evenly it is distributed.  The melanin in the iris and some of the inner layers of the eye is there to absorb any stray light bouncing around inside the eye, and messing the picture up as it would interfere with the light coming from what we are looking at.  People with brown eyes have a lot of melanin in their irises, while those with blue eye have only a small amount.  Green and hazel eyes have a moderate amount or uneven distribution of melanin. Blue eyes do not have any blue colour in the iris, only less brown. The blue colour comes from light reflected from within the eye and passing out the front.

A genetic study of a group of blue-eyed people found they all had the same mutation in a region of DNA called OCA2, which regulates a melanin production gene.  This results in a lot less melanin being deposited in the iris of the eye.  This mutation does not seem to affect melanin deposition in other parts of the body, so blue-eyed people can have black hair.  The scientists who conducted this study concluded that originally all humans had brown eyes, and all blue-eyed people are the descendants of a common ancestor who first experienced this mutation thousands of years ago. 

Blue eyes are more sensitive to glare, and may have a higher risk for some degenerative eye diseases, but are fully functional eyes.  Blue eyes are considered attractive in some cultural groups, so blue eye gene variants could easily become well established by choice and spread within the human population. Note also the scientists’ conclusions about brown and blue eyes would fit the Biblical history of humanity which follows.

In the beginning everything was very good.  (Genesis 1:31)  Therefore, Adam and Eve would have had  the very best eyes, with evenly spread abundant melanin in their irises, i.e. brown eyes.  After the world started going downhill due to Adams sin and God’s judgement, mutations occurred that disturbed the control of pigment genes resulting in variation of skin, hair and eye colour.  By the time of Noah and his three sons there seems to have been some variation in colour, as two of Noah’s sons have names associated with colour – Ham is associated with dark colour, Japheth with light colour.  After the Flood and the Tower of Babel the descendants of Noah’s three sons spread out over the earth.  Since God had to force them to spread out by imposing different languages upon separate families, the separated groups would have only bred within their groups. Hence any gene variants carried by the initial generations would become the norm for that group. 

The descendants of fair Japheth gave rise to people groups in Europe and the middle east, and these populations have the most blue-eyed people, especially the Europeans.  Therefore, the original blue-eyed mutation could have occurred in Japheth, or his wife, or one of their early descendants.  Other mutations of the genes that regulate the deposition of melanin resulted in green and hazel eyes.  These are also more common in the descendants of Japheth.

People of European descent also have the most variation in hair colour, ranging from blonde, through auburn, to brown, to black.  This is not necessarily linked to skin colour, although dark skinned people tend to have dark hair.  However, light skinned people can have black hair, and occasionally dark-skinned people have light brown or even red hair.  Hair colour is determined by how much melanin pigment is produced in the hair follicles, and also by the proportions of the two kinds of melanin – eumelanin and pheomelanin.  Eumelanin is a very dark brown, almost black pigment, pheomelanin is a lighter red-brown pigment.  A high amount of eumelanin results in black or dark brown hair. High amounts of pheomelanin and low eumelanin results in red or red-blonde hair.  Blonde hair is the consequence of a low amount of both. 

Hair colour is not only regulated by a large number of genes, it is also influenced by hormone changes.  Blonde-haired children can end up with dark hair by their teenage years.  Young women with blonde hair can develop darker hair during pregnancy and then remain dark for the remainder of their adult life until they develop “mature blonde” (aka grey) hair. 

It definitely seems that the lighter variants of hair colour are the result of loss or decreased function somewhere in the melanin producing system.  For example. a gene named MC1R codes for a receptor on the melanin-producing cells.  Mutations that cause this gene to lose its function, result in decreased production of eumelanin, resulting in blonde or red hair.  Therefore, it is unlikely that Adam or Eve were blue eyed blondes or redheads. 

An interesting blonde hair gene was found in the Solomon Islands, where most Islanders have very dark skin and black hair, but a small percentage of the population have a golden blonde hair.  This was found to be a mutation in a gene named TYRP1, resulting in loss of function of one of the pigment-producing enzymes.  This mutation is interesting because it is not found in European blonde people, so it must have occurred separately in people of Melanesian descent quite a time after their ancestors had left the Tower of Babel. 

Like blue eyes, light coloured hair is attractive in some populations, so the genetic changes that cause it will easily become established by choice and spread within that population.  However, because light coloured hair seems to result from loss of function mutations, fair hair is usually associated with light coloured skin, which is more easily damaged by sunlight.  Therefore, it is unlikely that the perfectly made Adam or Eve had light coloured hair or red hair. 

In summary, it seems that fully functioning pigment genes produce brown eyes and dark hair, so this would have the combination that Adam and Eve had.  Since then, there has been a lot of variation, but none of it is evolution.  All people who have lived on earth are the descendants of Adam and Eve, and are all members of one human kind irrespective of what eye and hair colour combination they have inherited.  And the key point: whatever your eye or hair colour, the Creator will not be judging you on the basis of your blue eyes or brown skin, or whatever combination you have inherited. The Bible is emphatic that God looks on the things of the heart, and asks you: have you repented of your sin and accepted Christ’s death on the cross as the payment for your sin and determined to follow him as Lord. If not, now is the time to make that eternal choice.  

Related questions:

ADAM & EVE: Who were Adam and Eve?  Answer here.

NOAH: What Race was Noah? What colour was he? Where in the Bible can I find out?  Answer here.

JESUS’ COLOUR: What skin colour did Jesus have?  Answer here.

HUMAN RACES: If all races originated from Noah’s sons, why are there such big differences between the races?  Answer here.

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