Hair pigmentation: a research update.

Desmond J. Tobin, Maria Hordinsky, Bruno A. Bernard

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Hair is a uniquely mammalian trait with important functions, most easily appreciated in furred mammals. Our skin and hair color contribute very significantly to our overall visual appearance by highlighting striking variations between human sub-groups. Although melanins, hemoglobins, and carotenoids define the color perceived at the skin surface, our hair color relies only on the presence or absence of different melanins. The hair shaft's physical aspects provide only minor color modification. Various selective evolutionary pressures have determined that within the context of our specific ethnic backgrounds a bewildering array of natural shades are seen; ranging from yellows, reds, and browns to black and that harbinger of lost youth, gray/white hair. Skin/hair follicle melanins are formed in cytoplasmic organelles called melano-somes produced by neural crest-derived pigment cells called melano-cytes and are the product of a complex, phylogenetically ancient, biochemical pathway called melanogenesis. The following provides a review of research presented at the 4th Intercontinental Meeting of Hair Research Societies 2004 and so is not intended to represent a fully comprehensive overview of the subject-for that readers are directed to key references.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)275-279
Number of pages5
JournalThe journal of investigative dermatology. Symposium proceedings / the Society for Investigative Dermatology, Inc. [and] European Society for Dermatological Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 2005
Externally publishedYes


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