Human Hue

What is human hue?

Hue is the term we use to describe the colour category of the pigment which is biologically present in human colour characteristics.

Man during Kumbh Mela in Nshik – India                                                 © Mattia Passarini

Human natural selection ensures that when two people procreate, their natural colour pigmentation creates a colour combination of skin, hair and eyes which balance and harmonise. 

The resulting colour combination may be different to the parents.

The underlying hue quality of the woman is red orange, with blue eyes. The underlying hue quality of the man is also red orange with brown eyes. The child has the same underlying skin pigmentation hue and the blue eyes of the mother

The underlying hue quality in most people’s skin, hair and eyes are recessive (unable to be perceived by the human eye). The underlying hue of a person’s pigmentation is known in the colorDNA system as the foundation colour.

This Vietnamese child has beautiful warm colouring, typical of people living in the tropics - © RÉHAHN

It is difficult to determine the underlying hue quality of most people’s colour characteristics, given the hue is masked by a neutral colour tone.  

Red hair and light-coloured eyes are a couple of general exceptions.

Piercing blue eyes and orange-coloured freckles are easy to determine on this person - The Brock Elbank Foundation

Each neutral colour characteristic has a natural foundation hue – and usually only one – even if the tone of the skin is substantially lighter than the hair and eyes.  

The natural underlying hue category (foundation) of this Chinese woman’s skin, hair and eyes, is orange

Most people have the same biological hue category across their skin, hair and eyes (considering most Asian and African people have the same hue category across their skin, hair and eyes).

The foundation hue of this African man’s skin, hair and eyes is the same

However, from the various cool northern climates of the globe, people evolved with a range of different coloured eyes and hair.

Furthermore, global migration has created widespread genetic diversity, and innumerable mixed-race people with unique colour characteristic combinations.

This biracial woman has an unusual combination of natural foundation hue qualities

In our research we classified 11 different human eye hues. Some of the hue categories were recessive, such as red and red orange, masked by the brown neutral tones.

The only colour category from the colour wheel we did not find present in human eyes was red violet.

Eye hue categories - this graphic is only an indication of the eye hue categories, not actual eye colour

I’m sure there is someone in the world with the rare red violet eye hue.

In fact, we only found one person with violet-coloured eyes, and that person had albinism.

The cool northern climates and unique colour characteristic combinations from mixed-race heritage have also produced a wider range of neutral-coloured human hair.

The foundation hue category of this woman’s hair is yellow

Within natural-coloured human hair tones, the foundation hue of some people from northern European climates with blond/e hair is yellow. We did not find human skin pigmentation with an underlying yellow hue.

In our hair hue research, we found there are five natural foundation hair hue categories – red, red orange, orange, yellow orange and yellow.

Hair hue categories – this graphic is only an indication of the hair hue categories, not actual hair colours

Exceptional hue differences within the skin are most often due to health, illness, a genetic condition or aging. 

When more than one hue category occurs, one is likely to dominate.

This woman in Modasa, India, has vitiligo, a skin condition where the skin is unable to produce pigment and presents as two colours. Her natural brown colouring has red orange foundation, and the pinkish tone has an underlying red hue

Multicoloured eyes and hair are not unusual within Caucasian people.

It’s common for Caucasian men to have multicoloured beards and hair. This man has multicoloured hair, with a dominant orange hue

The chance of multicoloured eyes and hair occurring increases when different races of people combine their DNA.

Multicoloured eyes

This applies from the lightest of albino colour combinations to the darkest brown pigment combinations.

Amina Ependieva is an example of exceptional characteristics colour difference, with both albinism and heterochromia (two coloured eyes).                                                © Amina Arsakova

Contrasting high and low light hue categories do exist between individual colour characteristics on some people.

Contrasting hue qualities between colour characteristics include different coloured eyes, hair, lips and rosy cheeks.

This woman’s orange-based hair creates high contrast with her blue grey eyes and low contrast with her red-based lips. The light freckles and light blushing across the cheeks help bring the contrasting colours together

As a rule, hue categories remain the same throughout a person’s life.  

However, as people age, the intensity of their pigmentation weakens and pigmentation production stops.

Loss of pigmentation causes the hair to turn grey or white – then the hair has no hue category.

With the greying of this woman's hair the hue category will change

Aging also causes the discolouring to the whites of the eyes and teeth.

The whites of this man's eyes have changed with age

It is rare for the colour of human eyes to change, but it can happen. If it does, it’s usually during adolescence.

Changes in eye colour can also be linked to injury, infection or sun damage. 

Illness, inflammation and skin conditions such as rosacea can also produce changes to a person’s skin hue, usually elevating a person’s red hue category.

The skin of this man has an obvious red hue, most likely a natural skin condition

Superficial and enhanced changes, such as hair colouring, coloured contact lenses and make-up, will also affect a person’s colour expression.

Japanese maiko, oshiroi-style make-up and floral hair ornaments

Changing the colour of a person’s hair, eyes and skin – through dye, headwear, make-up, face paint or tattoos – is a massive topic, for another one or 10 articles.

RuPaul is an expert of colour expression change

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