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I know that humans can naturally have more than 1 hair color, whether that is in a transition from 1 color to another or they are born with it. Like for example there are babies with both red and brown hair at the same time. I myself have had both of these situations. I was born with salt and pepper hair but then it turned blonde and over 17 years it has become the medium brown it is now.

Now I know that this has to do with my fiction story but I want to know if there is a boundary as to how many natural hair colors a human can have at any given time. 2 colors is the boundary for eyes and 1 with lighter or darker spots is the boundary for skin but is there such a boundary for hair?

And even if there isn't a boundary how many hair colors should I use max? 3? 4? 2?

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  • $\begingroup$ How closely do you want to conform to Earth biology as we know it? Is this a science-based or hard-science question? $\endgroup$ – Green Jun 13 '16 at 15:30
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    $\begingroup$ Honestly, I don't know... But I'm curious if it matters? For instance, there could be a mutation or medical condition that would allow for any number of colors, and it wouldn't be unbelievable. If a story said the character had orange, black, and blue hair, it wouldn't hurt the story any if there was a reason for it. Even "to fulfill prophesy" would be enough. If there isn't a reason for it, then you might want to see if it's even worth bringing up. It should be a case of Chekhov's hair. $\endgroup$ – AndyD273 Jun 13 '16 at 15:31
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    $\begingroup$ Speaking as someone with blonde head hair, a ginger beard, darker body hair and streaks of grey. 4 is perfectly reasonable. $\endgroup$ – Separatrix Jun 13 '16 at 19:05
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On humans, the limit on color is whatever mixtures you can create using the two chemicals pheomelanin, and eumelanin.

Pheomelanin gives the colors red and orange, and eumelanin gives black and brown. By mixing different amounts of these chemicals, you're limited to black, brown, blond, red, or white (on a broad scale), but you could theoretically naturally have any shade of brown as a hair color. All natural hair colors excluding grey, white and lightest blond happen to be shades of brown. Grey and white, however, are caused due to a lack pigmentation and melanin.

However, on animals the limit on colors seems to be removed - especially on birds. For example, the Mandarin Duck has so many different shades and gradients that I can't even count how many exact colors it has.

enter image description here

So in your story, if you happen to need to create animals, feel free to go crazy on the colors. On humans? Stick to the basics of natural hair, but you can go any shade of brown you want.

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  • $\begingroup$ you might extend your answer in that way, that the limited color range does apply to all mammals after all... so going crazy with animals will not work in all cases. EDiT: perfeect example - that cat you have for your avatar $\endgroup$ – Confused Merlin Jun 14 '16 at 10:51
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Probably four or five

I'm not sure there are any strict limits on the number of hair colors, textures or other hair characteristics possible on a person's body. Humans generally don't have more than two or three. A quick perusal of Google's image search for 'fur' showed fur coats with at least four easily identifiable colors. (For those of you sensitive to animal rights and cruelty to animals, searching for images of 'fur' is something you should not do.)

While it would certainly be possible to design a creature with more than four or five hair/fur colors, including more than that seems inefficient to me. How many different shades of white, gray, black, brown and red do you really need?

Certainly, carrying the coding for lots of different colors isn't hard. DNA is tiny and easy to replicate. What would be harder to explain is why you need lots of colors (>4). Cosmetic considerations aside, humans don't need more than one or two (though having more is common too).

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