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When the stubble has just begun to grow, the budding hair appears as tiny black or brown dots on fair skin. When looking from a distance, it gives the impression of a color that is a combination of the hair color and skin color. Thus, it appears green, blue or grey.
Have you ever noticed that the face of a person who has shaved recently and has slight stubble appears to have a greenish-blue tint? This is usually observed in fair-skinned people.
The color of the tint can darken with the skin tone of the person. It also happens in people who have shaved their heads.
Obviously, when I first noticed this, my eyes played tricks on me or chalked it up to the lighting. I asked around and got mixed reactions – some people had seen it, and others had not.
Then I decided to turn to the largest and most connected resource available – the Internet! This led me to numerous forums and pages where many other men had noticed this.
Before we get into this, we should first understand an artistic effect from the late 1800s that will explain why the color shift happens.
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What Is Pointillism?
In the late 1800s, around 1886, a painting technique was developed known as Pointillism. This technique did not use continuous brushstrokes but individual dots to make paintings. Our brain then made the work of putting these dots together and forming the overall picture.
Viewed from a distance, we mixed the colors to bring the actual picture to life in our heads. While on closer inspection, the picture looked like individual dots of different colors. The dots blended from a distance and led to completely new colors.
Now back to the beards and the green-blue faces!
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What Causes The Green Tint?
The greenish-bluish coloration is clearly visible on fair skin but not so clearly on darker skin types. Another peculiarity is that this coloration only occurs when a person has recently shaved when the new hair has just begun to break through the clean, shiny skin. So what about the slight stubble that gives it this coloring property?
After hours of research, I came across two reasonably similar answers that seemed satisfactory: The first was based on the Pointillism effect.
Just as artists like Signac and Seurat bring a picture into our heads with accumulations of dots, our own brain does the same with the beard. When the stubble has just begun to grow, the young hair appears tiny black or brown dots on fair skin. Seen from a distance, it gives the impression of a color that is a combination of hair color and skin color. Thus, it appears green, blue, or gray.
The other explanation argues that the black hair absorbs light, particularly of the longer wavelengths of the red/orange region, and reflecting light from the green/blue region. This gives it a greenish-blue hue.
As is obvious, this color effect also depends to some extent on lighting. This is only visible in fair-skinned people because dark skin doesn’t provide the appropriate canvas, so to speak, to detect the color.
If any of you are still scratching your head about what I am talking about, the next time you meet someone who has just shaved their head, take a peek for yourself!
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How much do you know about the green color of beards?
References (click to expand)
- Jenks, G. F. (1953, September). “Pointillism” As A Cartographic Technique. The Professional Geographer. Informa UK Limited.
- Sugita, J., & Takahashi, T. (2013). [Paper] A Method for Generating Pointillism Based on Seurat's Color Theory. ITE Transactions on Media Technology and Applications. Institute of Image Information and Television Engineers.