23andme Explains My Odd Hair

In 2014, I spat some saliva into a plastic kit, and in a few weeks, my genes were spelled out to me. It was a long list of letters and numbers, consisting of rsid identifiers, genotypes (A, G, C, T combos), and their positions. Raw data I couldn’t read. Back then, 23andme mainly offered ancestry reports, which were never of interest to me. I took the test purely for medical (preventive) reasons, and relied entirely on my sister, a doctor specializing in integrative medicine, to get the data interpreted (only partially though). Anyhow, I’m not here to talk about my SNPs or mutations, but my hair!

Over the months and years, 23andme has added more reports, broken down into a few main categories. In addition to Ancestry, they also offer Traits. Their report on hair was interesting to me, because mine is weird.

On the whole, my hair looks kind of straight, but hidden within are strands of hair that curl in different ways, from wavy ones to tight frizzy ones. No, my hair isn’t damaged (people love to say that). It’s been this way since I was young. The nice thing is, I look like I have more hair than I do, although it can be harder to manage.

Anyhow, 23andme’s report breaks down my hair into percentages:

If I were able to count every strand of my straight/wavy/curly hair, I have no clue if they’d add up to the same percentages listed, but I know I do have more straight(ish) hair than wavy, and more loose curls than tight ones.

While I did always know genes influenced our hair, I never understood why mine was of such an odd blend. Those percentages (the discrepancy between me and other East Asians) seem small, but clearly, they make a difference … even though “East Asian” is a fairly wide, generalized group.

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