What Causes Red Hair: Captivating Facts About Origin of Redheads

You’ve surely heard the stories about redheads being short tempered or hot tempered! Check out what causes red hair and some of the amazing facts about redheads. Almost all of us are fascinated by red hair. that’s because only 2% of the population has this color. Red hair is a recessive genetic characteristic that has to be inherited from both the father and the mother, making it a rather rare color.

Redhead/Ginger Gene Characteristics

  • They have extremely fair skins.
  • Redheads have light colored eyes, ranging from gray; blue; green or hazel.
  • Their skin has plenty of freckles (though there are redheads without freckles).
  • Their skin is very sensitive to ultraviolet light and tans poorly.

Note: This non-tanning characteristic is connected with people living in the far north, as sunlight is scarce in these places.

  • They are considered to be hot tempered.

Pigmentation of Redheads

  • There are also many types of red hair, ranging from deep burgundy; burnt orange; and bright copper.
  • The red color is caused by the pheomelanin pigment, which gives the hair the distinctive color.
  • Red hair contains more of pheomelanin as compared to the darker pigment called eumelanin.

causes and origin of red hair

Recessive Mutated Gene

  • All of us have Melanocortin 1 Receptors. However it exists in a mutated form in case of redheads.
  • Redheads carry a pair of MC1R genes from their father and mother.
  • The mutated gene is recessive in around 40% of the world population, but sometimes two carriers express this mutation, so a child can have red hair even if both his parents do not have red hair, as it is present in a recessive form in them.

Note: In fact, red hair has also been associated with witchcraft!

There are many stories around the origin of red hair. The color is present in several ethnicities. You find red heads among the Neanderthals; the early population of Homo sapiens, but mostly seen in depigmented areas that underwent a severe Ice Age.

  1. The Vikings

  • It is speculated that the Norwegian Vikings brought this MC1R mutation to the mainlands.
  • The maximum number of redheads are seen in Scotland and in Ireland, as well as coastal areas of the Vikings settlements.
  • The Vikings are also known for their quick temper and violence, so this trait probably got carried in the gene, leading to the stories of redheads having a wild temper.
  1. Celtic-Germanic

  • Red hair has been connected with the Celtic and Germanic people and it is exclusively seen in people living in north and central Europe, though there are some rare cases elsewhere in Central Asia among Tajiks.
  • Red hair is seen in one to two percent of the population normally, but around two to six percent of the population in north and west Europe.
  • Ancient Greeks as well as Romans have portrayed the Celts and Germanic people in the form of redheads.

Captivating Facts About Redheads

  1. Red Hair and Temper

Redheads have been stereotyped to be hot headed, dramatic and tempestuous, as compared to their counterparts with other hair coloring. They are feisty and unpredictable! Don’t mess with them. This myth has permeated to all the cultures, such as the British; the Egyptians; the Greek; Romans; Spanish; Russian; you name it.

Red Hair and Temper

  • It could be fact or fiction! The image of a fiery tempered red headed woman arises from the fact that most of them were Scottish people who were descendants of the Celts.
  • These Celts were notorious for being violent warriors. This led to some strange beliefs about red hair and a hot temper.
  • The gene MC1R is also connected with our pain perceptions. Hence, redheads’ response to pain is more intense. This might be the reason for their hot hotheadedness too.
  1. Red Hair and Blue Eyes

Amazing Facts About Redheads

  • The combination is rare. This is because the blue color of eyes is also a recessive genetic trait. This means that both the parents have to carry this gene in order that the child inherit it.
  • Most redheads have brown; hazel; green eyes, whereas a redhead with blue eyes is rare.
  1. Sun Sensitive

  • Redheads or gingers have very fair skin that sunburns very quickly.
  • All types of skin contains mainly keratinocytes and melanocytes. However, the former does not provide defense against the UV rays of the sun. It relies on the melanocytes to offer melanin when needed.
  • Skin color is mostly dependant on the melanism levels. Those having red hair have a lower melanism level and, therefore, suffer from sunburn more than others.
  • Melanin is formed in the skin with evolution. Redheads had their origins in places that did not get much sun.

Note: They are pale skinned and need less exposure to sun in order to produce Vitamin D.

  1. Redheads Need More Anesthesia

  • Redheads need more anesthesia compared to others.
  • The research showed that anesthesiologists find it more difficult to knock out redheads. It might take an average of about 20% more anesthesia.
  • The cause could be a receptor on their skin cells, which does not function properly.
  • This dysfunction probably triggers a mechanism that stimulates brain receptors of sensitivity to pain.
  • When sensitivity to pain is increased from a particular stimulus, they need more anesthesia to alleviate the pain.
  1. More Risk of Melanoma/Skin Cancer

Redheads have to be very careful about exposing their skin to the sun, as they are more vulnerable to the UV rays and have an increased risk of getting skin cancer.

  • They suffer from an increased risk of contracting melanoma, which is a deadly type of skin cancer.
  • This is because the MC1R mutated gene does not attach itself to the PTEN gene. The latter is responsible for preventing tumors and protecting the skin from contracting cancer.
  1. Left Handedness: Why are Redheads Left Handed?

  • While redheadedness is a recessive trait, left handedness is also a similar trait. Right Handedness is a dominant trait.
  • Recessive traits usually come in a pair, so that could be the reason why redheads are also left handed.

Note: A left handed ginger with blue eyes is the most unique combination you can ever come across!

Last Word

Red hair is the most rare hair color among humans. There’s a lot of mystery surrounding redheads. Throughout history and even today, there is a lot of ginger teasing.

mystery surrounding redheads(Image: energyauditorhq.com)

It was thought that redheads were born out of unclean sex; some considered them witches and vampires or marks of the Satan. Due to this, many redheads have started dying their hair in order to be ‘normal’. Some of them are myths whereas others are facts.

There’s also a myth going around that redheads will soon be extinct. This is because it is a recessive gene, so not each and every offspring will be blessed with a redhead. However, there’s no chance of extinction either. The only way it could happen is if every carrier of the redhead gene stopped reproducing, which is most unlikely. So redheads are here to stay. Beware 🙂

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