Happy National Red Head Day!

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Getty Image by Max Kegfire

Today is World Redhead Day! If you have red hair, today is your day to celebrate!

This unofficial holiday each May is just the first celebration for redheads as National Love Your Red Hair Day is in November.   

To celebrate here are some facts about the redheads in your life:

Red hair is a beautiful genetic mutation.  Both parents must be carriers of the mutated MC1R gene to be able to produce redhead offspring, of which there is a 25% chance if they don’t have red hair themselves.

Less than 2% of the world’s population has red hair. That’s approximately 140 million people. Scotland boasts the highest percentage of natural redheads, with 13% (40% might carry the gene there) while Ireland comes in second with 10%.

Red hair can occur in any ethnicity.  It occurs more frequently (2-6%) in people of northern or western European ancestry, and less frequently in other populations.

Blue eyed redheads are super rare.  Blue eyes and red hair forms the rarest combo on earth. Most (natural) redheads will have brown eyes, followed by hazel or green shades.  The odds of a person having both of those recessive traits is around 0.17%.

Red hair is thicker than other colors.  Each strand of red hair is generally thicker than other shades which compensates for the fact that redheads have less hair.  Apparently they have – on average – 90,000 strands while blondes have 110,000, and brunettes have 140,000.

The Redhead Days festival is the largest international event for natural redheads, but it was actually started by a blonde. The annual event in the Netherlands began when painter Bart Rouwenhorst put an ad in the newspaper for 15 redheads to model for him and more than 150 called him.   According to National Geographic, Rouwenhorst didn’t want to turn anyone away so he got them all together so they could do a lottery to decide who would model, and that’s how the festival started. Today, it’s grown into a massive three-day festival that attracts thousands from all around the world.  This year was supposed to mark the festival’s 15th anniversary, but organizers have had to cancel it because of the coronavirus. Instead, they plan to move the 15th anniversary celebration to 2021.

Redheads are more likely to develop skin cancer.  Because of their commonly fair skin and sensitivity to ultraviolet light, redheads are more likely to develop skin cancer. The International Journal of Cancer reported in 2010 that natural redheads are approximately two and a half times as likely to develop the dangerous cancer as people with other hair hues.

Researchers believe redheads are more sensitive to pain because of a mutation in a gene (MC1R) that affects hair color. A 2004 study showed that redheads, on average, need about 20% more general anesthesia than people with dark hair or blonde color.

A lot of redheads also wind up being left-handed. Researchers believe one explanation is that both of those characteristics are recessive traits, and those often come in pairs.

Redheads don’t go gray.   Red hair will never turn grey; it simply fades to white via rose gold when the time comes.

Despite plenty of debunked “studies” that pop up around the internet every few years, redheads are not going extinct.

There are proportionately more redheads featured in commercials than there are in the world. A 2014 study found that 30% of ads during primetime hours included someone with red hair.

Redheads can produce their own Vitamin D.  As they can’t sufficiently absorb Vitamin D (it’s down to their lower melanin-concentration), redheads internally produce their own Vitamin D when they’re exposed to low light conditions. 

Climate change is threatening the gene.  Given that red hair doesn’t adapt to warm climes, the gene could – at some point – become extinct.  A scientist told ScotlandNow: “I think the regressive gene is slowly dying out… Climate change could see a decline in the number of people with red hair in Scotland.”

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