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Redheads: The Genetics of Hair Color

Updated on July 28, 2017

Genetics of Red Hair

What do Napoleon Bonaparte, Oliver Cromwell, and Thomas Jefferson have in common? Besides the obvious similarity as heads-of-state, all three had red hair.

Hair color ranges from platinum blond to ebony, due to levels of pigments produced by specialized cells called melanocytes. Those with dark hair have cells that produce a pigment called eumelanin, and those with blond or red hair have cells that produce pheomelanin. The relative ratio of eumelanin to pheomelanin determines a person’s hair color. A complete absence of both pigments leads to white hair color.

The gene responsible for determining hair color is called the Melanocortin 1 Receptor, or MC1R. If the MC1R gene is active, it produces eumelanin and a person will have darker skin and hair. If the MC1R gene does not function (i.e. it is blocked or inactivated), the melanocytes will produce pheomelanin instead of eumelanin. A person with a malfunctioning MC1R gene will have blond or red hair, due to the lack of eumelanin, along with freckles. MC1R gene mutations are seen in all ethnicities.

My husband and son carry MC1R polymorphisms, and display the red hair phenotype.
My husband and son carry MC1R polymorphisms, and display the red hair phenotype. | Source

MC1R Gene Location

The MC1R gene is located on the long arm of chromosome 16. Its official location is 16q24.3, and is 3,098 base pairs in length. Depending on the specific mutation (known as a polymorphism in the language of genetics), hair color will range from strawberry blond to auburn. The MC1R gene encodes a protein made up of 317 amino acids. Over 35 sites on the gene have been identified with polymorphisms, and only a small number of these mutations cause red hair shades.

Red Hair Mutations and Hair Color

Allele
Phenotype
R151C
red hair, increased melanoma risk
R160W
red hair, pale skin, increased melanoma risk
D294H
red hair, pale skin, increased melanoma risk
R142H
red hair, pale skin, increased melanoma risk
D84E
red hair, increased melanoma risk
V60L
Weak red hair gene, increased melanoma risk
V92M
Weak red hair gene, increased melanoma risk
R163Q
Weak red hair gene, increased melanoma risk

How likely am I to Have a Child with Red Hair?

Red hair is recessive, which means a person may have brown hair, and carry the “red gene” without expressing the hair color. A person must have two copies of the recessive gene to express the trait. The chances of having a child with red hair depend on the genes of the parents. For simplicity’s sake, the various polymorphisms in the MC1R gene will be called the “red hair gene.” The red hair gene will be labeled as a lowercase r in the charts below and brown hair will be labeled with an upper case R.

Case 1: Parents with Brown Hair

In the first scenario, two parents have brown hair and do not carry any polymorphisms on the MC1R gene. In other words, neither of the parents is a carrier for the red hair gene. None of their children will have red hair, unless a new mutation arises spontaneously. These parents have almost no chance of having a child with red hair, unless a de novo mutation were to arise.

Case 2: Brown-Haired Carriers

In the second scenario, both parents have brown hair, but carry a red-hair causing gene. These parents are both called “carriers” of the gene. In this case, the parents will have a 25% chance of having a child with brown hair who does not carry the red gene. They have a 50% chance of having a child with brown hair who carries the red gene. There is a 25% chance that the parents will have a child with red hair.

Case 3: Parents with Brown and Red Hair

A third possibility involves a parent with red hair and a parent with brown hair. The parent with brown hair in this case is not a carrier of the red gene. Each of the children will have one allele for the red hair gene, and will be carriers of the gene. None of the children, however, will display the physical trait of having red hair.

Case 4: Parents with Brown Hair (Carrier) and Red Hair

In a fourth scenario, one parent has red hair and the other has brown hair, but is a carrier of the red gene. There is a 50% chance that the children will have red hair, and a 50% chance that the children will be brown-haired carriers of the red gene.

This is the scenario in my own family: I have brown hair and probably do not carry red-causing MC1R polymorphisms. My husband, however, has the classic red hair phenotype. One of my sons is blond, and the other has strawberry blond hair.

Case 5: Parents with Red Hair

The last case includes two parents with red hair: in this situation, all of the children would have the same phenotype as the parents. The children will all have red hair, since neither parent has the dominant "brown hair" MC1R genotype. In some cases, different polymorphisms (alleles) may be inherited from each parent. This scenario is common in locations where red hair is a common occurrence: primarily in Scotland and Ireland.

Genetic Mutation MC1R: Beyond Hair Color

The MC1R gene is expressed in many cells, and is responsible for more than hair color. MC1R plays a role in inflammatory response, pain sensitivity, and the immune system. The far reaching effects of the MC1R gene are listed below:

Cancer risk

Redheads have an increased risk for melanoma, as the melanocytes in people with red hair do not produce the protective eumelanin pigment. Unfortunately, the risk of cancer is increased even when there is no exposure to sunlight, so those with red hair should have regular check-ups with a dermatologist to monitor any skin changes. It is important to note that people who have dark skin and MC1R mutations are also at risk for skin cancer.

Increased pain sensation

People who have red hair are more sensitive to pain caused by burns and freezing than people with brown hair. Studies performed by Edwin B. Liem at the National Institutes of Health demonstrated an increased sensation of pain caused by thermal changes, and an increased need for anesthetic. Redheads required 19% more anesthetic than their brown haired counterparts. Interestingly, those with red hair demonstrate a reduced sensitivity to stinging pain (the type of pain encountered when receiving an injection). The MC1R gene affects the binding of endorphins, which are the body’s natural painkillers.

Melanoma Risk in Europe

A map showing the density of light-eyed people in Western Europe. Melanoma risk increases for those who produce less eumelanin.
A map showing the density of light-eyed people in Western Europe. Melanoma risk increases for those who produce less eumelanin. | Source

Famous Redheads

  • Emily Dickinson, the American poet
  • Antonio Vivaldi, the Italian composer
  • Mark Twain, the American author
  • Malcolm X, civil rights activist
  • Cleopatra, Egyptian ruler
  • Vladimir Lenin, Russian revolutionary

Red Hair Stereotypes and Beliefs

The most common modern stereotype about redheads is that red hair comes with a fiery, feisty personality. Earlier in history, redheads faced more dangerous beliefs about their red hair. In ancient Egypt, redheads were burned alive as a sacrifice to the god Osiris. Their ashes were blown over agricultural fields by winnowing fans and used as fertilizer for the season’s crops. Early Egyptians regarded red hair as an unlucky trait.

In the middle ages, those with red hair could be labeled as witches or vampires. The Malleus Maleficarum (a report on witches in the Middle Ages) states, “Those whose hair is red, of a certain peculiar shade, are unmistakably vampires.”

Other Causes of Red Hair

Some people do not come by their red hair via the MC1R gene. One type of albinism (type 3, or rufous albinism) demonstrates a phenotype of red hair and ruddy skin. This form of albinism is most common in New Guinea and Africa.

Severe malnutrition can lead to a condition known as kwashiorkor – the deprivation of protein and calories from an individual’s diet will lead to failure to thrive, edema, excessive hair growth, and depigmentation, along with the development of red hair. The Biblical story of Esau is fascinating in this regard, because the Bible describes Esau as covered in red hair. As the story goes, Esau sold his birthright as the first-born son to his younger twin, in exchange for a bowl of soup. While the story is intended to demonstrate the hazards of placing material desires over a spiritual blessing, one has to wonder if Esau was simply suffering from the effects of kwashiorkor.

Proopiomelanocortin deficiency (POMC) is a genetic disease resulting in obesity, adrenal insufficiency, and red hair. Children with this genetic disorder exhibit early onset severe obesity and striking red hair, due to the effects the POMC gene has on ACTH production and the influence this gene has on the phaeomelanin:eumelanin ratio in cells.

Redhead Nicknames

There are various nicknames used around the world for those who have red hair. Sometimes the nicknames are affectionate, but many of the nicknames are used as insults.

Ranga: An Australian nickname for people with red hair. The word is a shortened version of the word orangutan.

Ginger: A name used for redheads, most commonly used in the U.K. The cartoon series South Park satirized the persecution of redheads with a genocidal campaign against "ginger people."

Carrot Top: A nickname often used in the United States, comparing red hair to the color of carrots.

Koakage: The Japanese word for redheads - the word "akage" indicates the red hair and the prefix "ko" for something small or cute.


The Myth of Redhead Extinction

News reports reported on the imminent extinction of redheads in August 2007. Like many other myths circulating on the internet, the reports were incorrect. Based on the incorrect assumption that recessive genes will "die out" over time, the news reports stated that the gene for red hair would be gone by the year 2060. The reports supposedly came from the Oxford Hair Foundation, but no such scientific entity exists. The Oxford Hair Foundation manufactures beauty products and is not an academic facility. The claim that redheads are going extinct is completely false: recessive genes may become rare, but will not disappear from the human genome. Red hair will exist well beyond the year 2060!

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    • leahlefler profile image
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      Leah Lefler 2 days ago from Western New York

      The red hair gene exists in many ethnicities, so it is not linked to "green eyes," though there are people who carry both traits at the same time. There is likely a founder effect as many of these traits (Rh negative blood type, green eyes, and red hair) are found at a higher rate in Europe and occur simultaneously in many individuals.

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      susan sanger 3 days ago

      Interesting. Have you cross-matched red hair, eye color, skin color? So far, the conclusions are very different: Red hair, green eyes, extreme sensitivity to hot- cold., and RH Negative blood type? grandma clara

    • leahlefler profile image
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      Leah Lefler 3 weeks ago from Western New York

      It is interesting, Matthew. We actually had a fertile mule in the Inland Empire of California where I spent my childhood. She had two foals - they named one of the foals "Blue Moon" due to the rarity of a fertile mule!

    • profile image

      Matthew Grauel 3 weeks ago

      ( http://www.google.com/url?q=http%3A%2F%2Fnews360.c... )

      I made a an ignorant claim that, Hybrid Species are "genetic dead ends", this is an article from Wire reprinted from Quanta Magazine, that illustrates the benefit of diversity, and that being a pseudo-scientist is being wrong a lot! lol. ( Im not sure if linking is allowed, article was found in a aggregator )

    • leahlefler profile image
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      Leah Lefler 4 weeks ago from Western New York

      I agree, Matthew, that people seem to have become polarized in recent times and we must reach out to our fellow humans to stop hate and to develop relationships that prevent the formation of stereotypes. Never stop learning - this should be the human motto.

    • profile image

      Matthew Grauel 4 weeks ago

      While trying to find evidence to my argument, i ran across "Christian Forums" really getting disgusting and it just highlighted how stupid today's world is because we as a society are okay with being fed information rather then winning that information for our own good. Ignorance is the bane of Civilization, once we are complacent enough to believe what sounds good we are ignorant enough to vote out our republic.

    • profile image

      Matthew Grauel 4 weeks ago

      (Bio: I'm a US Army Infantryman, all outsides look the same when they are on the outside, and if we can eliminate hate,fear, and ignorance, then what is there left to fight over, If I can never see Death again due to misunderstandings I will die happy)Thank you, Preconceived Notions. that was what I was trying to say. Long story short My buddy was telling me he was attracted to Red's, even though he "was" and "we are" supposed to be "disgusted by them," thats when I forgot myself and yelled "conjecture!!!, that's not science nor is it fact, It!! is based on hate stereotypes", and Preconceived notions. In an attempt to try to correct, in what I believe a intellectual teachable moment and a literal chance to "kill" hate and ignorance, because he rebutted my argument in I believe her because she is in the medical field, even though she has not specialized nor is she a Phd. I'm like awesome, I can prove to you! or.. reference to the fact that is not common knowledge nor is it scientific. Not to mention He could talk to a Herpetologist about his hemorrhoids, but unless He has a cloaca his advice should be taken with understanding that Dr. Herp DVM. is not an expert in that field or discipline and neither is the "Expert".

    • leahlefler profile image
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      Leah Lefler 4 weeks ago from Western New York

      Matthew, I would first ask the question: is your initial supposition correct? Who finds red-heads unattractive? Apart from a satirical South Park episode, I haven't heard about hate groups regarding people with red hair, though I suppose there are people who will always find someone to hate. As with all physical characteristics, there are stereotypes applied - which are often inaccurate or serve to validate a preconceived notion. Prejudice is learned and not a genetic trait.

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      Matthew Grauel 4 weeks ago

      I'm, looking for information about how the "fear of gingers" propagates anecdotal conjecture. The argument: my friend said according to his Niece who purportedly works at John Hopkins for Kids, "We are genetically designed to find red-heads unattractive." My rebuttal: CONJECTURE, more specific Religious Allegory, most recently Vikings dominating Christians from the Dark Ages up until the Late Middle Ages, even surviving the renaissance as the Varangian Guard of the Byzantine Empire. We were taught to Hate and Fear Red headed pagans, and those fears survive today as stereotypes. I have tried arguing that Hate is a subjective sociological skill, one learns to conform to to be accepted and not be cast out of the "Common People" with the "Common Idea". I tried to bring up Bears, and highlight the difference between biological response to environment and sociological response to society's common idea. Bears evolved white fur to better hunt on the Ice, those who lived long enough to pass that mutation now propagates the mutation as a dominant, and now the likelihoods of creating white furred hunters are more likely, and a probability. Where does Social come into play? Wolves adopt dogs, Cats adopt Birds. but because they cannot reproduce, in my mind it doesn't apply; Polar Bear and Grizzly Bear are probably close enough to get a mutant like Liger or a Walfin, or a mule, but that line stops as mutants are usually born sterile. Since all Humans possess the MC1R Gene and it can be expressed by any human, and if we are programmed to hate Ginger's, then why don't we hate ourselves for being carriers? Anyone? I'm open minded so critique that crap out of me.

    • leahlefler profile image
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      Leah Lefler 8 weeks ago from Western New York

      There are a lot of variants, Mickie! Many people with the "red" gene don't display the phenotype if they also have dark hair, but may easily have children with lighter hair where the redness shows through. My husband was a true red-head, but became darker as an adult. He still has a red beard! My oldest boy was blond as a baby, but my youngest son had strawberry blond hair. Both boys are older now and have the same hair color (a dark blond/light brown). In the sunlight, there is still a red hint to my younger son's hair.

    • leahlefler profile image
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      Leah Lefler 8 weeks ago from Western New York

      My uncle has red hair and has maintained a shade of red well into his 80's! It has lightened considerably, but is definitely still red.

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      val smith 2 months ago

      I am almost 81 years old and have never had to add dye to my hair, but over time the shade does change somewhat and I think this may be because health issues

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      Mickie Chaplin Boldt 2 months ago

      As you stated, there are always anomolies. My dad had very dark brown hair and light green eyes, almost black and my mom had a beautiful auburn color with brown eyes. I am the oldest of three -- I have Strawberry Blonde and green eyes, my two bothers were medium brown hair and brown eyes.

      Not sure of my Dad's side way back, but the immediate family all had shades of brown hair and some with brown eyes and others blue or green. My mom's side however, had lots of red hair. My husband's hair is dark brown/black and brown eyes. My son had Strawberry Blonde when little, but it turned darker, and darker brown as he got older, but he has a reddish brown beard!

    • profile image

      Justin Hall 3 months ago

      This is bizarre. I have the following alleles with regard to my MC1R gene R160W, D294H, V92M, D84E, V60L and yet I have brown hair. I had blond hair as a child and by the time I was in my mid teens it had darkened to the medium light to medium brown it is today. All I have ever found was an occasional red hair in my beard and even they were few and far in between.

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      Hernan 3 months ago

      Red hair, as any recessive mutation can be diluted (if they reproduce at slower speed than the other hair color populations) but not extinct unless there is a pressure to supress this mutation by selection (Suppression of these people from reproduction). Maybe the % of gingers can be reduced but not eliminated.

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      kayeff 4 months ago

      Did you just make up the "koakage" because I can't find evidence of it's truth anywhere. Akage = redhead and kawaii = cute. Where did you get the koakage idea?

    • leahlefler profile image
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      Leah Lefler 6 months ago from Western New York

      Blond hair may contain pheomelanin, Keep It Red - it does not have to contain this form of melanin, but it certainly can have it.

    • leahlefler profile image
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      Leah Lefler 6 months ago from Western New York

      It is very interesting to me how the beard color will remain red, even when the hair on someone's head has darkened, sbbhunt! My husband still has a very red beard, even though the hair on his head has turned a reddish brown color.

    • leahlefler profile image
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      Leah Lefler 6 months ago from Western New York

      My younger son had red hair as a toddler and it is now darker and nearly the same color as his older brother's hair (a very dark blond/light brown). It is interesting how hair color changes over time, Robert! My family ancestry is largely Irish and my husband's is British/German - my husband had very red hair.

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      roberttracy70@yahoo.com 7 months ago

      My fathers hair was white eyes blue when he was young , changing to nut brown later. we 3 childern all had very fair hair , changing later to brown . My mothers hair was black , green eyes . My sons hair was ginger changed to frizy black and angel blue eyes , my daughters hair is black deed green eyes changing to dark brown , her mother is half Welch and English black hair deep green eyes . My parents were Irish . one grand son half Greek has very dark hair and blue eyes , the other has light brown hair and blue eyes and an Irish mother with dark red hair and green eyes . Funny thing red haired women facinated me when I was young and I wasent surprised when my son said he was going to marry one , even though I said nothing about my younger days .

    • profile image

      Sbbhunt 7 months ago

      Why did you not mention black and red, my father had blue black hair, so does my oldest brother, one of my brother has brown hair, 3 of us original blond, the men with red beard. My mother had red hair, my daughter was born red hair but turn into very blond

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      jhert 8 months ago

      I have a question hopefully someone can help me answer... My mom has red hair (not auburn) and my dad has brown hair. I have blonde hair and my brother has red hair (slightly more blonde than my moms). How is this possible? I understand how my brother would have gotten his red hair if my dad is carrying a mc1r gene but how would I have blonde hair then? Could my dad be carrying a brown hair, blonde hair and mc1r gene?

    • profile image

      keep it red 10 months ago

      Okay. I've been reading and I'm not so sure what I typed a week ago is correct because now I'm finding publications that are saying that pheomelanin IS responsible for blonde hair as well. Some say yes, some say no. I would like to know the truth so I'll keep reading. My apologies to you and again, thanks for the article.

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      keep it red 10 months ago

      Enjoyed this article with the exception of one glaring mistake. Blonde hair does not cotain pheomelanin, only a bit of eumelanin. As you stated above, the abscence of any pigment results in white hair, so a little eumelanin makes blonde hair. It is this bit of eumelanin that gives it it's yellowish or blonde hue. Blonde hair actually derives from brown hair, not red hair. So eumelanin is responsible for black, brown, and blonde hair. Pheomelanin is responsible for all red hair only. Other than that, great article. I enjoyed it.

    • leahlefler profile image
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      Leah Lefler 2 years ago from Western New York

      Isn't it interesting, Dolores? One of my children is blond and the other has red hair, and my red-head is very resistant to local anesthetics.

    • leahlefler profile image
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      Leah Lefler 2 years ago from Western New York

      The resistance to anesthetics is a very interesting side effect to the MC1R gene, mbwalz! My boys also have Ehlers Danlos syndrome, which causes resistance to local anesthetics. They have a double whammy, and our trips to the dentist are usually rather difficult (as you can imagine)!

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 2 years ago from East Coast, United States

      As the mother of two red headed children, I used to think they were just whiners when they complained of pain. Now I know that they actually are more sensitive! I feel like a hardhearted mama! There seems to be a problem with electricity as well. I never knew two people who complained of electrical shocks like the two of them. Of course, they were such gorgeous kids. There is nothing more adorable than a red-headed child!

    • mbwalz profile image

      MaryBeth Walz 2 years ago from Maine

      Thanks for the in depth info about us redheads! I just wrote a hub about our pain and the things that are being discovered through the mutation of the MC1R gene. It could lead, if there's enough interest and funding, in new classes of analgesics. In the mean time, we just get to ask for more lidacaine instead! Voted up and shared!

    • leahlefler profile image
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      Leah Lefler 3 years ago from Western New York

      Perhaps people are jealous of your red hair, Jill?

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      Jill 3 years ago

      People are jealous of me I don't know why I'm almost 60

    • leahlefler profile image
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      Leah Lefler 4 years ago from Western New York

      That is a good response! I love red hair and I'm glad one of my kids has it (though it is much less obvious now)!

    • Crystal Tatum profile image

      Crystal Tatum 4 years ago from Georgia

      Perhaps the best answer, as her parents finally taught my cousin to respond when asked where she got that red hair, is "God gave it to me"!

    • leahlefler profile image
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      Leah Lefler 4 years ago from Western New York

      The genetics is interesting to me, Crystal Tatum - it is very possible to carry the red gene and have dark hair - when a child gets two copies of the genetic mutation, they will have red or orange hair. The actual genetics are a bit more complicated than that, of course - there are many different mutations and some are have more penetrance (i.e. "stronger") than others. I have brown hair (blond as a child) and my husband has red hair - we have one son who has blond/brown hair and one son who has reddish hair.. though the red has become less obvious as he has gotten older and his hair has darkened!

    • Crystal Tatum profile image

      Crystal Tatum 4 years ago from Georgia

      The genetics bit was very well written but over my head. I do know that I have a cousin with a brown haired father and black haired mother who came out with orange hair. Apparently there was red hair on both sides of the family back a coulpe of genrations. She's never liked it much ....people were always coming up to her in stores and rubbing her hair! It's hard to believe how barbaric ancient civilizations could be. You did a great job with this hub. Voting up and interesting.

    • leahlefler profile image
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      Leah Lefler 4 years ago from Western New York

      I love genetics, pinkhawk - many genes have an effect beyond the obvious phenotype of having red hair. The increased skin cancer risk is simply the direct effect of the type of melanin the "red" genes express. Eumelanin protects against the sun's radiation; pheomelanin does not protect the skin.

    • pinkhawk profile image

      pinkhawk 4 years ago from Pearl of the Orient

      such an interesting topic! ^_^...thanks for sharing!...there's a reason for everything, wondering about its other function...

    • leahlefler profile image
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      Leah Lefler 4 years ago from Western New York

      My five year old had very strawberry blond hair as a toddler, Tiffany, and now he is developing darker hair. I suspect he has a "weak" red hair gene or he is only a carrier of the gene. Still, his skin is extremely fair and we go through bucket loads of sunscreen each summer! My husband is a classic red head, and is very susceptible to skin damage from the sun.

    • tiffany delite profile image

      tiffany delite 4 years ago from united states

      thank you for this very interesting hub. my bestie has red hair and freckles and is so sensitive to the sun just like you said in this article! my hair was lighter when i was younger, and it has gotten darker as i have gotten older...that must mean my genes are slow starters...yes? lol. blessings!

    • leahlefler profile image
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      Leah Lefler 4 years ago from Western New York

      Redheads are a big part of my life, too - my husband is a redhead and my younger son was strawberry blond. His hair gets darker in the winter, but gets redder in the summer with exposure to the sun. As a toddler and preschooler, he had very reddish hair. My older son was blond as a baby and has brown hair now. You definitely have a life filled with redheads, PaisleeGal!

    • PaisleeGal profile image

      Pat Materna 4 years ago from Memphis, Tennessee, USA

      Well this is a fascinating read. Redheads have always played a part in my life. While my hair is mousy brown I've always loved redhair. My first love when I was 8 was redheaded. Then when I was 14 my first huge crush was a redhead. I finally married a redhead (not the same guy). My matron of honor at my wedding was redheaded. I was hoping one of my sons would be redheaded like their dad but they ended up like me with brown hair. Two yrs ago I thot my grandson was going to have redhair (his mom was a strawberry blond as a child) but alas so far his hair is not red but is a honey color and when in the sun you can see streaks of reddish. So redheads have always been a big part of my life

    • leahlefler profile image
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      Leah Lefler 5 years ago from Western New York

      It is fascinating, isn't it, Deborah? Since it is recessive, it really does take two carriers to have a child with red hair. My son has strawberry blond hair that has now darkened (but returns to its reddish hue during the summer months). He has the freckles to match, so we go through a lot of sunscreen!

    • DeborahNeyens profile image

      Deborah Neyens 5 years ago from Iowa

      Interesting! I'm a red head but never knew the genetics behind it. I'm told my red-headed, Irish great grandmother was bummed that none of her children or grandchildren were red heads, but after she passed, several of us came along in my generation and the next generation.

    • leahlefler profile image
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      Leah Lefler 5 years ago from Western New York

      Current science disputes the theory - DNA has been sequenced from Neanderthal remains and the genetic sequencing shows an entirely different mutation in the MC1R gene than his found in humans - so the likelihood of a "genetic flow" from Neanderthals to homo sapiens is very low.

    • tamarawilhite profile image

      Tamara Wilhite 5 years ago from Fort Worth, Texas

      What do you think of the theory that due to the age of the red haired gene, that it came from Neandertals?

    • leahlefler profile image
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      Leah Lefler 5 years ago from Western New York

      I worry about the skin cancer risk, too, Kelly. We recently went to the beach and we used a lot of sunscreen on our boys to keep them from getting sunburned. I suppose forewarning is foreknowledge, and all we can do is use sunscreen and monitor for any skin changes!

    • KellyPittman profile image

      Kelly Pittman 5 years ago from Walker, LA

      My son is a red head - Or he likes to say it's orange. (He's 7 now) My husband and I both have dark brown hair and our daughter has light brown hair as I did as a child. Both sets of my husband and I's grandmothers were red heads so we assume we carried on something, though when someone asked our son, "Where do you get that red hair from?" He replies, "It grows outta my head." I do worry about the cancer risk as my grandmother died from a rare case of melanoma. Nice work on this hub. Very informative. Voted Up and Interesting.

    • leahlefler profile image
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      Leah Lefler 5 years ago from Western New York

      My mom had auburn hair, but my sister and I didn't pick up the red shade. I was tickled when Nolan's hair turned a beautiful strawberry blond (from my husband's side). The hair in our family tends to get darker with age, though, so it hides the red! Thanks for the comment, teaches!

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      My mother had red hair but none her children received this blessing. I had tints of red in my hair,but this was the closest anyone came to red hair. I have to say my mother had the most beautiful color of red, it was a darker shade and thick. Thanks for posting, I like your matrix on the dominant colors. Voted up.

    • leahlefler profile image
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      Leah Lefler 5 years ago from Western New York

      Hyphenbird, it is interesting how hair color changes with age. Sometimes the pigment producing cells produce more eumelanin as a person ages, but the gene for red hair is, of course, still there. The red color is just harder to see because it is masked by the darker hair. There are many variants of the MC1R gene that cause varying shades of red, and some are "weak" red genes that don't give the classic "carrot top" color. My husband's hair has darkened considerably, but he still has the freckles and his beard hair is very red!

    • Hyphenbird profile image

      Brenda Barnes 5 years ago from America-Broken But Still Beautiful

      You did a great job and a lot of research on this Hub. My dad was a redhead and so was I as a child. Alas, my hair turned dark as I aged. By the time I was fifteen, it was dark brown. My mom had coal black hair so it was natural to be confused. lol

      I really was fascinated by your research and commend you.

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      Leah Lefler 5 years ago from Western New York

      I did simplify the idea, of course - there are many polymorphisms of the MC1R gene that cause red hair, so one parent could easily carry one variant while another parent carries a different allele. And then there is complete vs. partial penetrance, etc. Still, it gives a general idea of how two brown haired parents might end up with a little redhead! Thanks for your comment, DFiduccia

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      DFiduccia 5 years ago from Las Vegas

      Leahlefler,

      I haven’t seen a Punnett square since I retired from teaching. It brings back memories of Mendel and dominant/ submissive traits. You really got into this hub—great presentation.

      Voted up—DF

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      Leah Lefler 5 years ago from Western New York

      Vanderleelie, there were many myths about redheads that fueled hatred and misunderstanding. Some in the Middle Ages believed that children with red hair were conceived while the mother was going through a menstrual cycle. In earlier times, it was believed to be a sign of witchcraft or an unlucky "mark." I am certainly glad my family lives in modern times!

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      Vanderleelie 5 years ago from New Brunswick, Canada

      This is interesting information. The fact that redheads are more sensitive to pain is perhaps one reason why they were considered "different" in other time periods. Voted up!

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      Leah Lefler 5 years ago from Western New York

      The MC1R gene is here to stay - the same rumors circulated about blond hair going extinct. My younger son's hair is getting darker and the red isn't as obvious in the winter. In the summer, though, he has the most wonderful red hair.

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      Kimberly Schimmel 5 years ago from North Carolina, USA

      I'm so glad red hair is not going extinct. Hubby and I have red-haired great-aunts and I have a redheaded sister and neice. Only one of our 6 kids is a redhead, but I'm hoping they all carry the gene on to future generations.