Natural-born redheads are a rarity in the world. According to World Population Review, black and brown-haired people are the most prevalent by a wide margin (particularly in Africa and Eastern Asia). Blonde is less common but still widespread. Red-haired people make up roughly two percent of the world’s population. Ireland and Scotland have the highest percentage of people with naturally red hair (13% in Scotland and 10% in Ireland).
Redheads have thicker hair than other hair colors, though they have less hair. On average, Redheads have 90,000 strands while blondes have 110,000, and brunettes have 140,000. Culturally, redheads are treated differently. In Polynesia, red hair is considered a sign that one’s ancestors were of noble status. At different times in history, Europeans have considered red hair a sign of immorality, lycanthropy (werewolves) or vampirism. Redheads are occasionally referred to as “gingers,” but this term is often considered disrespectful when used by non-redheads.
Genetically, red hair is the result of two recessive genes located on chromosome-16. When both of these recessive genes are present, they result in red hair, very light/fair skin, freckles, heightened sensitivity to temperature and UV/sunlight, and increased pain tolerance. Because of their commonly fair skin and sensitivity to UV 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.
Scientists have also suggested that one can be a natural redhead due to environmental factors. In fact, the United Kingdom’s high redhead population is believed to be caused in part by the weather. Because of a redhead’s heightened sensitivity to sunlight, their bodies are able to generate vitamin D more efficiently. This makes redheads slightly better-suited to the UK’s frequently cloudy and rainy weather.
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