The Real Red Is Rare

by Sherry Riter in Red Hair

What do all these crayons have in common?

view 1 row of red crayons
That’s right. They are are all red.
view 2 row of red crayons

But what about these crayons?
view 1 row of red crayons with a red orange crayon

view 2 row of red crayons with a red orange crayon

I have been the proverbial red-orange crayon. I was born with FLAMING red hair. I was complimented by adults and persecuted by my peers. According to RHCP, there are sixteen different “red” hair colors:

  1. metallic
  2. copper or cupric
  3. ruddy
  4. brownish
  5. strawberry
  6. fawny
  7. sandy
  8. flaming
  9. orange
  10. ginger
  11. golden
  12. yellow
  13. straw
  14. cinnamon
  15. rust
  16. carrot

Don’t let me lose you because this gets really interesting. Besides, this is REALLY about ME, so be polite and show a little interest (grin). Appealing to my left brain, here is a plotting or mapping of the red hair color.

red hair color names graph

Do you know one reason why that is truly fascinating? I’m going to tell you. I’m sure that is shocking. (I’m in a funny mood)

Approximately only 1% to 2% of the world’s human population has red hair! People with red hair often also have fair skin color, freckles and sensitivity to ultraviolet light. There is a gene called the MC1R that is found on chromosome 16 which is the basis of red hair. This means also that melanin is lower in people with red hair, thus their inability to “tan” and the higher prevalence of skin cancer. That is why I wear sunblock 75 during the summer. Did you even know that they make sunblock 75? Ridiculous isn’t it!

So the mutated MC1R cell also does something else that redheads in general do not like to hear, but here goes…The “mutation” in the cell causes the release of the hormone that stimulates these cells and it in turn stimulates the part of the brain responsible for “pain” and the sensitivity to pain. Ugh. That was hard to type! The positive is that everyone in my family who laughs at me because I act like a lunatic when I get hurt, needs to apologize. OBVIOUSLY my pain is REAL and I REALLY CAN’T HELP THAT I HURT AND LOOK LIKE A WIMP. Wow! This is getting me all worked up!

Here are a few facts:

  • Contrary to popular belief, red hair is not going to become extinct in the near future. Because of the recessive aspect of the gene, it will be in existence for a long time.
  • That same recessive aspect means that even if both people do not have red hair, they can still have a redheaded child. This was the case with my parents…both had brown hair. I had a couple grandmothers who had red hair.
  • All redheads do not have a “fiery” temper. I did. (No comments from my family) I did not like the lack of control that I felt when I became angry, so I purposely worked to improve this trait in myself. I CHANGED! I do not get angry three times a day just “because” as I did in the past. People who know me now can not imagine me ever getting mad. I would say with that statement, I can claim to have successfully killed off the demon of ugly, fiery temper which is now buried. May it ever rest in peace…that was really funny.
  • Redheads have been worshipped in some time periods and murdered during other eras. Strange how we can be upheld like angels and Gods and yet not soon after, burned like witches, vampires and demons. To set the record straight we are not any of the above although the mystery behind people with red hair is ever present.
  • Carrot tops are GREEN. Have you ever pulled a carrot out of the garden. Before you pulled it out of the dirt, what color did you see? It was GREEN. You saw leaves. Duh! When we are children, we do not like all those names you think are cute. So if you have a redheaded child, please realize that we have a rough time at school and our peers see us as the perfect target for the brunt of all their bullying. Now that I’m grown, I just love my red hair. It adds to my quirkiness and uniqueness.

The other person in my family who has red hair is my niece, Brittany. I wanted to attach a picture of my hair compared to her hair. As you can see below, they appear to be almost identical in color. My hair is on the left and Brittany’s is on the right. Phenomenal.

comparison of The Redhead Riter and Brittany's red hair

So compare that with my daughter’s blond hair. Talk about contrasting colors!

Alyssa's blond hair

contrast of hair between mother and daughter

Did you learn anything? I left out the part that redheads are the kindest, most sincere, highly intelligent, extraordinarily talented people on Earth. Oh come on, don’t you believe me!

So the next time you lose a redheaded friend or family member in a crowd, just stand on something tall and I’m sure you’ll spot them quickly. See? There ARE advantages to having red hair!

This post was written by...

Sherry Riter is also known as The Redhead Riter. Sherry is witty, intelligent and addictive as she writes about cooking, family, marriage, failures, blogging tips, art, humor, inspiration, travel, PTSD and aging. Her goal is to inspire, motivate, educate and to make her audience laugh. Sherry embraces being a redhead and helps others to see the redhead point of view…"In some eras redheads were worshipped while others thought us witches. Personally, I like the former and think every day is 'Love a redhead day!'" She can also be found on Facebook, Google+, Pinterest, StumbleUpon, Linkedin, tweeting as @TheRedheadRiter and you can subscribe to her free blog feed.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Lover of Life May 27, 2009 at 8:52 pm

I found this fascinating. Thanks for the education. I will never look at red hair the same. Your hair is beautiful, by the way!


2 MommaD May 28, 2009 at 2:37 am

i am very excited to tell my dad that carrot tops are green, which in fact is the obvious truth. he is obsessed with red hair, has a red headed wife, and examined each and every one of my children for the trait. i disappointed in not perpetuating the recessive gene. blessings! following you now, visiting from MBC


3 Momma Snail May 28, 2009 at 3:42 am

Have you found the SPF 100 yet from Neutragena? Thanks for the great lesson on redheads!


4 Louisa May 29, 2009 at 12:55 am

I LOVE This post! As a born and bred red head with a red headed sister, brother, father and grandfather (or so I am told) we were all THRILLED when our little girl was born a flaming red head – and with a Chinese grandmother too!! Great post! Great to meet another red-headed blogger & thanks so much for visiting my blog on my SITS day this week!! Did you notice her red hair??


5 Stacey August 1, 2009 at 12:32 pm

You are too funny! It looks like my new granddaughter might have red hair. My mom and my aunts had auburn hair, and I have one cousin that has the flaming red hair.


6 moonduster August 3, 2010 at 10:54 am

As a redhead myself, I loved reading this. I was born with FLAMING red hair too, but around the age of four or five, it settled down a bit and now it's just "normal" red. 🙂

Not one of my seven children got red hair, although my 5th, a girl, was born with auburn hair which looked very red. But at 5 months old, her hair mostly fell out and then grew back in a few months later blonde. It started as strawberry blonde but then the "strawberry" in it faded away and now she's just a golden blonde. The rest of my kids are brunettes.

One thing my kids love is that I refer to myself as a mutant. The redhair, freckles, fair-skinned combination is caused, not by the gene but by the mutation in the gene. Thus, I am a mutant.

I was wondering what superpower my mutation gave me, but then I read your article and found out that it is just extra sensitivity to pain. I think I'd like to skip that particular superpower!

And while I'm handing back mutant superpowers, can I hand back the ability to turn bright red within only ten minutes of exposure to sunlight?


7 moonduster August 3, 2010 at 10:56 am

Oh, and while I am remembering this, in my biology courses at school, I was told that TRUE red hair is actually a dominant gene trait, but not everyone with red hair has the truest form of the trait and most have mixed hair color genes.


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