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Can Black People Have Red Hair? Common Factors and Misconceptions

Young African American lady with pale skin and natural red hair

Black people come in a variety of shapes, colors, and sizes, but can they have red hair? That’s precisely what we’re going to address.

By the end of this article, you’ll know whether black people can have red hair, things that cause red hair, and interesting facts you didn’t know about redheads. Let’s jump right into it! 

Can Black People Have Red Hair?

Many believe that black people can only have dark-colored hair, however, that’s not the case. Though it’s extremely rare, black people can have red hair for a couple of reasons, and we’ll get into each of them in the below section:

Black girl with light skin and dark brown hair wearing a blue sweater

Albinism

Albinism is a genetic condition characterized by a reduction in melanin (skin pigment).  Someone who has Albinism usually has lighter skin, hair, and eyes.

When you think of an Albino person, you may picture someone who has light-colored eyes and white hair on their head, eyebrows, and eyelashes. What many people do not recognize, however, is that there are many types of Albinism.

The Albinism type that leads to red hair is called rufous Albinism. This form of Albinism causes people to have the following characteristics: 

  • Red hair
  • Brown or blue eyes
  • A golden or bronze skin color

This type of Albinism is caused by a mutation in the TYRP1 gene, making it difficult for the body to produce brown melanin. 

Genetic Causes

Often, red hair is caused by a mutation in the MCR1 gene, a gene that all humans have. The mutated MCR1 gene prompts the generation of an excessive amount of pheomelanin, which causes the physical characteristics common to red-haired people (freckles, lighter skin tones, etc.).

In order for someone to be born a redhead, both their mother and father need to have the mutated MCR1 gene.

Young black lady with a red hair color wearing a blue and white sweater

Mixed Lineage

There are very few pure black people. Almost all black people are mixed with some other race. Black people with Northern or Southern European ancestry are more likely to have red hair.

If you’ve ever taken an ancestry DNA test or watched someone else reveal their true lineage, you know how surprising it can be. 

Health Conditions in Redheaded People

Black people with red hair have a striking appearance; that’s no question. But you may not have known that several health conditions come along with having naturally red hair.

African female with curly red locks, an uncommon gene mutation among African populations

We will explain each of them in the below list: 

  1. Increased risk of cancer. People with red hair are at an increased risk of cancer, and not just any cancer, the most dangerous skin cancer – melanoma. Unfortunately, redheads’ mutated MCR1 gene doesn’t bind correctly to the PTEN gene. Because of this, red-haired people don’t have as much natural protection from this type of cancer as dark-haired people do. It’s for this reason that it’s always recommended for redheads to be especially careful when outside in the sun.
  2. Unsightly birthmarks. Red-haired people deal with large birthmarks more often than non-red-haired people. Sometimes, the birthmarks are so large that they cover more than half of the body. Though this is rare, it disproportionately affects people with red hair.
  3. Increased incidence of Parkinson’s disease – Not only are red-haired people at an increased risk of skin cancer, but they’re also more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease. Scientists and health professionals are not sure what’s behind this increased risk. 
  4. Redheads are often more sensitive to pain. For reasons unknown to medical professionals, it is common for redheads to require higher doses of anesthesia during surgery. 

Cool Facts About Black Redheads

Northern Europe African American woman with frizzy ginger hair and brown eyes

Though there are some unavoidable risks associated with being a redhead, there are also some perks. In this section, we will inform you of some of the perks of being a black redhead.

Black Redheads Are Rare

Redheads are a rare breed, making up only about 1 to 2% of humans. Black redheads are much more unique, making up a small fraction of that 1 to 2 percent.

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Undoubtedly, being different has its perks, but some may view this uniqueness negatively. This is because some black redheads feel lonely.

Unfortunately finding people who are like them can be challenging due to the rarity of a distinctive trait caused by uncommon human genetics. Due to these issues, you often see black redheads struggle with mental health issues.

Note: Please be kind to redheads and other people with unique features and characteristics. For example, if you notice someone with newly dyed black hair or a person with darker skin buying skin whitening cream because they don’t “fit in” with their race, there might be underlying reasons why this person is trying to change their appearance. Be kind and make a new friend – they might need it.

Redheads Don’t Go Gray

Another cool thing about black redheads is that they don’t get gray hair. When non-redheads lose their hair color pigment as they age, their hair takes on a gray or silver tone.

That’s not the case with redheads – instead of going from red to grey, their hair goes from red to white. Some may not like the idea of going white instead of grey, but we can’t deny that it’s fascinating. 

Redheads Have Low Hair Density

A mixed-raced adult female of Celtic descent with curly red hair

People with red hair don’t have as many hair strands as people without red hair. On average, people without red hair have around 150,000 strands on their heads.

Red-haired people, on the other hand, have less than 100,000 strands. While some may see this as a negative, red hair is often thicker than other hair colors, and this thickness makes up for its lower density

Redheads Burn Easily in The Sun

Redheads and the sun do not mix. When someone with red hair goes out in the sun, the sun immediately begins to burn them, unlike others who can stay in the sun for a much longer time without getting burned.

In the same vein, redheads produce their own vitamin D under low light conditions, as opposed to non-redheads who require either food or sunlight to make their own vitamin D. 

Redheads Are Often Left-Handed

For some reason, redheads are often left-handed, whereas the rest of the population is more likely to be right-handed. This is yet another cool differentiation between redheads and non-redheads. 

Bees Love Redheads

Bees absolutely love redheads, and experts believe that this is the case because redheads’ hair is bright and resembles a flower. 

It’s important to know that not all of these facts will apply to all redheads. At the end of the day, everyone is different, so it’s important not to apply generalizations to redheads. In the following section, we will jump into some of the undesirable aspects of being a redhead.

Cultural Downsides to Being A Redhead

A cute black girl with ginger red hair, green eyes, and fair skin that are predominantly white traits

People with red hair are often ostracized for reasons which have no real basis. Here are some of the unbelievable things that people have believed, or continue to believe, about redheads: 

  • People in some countries believe that redheads are witches. Perhaps this is because, at some point in ancient history, people used to dye their hair red to perform rituals and sorcery. 
  • Some believe that redheads are more emotional or reactive than people without red hair. There is no scientific basis for this thought, yet it persists.
  • Many believe that redheads are supernatural beings. 
  • Some think that redheads don’t have a soul. 

Due to these unfounded claims and beliefs, redheads may suffer harassment from strangers. It is an absolute shame, but it’s a very real occurrence.

Also specifically, for black redheads, racial tension can also bring about negative personal interactions.

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Conclusion

Now you know that black redheads do exist and you’ve learned about the causes behind red hair in black people. You’ve also read about some interesting facts and information about redheads.

What we want to make sure you remember is that redheads are much more than their hair. They deal with very specific health risks, cultural problems, and more.

So, if you see a black person with red hair, be sure to treat them with respect and compassion.