Can Black People Have Red Hair? Facts about African Redheads

Young African American lady with pale skin and natural red hair

Black people come in various 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?

Black people can have red hair, even though it’s rare. Contrary to common belief, not all Black people have dark-colored hair. Only a tiny fraction of the global population, about 1-2%, has red hair. Among this group, there are Black redheads.

Genetic mutations, mixed lineage, or conditions like rufous Albinism cause red hair. Black redheads showcase the vast genetic diversity within African populations.

Key Takeaways

  • Gene Mutation: People of African and European descent can both have red hair. Melanin production is affected by gene mutations in the MCR1 and TYRP1 genes. The rufous Albinism type leads to natural red hair, light skin, and brown eyes in some individuals.
  • Recessive Genes: Red hair is a result of recessive genes. It often requires both parents to carry the mutation for an offspring to have natural red hair. This recessive trait is more common in Northern Europe. Although, it can appear in African Americans and other populations globally.
  • Skin Pigmentation Variations: Natural redheads often have fair or pale skin. When combined with African genetics, redheads can have a range of skin tones, from light to dark skin. This is evident in diverse regions from the West Indies to the United States.
  • A rarity in the World’s Population: Redheads make up only about 1-2% of the world’s population. Black redheads are even rarer, making up a fraction of this percentage.
  • Cultural and Social Impacts: Red hair can lead to social challenges and perceptions. These interactions occur both offline and on social media. The rarity of black redheads, combined with misconceptions, can influence these social interactions.


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. 

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

Genetic Causes

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

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. For this reason, 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 some unavoidable risks are 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.

Black People with Red Hair - @LifewithDrTrishVarner - Professional Genealogist Reacts

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.

Black Women Ginger Hair Compilation! Silk Press, Hair Dye, Wigs, etc! Fall Season Hair

There is also an emerging movement of “black gingers,” or black girls with red hair created with red hair dye. The video above is an example of the many hairstyles that you’ll see black girls with ginger hair wearing around town.

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; it's uncommon to see ginger hair on black women

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.

Similarly, 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 Naturally Red Hair

Bees love redheads, and experts believe 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 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 people believe 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 bring about negative personal interactions.

Related Articles

Frequently Asked Questions

We’ve created a list of common questions and answers about red hair in black individuals. Dive in to uncover brief answers to your most pressing questions.

What Causes a Black Person to Have Red Hair?

Black people can have red hair for different reasons. One reason is Albinism, specifically rufous Albinism. Rufous Albinism is caused by a mutation in the TYRP1 gene, which makes it hard to produce brown melanin. Another reason is genetic causes. The mutation in the MCR1 gene leads to excessive pheomelanin. Finally, mixed lineage can also contribute. Black individuals with European ancestry might have genes that cause red hair.

Can African Americans Have Red Hair?

Yes, African Americans can have red hair, although it’s rare. When it occurs, it can be caused by genetic factors, like gene mutations, Albinism, or mixed ancestry with populations that have more red hair.

Where Are Black People With Red Hair?

Black people with red hair can be found worldwide. Red hair can occur in black individuals due to genetics, Albinism, or mixed lineage. It’s not limited to any specific region. However, it’s worth noting that it’s a rare occurrence.

What Races Have Red Hair?

Red hair is primarily found in individuals of Northern and Western European descent. It’s widespread among the Celtic populations of Ireland, Scotland, and Wales. People of any race or ethnicity, like Africans, Asians, or Middle Easterners, can have red hair. This can happen because of genetic variations or mutations.

Does Red Hair Look Good on Black People?

Beauty and aesthetic appeal are subjective and vary among individuals. Black people with natural or dyed red hair often receive compliments for their unique look. The contrast can be beautiful. What’s important is how the individual feels about their look.

Can Redheads Have Dark Skin?

Yes, redheads can have dark skin. Some people with dark skin can have natural red hair due to genetic variations and conditions like rufous Albinism. Some people with mixed ancestries, especially those with European heritage, may have red hair and darker skin.

Black People Can Have Red Hair

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 some interesting facts and information about redheads.

We want to ensure you remember that redheads are much more than their hair. They deal with particular health risks, cultural problems, and more. So, if you see a black person with red hair, treat them with respect and compassion.

Similar Posts