While only one in 200 people is a natural red-headed beauty, research by Clairol shows that 30 percent of women aged 18 to 34 who color their hair are choosing to go red. In comparison, only 27 percent choose brown and 26 percent choose blonde. So who’s having more fun now?
Bruce Springsteen and Dolly Parton both sang about the winsome and slightly dangerous beauty of a classic red head.
“Your beauty is beyond compare
With flaming locks of auburn hair
With ivory skin and eyes of emerald green.”
–Jolene by Dolly Parton
“Well brunettes are fine, man,
And blondes are fun.
But when it comes to getting a dirty job done
I’ll take a red-headed woman.”
–Red-Headed Woman by Bruce Springsteen
Your odds of being born a natural redhead go up if you hail from the British Isles. An estimated 10 percent of Irish have red hair (though at least 40 percent carry the recessive gene). In Scotland, redheads run at 13 percent and six percent in England.
Recent research indicates the weather might have something to do with all that ginger.
“The experts believe that the gloomy climate in Scotland prompted a deliberate genetic adaptation. Essentially, this means that red hair helps to take advantage of sunny days and allows the body to absorb more vitamin D,” writes Cathy Hayes in reporting to IrishCentral.com about the Scotlands DNA project. The project’s managing director Alistair Moffat described plans to create a sort of “ginger map” that may help explain the geographical prominence of redheads in an area that has far more cloudy days than sunny.
Redhead science saw its first big breakthrough in 1995 when Professor Jonathan Reese conducted a University of Edinburgh study of redheads. What he found was the melencortin 1 receptor (MC1R) on the 16th chromosome – the single gene responsible for red hair. To get even more scientific, a buildup of phaeomelanin leads to higher chances of being blonde or red. In most people the production of eumelanin (dark brown and black pigments) overpowers the phaeomelanin. MC1R blocks that production and opens wide the door to the beauty of red hair. And, with it, usually fair skin, freckles, light eyes, and left handedness (really, red heads are more likely to be left handed since recessive traits often come in pairs).
As for the fiery temperament so often linked with such red-headed beauties, there’s no scientific evidence to support that claim. Even so, it’s best to avoid using “carrot top” or asking if the carpet matches the drapes. Better safe than sorry.