Melanin Research: Ways to Form Red Hair on Black People

April 28, 2022 5 min read

red hair on black people

How would you describe a typical redhead? Do you think of Julianne Moore: light-skinned and beautiful, with rust-colored hair and a flush of crimson through her porcelain cheeks? Or do you think of Ed Sheeran? 

Either way, it's likely the redhead in your mind is white. Far too many people don’t know that black people with red hair even exist. Do you know the hair color of this guy?

red hair on black people

Marion S. Trikosko (color by emijrp), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

It’s unbelievable that such a thing could be true in 2022, but it is, and I’m of a mind to bring reality to the forefront. Black people can be born with red hair, in every shade on the spectrum, practically. I’ll wager that you’ve never seen anything so gorgeous. 

Let’s dive in! 

Can Black People Have Red Hair? 

A person often has some very wrong stereotypes about whether red hair is determined by a certain ethnic group or geographical location. However, given that 70-140 million people (about 1 to 2% of the world's population) have red hair, these stereotypes have proven to be unfounded. Redheads come from all races, skin colors, genders, and ages all over the world.

Many believe that black people can only have dark-colored hair, however, that's not the case. To put it simply, there are black people with red hair. They come from everywhere with a variety of skin tones. Let's take a look at these beautiful redhead photos below! 

red hair on black people

Photo by Godisable Jacob from Pexels

red hair on black people

Source: Pinterest

red hair on black people

Source: Pinterest

red hair on black people

Source: Pinterest

Why Do I Get My Red Hair? 

Well, a red hair can have many causes. If you have red hair, you are probably one of the following: 

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 
red hair on black people

Erik JacobsCC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

    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.). For someone to be born a redhead, both their mother and father need to have the mutated MCR1 gene.

    red hair on black people

    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 they're true lineage, you know how surprising it can be. 

    red hair on black people

    Courtesy of Ebony Lumpkin

    Red Hair on Black People: Fascinating Facts 

    Black Redheads Are Rare (Certainly!)

    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

    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. 

    Redheads Have Better Pain Tolerance 

    Recent research tells us that redheads have a good tolerance for pain. This study, conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and published in Science Advances, explains why redheads have better pain tolerance than those without red hair. 

    red hair on black people

    Source: Pinterest

    This is because the pigment-producing cells in the skin lack the function of a receptor. They, therefore, cause an imbalance between pain sensitivity and pain tolerance. This is an important premise for designing new pain treatments. 

    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 Often Have Low Hair Density

    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. 

    red hair on black people

    Source: Pinterest

    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 vitamin D under low light conditions, as opposed to non-redheads who require either food or sunlight to make their vitamin D. 

    red hair on black people

    Source: Pinterest

    Bees Love Redheads

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

    red hair on black people

    Source: Pinterest

    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. 

    Conclusion

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

    What we want to make sure you remember is that redheads are much more than their hair. The red hair machine on black people only accentuates their uniqueness and identity. If you are one of those lucky people who happen to have red hair and dark skin, cherish your privilege. Wish you a lucky day! 


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