Every natural redhead has had a sunburn more than once in their life. As redheads, we know our burn risk is much, much higher than other hair colors. It’s something we’ve come to accept. But, have you ever wondered why redheads burn more easily? It may seem like a silly question, but why does fair skin (the complexion most of us redheads have) always equal a sunburn? Is it simply because we are pale? Why can some non-redheads with pale skin get a tan?
Here’s everything you need to know about why redheads burn so easily:
It’s about the melanin in the skin
Redheads tend to burn more easily in the sun because they typically have fair skin that contains lower amounts of melanin. Melanin is the pigment responsible for the color of your skin, hair, and eyes. It also provides some protection against the harmful effects of UV (ultraviolet) radiation from the sun.
Redheads often have less melanin in their skin, which means they have less natural protection against UV radiation compared to people with darker skin tones. This lack of melanin makes their skin more susceptible to sunburn, which can occur more quickly and severely when exposed to the sun’s UV rays. As a result, redheads are at a higher risk of sunburn, skin damage, and an increased risk of skin cancer if they do not take adequate sun protection measures, such as wearing sunscreen, protective clothing, and avoiding prolonged sun exposure.
And the MC1R gene
Redheads get their red hair from a mutation in the MC1R gene. This gene also affects the production of melanin in the body. The MC1R gene is a key factor that contributes to why many redheads are more prone to sunburn. The MC1R gene (melanocortin 1 receptor gene) plays a crucial role in determining hair and skin color, as well as the amount and type of melanin produced in the skin.
Redheads often carry variants of the MC1R gene that result in less production of eumelanin (the dark pigment responsible for tanning and natural sun protection) and more production of pheomelanin (the reddish-yellow pigment). This combination results in fair skin that has less natural protection against UV (ultraviolet) radiation from the sun. As a result, their skin is more susceptible to sunburn and the harmful effects of UV exposure.
While the MC1R gene is not the sole factor responsible for sunburn in redheads, it is a significant contributor to their increased sensitivity to UV radiation, making sun protection crucial for individuals with red hair and fair skin.
So, to answer our initial question, this is why non-redheads with fair skin can still tan — they simply have melanin. Of course, there are redheads who can get a tan, but it’s far less common.
While melanin might keep your skin from burning, it does not keep the skin from being damaged by the sun’s rays. That’s why it’s important for everyone, regardless of skin tone to wear sunscreen every single day. Remember: getting a tan is still a form of skin damage just like a sunburn.
Rock it like a Redhead!