This post is NOT sponsored by 23andMe.
The DNA and genetic testing company 23andMe is widely known for being able to give users in-depth information on not only their ancestry and background but their genetic makeup as well. The company has a page dedicated to natural redheads and the MC1R gene.
They break down why red hair exists:
“Hair color comes from melanin, a pigment in your skin, hair, and eyes. If you produce a lot of the melanin type eumelanin, you probably have black or brown hair. If you don’t produce much eumelanin, your hair is probably blond. And, if you have low levels of eumelanin plus high levels of a red/yellow pigment called pheomelanin, you may have red hair.”
The 23andMe website then digs into the genetic background of natural redheads:
A gene called MC1R plays a role in whether someone will have red hair. People who have certain variants in this gene are more likely to have red hair because they have higher levels of pheomelanin.
Did you know redheads have been around for a very long time? The website continues:
These red hair variants in MC1R likely first appeared in ancient humans around 30,000-80,000 years ago. Data suggests that genetic variants associated with red hair became common in northern latitudes by chance. That became possible after humans migrated out of Africa to less sunny climates, because it was no longer necessary to maintain the darker pigmentation that acted as a shield against harmful UV rays.
When a customer purchases a 23andMe kit, one of the features many enjoy is the ability to show you the likelihood of having specific traits. Redheads might be told we’re likely to have red hair, and although we know we already do, it can show you how you compare to others with similar genetic makeup. Meaning, they are able to tell you what percentage of people with genetics similar to yours have red hair and what percentage don’t.
This is very interesting, especially for those who don’t come from “typical” redhead backgrounds. While not 100% accurate, this tool may also be used able to tell participants who don’t have red hair if they are likely to carry the gene or not.
Would you consider getting the 23andMe kit?
Rock it like a Redhead!