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Why Red Hair Is So Rare, Plus 3 Other Surprising Facts About Redheads

It Takes Science, Genes and a Little Luck!

Ever wonder why redheads make up less than 2% of the population? It’s all about science, genes, and a little luck! Red hair occurs when the MC1R gene is present. This is a recessive gene that must be carried by both parents in order for a child to have red hair. Since it is a recessive gene, it can be carried without having the traits of a redhead. The odds of having a redheaded child depend on the hair color and genes of the parents.

The best chance of a baby being born with red hair comes when both parents have red hair. This is because there is no other dominant gene to push the recessive gene aside. Check out these statistics:

  • If only one parent has red hair, but both carry the gene, the chances go down to about 50%.
  • If neither parent has red hair but both carry the gene, the chances decrease to about 25%.
  • If one parent carries the gene but the other does not, a baby has no chance at having red hair, but the baby may carry the gene recessively.

Think that’s cool? Check out 3 more surprising facts about redheads:

Redheads require more anesthesia 

“Redheads do experience more pain,” says Dr. Daniel Sessler on the How to be a Redhead podcast. He’s a world-renowned researcher and anesthesiologist. He was quoted in the 2009 New York Times article, “Pain of Being a Redhead”. He extensively studied redheads and concluded redheads DO experience more pain than most and DO need more anesthesia!

On Season 2, Episode 13 of the How to be a Redhead podcast, Dr. Sessler gives important medical knowledge for all natural-born redheads. It’s a must-listen. You can listen on iTunes, Spotify, or anywhere you listen to podcasts. It was a truly fascinating conversation. Listen and read more here.

Redheads feel pain differently 

The study, led by David E. Fisher, MD, PhD, director of the Mass General Cancer Center’s Melanoma Program and director of MGH’s Cutaneous Biology Research Center, studied a strain of red-haired mice. He speaks on the How to be a Redhead podcast about why redheads feel pain differently than blondes and brunettes. Listen and read more here. 

Redheads are more likely to be left-handed 

There is limited scientific research regarding being a redhead and a “lefty,” but it seems to be common. Similar to having red hair, left-handedness is a recessive trait, with an estimated 10 to 12 percent of people being lefties. Recessive traits tend to come in pairs, which suggests why a lot of redheads are also left-handed.

So there you have it, that’s why redheads are so rare. Unlike other hair colors, redheads need all the genes to line up just perfectly and have luck on their side to be blessed with their ginger locks.

Rock it like a Redhead!