Gingers, redheads, carrot tops–there are
a lot nicknames for those with red hair, especially
considering that red is the rarest human hair
However, while gingers may be (relatively)
few in number, their fiery locks attract outsized
Nonetheless, there are some facts about redheads
that may still surprise you.
Below, find 10 fiery facts about the gingers
who walk among us…
Gingers of the world, unite!
That’s the message behind “Roodharigendag”
(“Red Head Days” in English), an annual
weekend festival held in the city of Breda
in the Netherlands that draws gingers from
across the world (and thousands of spectators)
to celebrate their fiery locks.
The festival began in 2005, when a local Dutch
artist sought to emulate some of history’s
great painters by looking for 15 redheaded
models for his paintings.
When his ad in the local paper drew ten times
that number, the gathering kicked off an annual
2013’s festival in Breda set a world record
for the most redheads gathered in one place—1,672—who
were captured in a photo at the event.
Breda’s Roodharigendag has inspired additional
gatherings around the world.
In 2015, Chicago held its own Redhead Days,
drawing more than 1000 gingers and similar
gatherings were held in 2016 in the UK and
in Ireland, though as of 2017, Roodharigendag
remains the world’s largest ginger party.
There are some “beard-only” gingers
One of the many trends driven by hipsters
has been a resurgence of the popularity of
But as some men grow out their beards for
the first time, they may be in for a surprise.
Redheaded men aren’t the only ones who grow
red facial hair!
The so-called “gingerbeard” can appear
on men with blond, brown, or black hair on
What’s behind the gingerbeard–the same
force that drives red hair—genetics.
According to an expert at a Dutch genetics
organization, the MC1R gene, which produces
red hair when two copies are present (one
from each parent), can produce patches of
red hair elsewhere (including in facial hair),
when just one copy is present.
Basically, any guy with a redheaded ancestor
has a chance of carrying this gene, and thus,
of being able to grow a gingerbeard.
One Irish publication went so far as to say
this genetic twist is the reason that all
Irishmen have beards with at least a touch
of ginger in them.
Not all gingers are white
When you picture a redhead, chances are you
picture someone who looks like Ed Sheeran
or Christina Hendricks, which is to say someone
with very fair skin and features that are
But people of color can have red hair too.
Photographer Michelle Marshall captured this
reality in her photo series MCR1 (named for
the gene that produces red hair), which features
portraits of gingers of Afro-Caribbean ancestry.
In China, the Uyghur population counts natural
redheads amongst its ranks.
In both of these cases, scientists believe
the redheads reflect some degree of European
ancestry (though not recent ancestry).
However, in the Solomon Islands, about 5 to
10% of the population, who generally have
dark skin, also have blond or reddish hair.
While scientists initially suspected some
long-forgotten European ancestors were responsible
for the genes that produced the light hair,
studies showed a completely different gene,
TYRP1, which is not linked to European ancestry,
was the cause.
There are also some diseases or genetic disorders
that can result in red hair, including one
variety of albinism, a syndrome caused by
malnutrition, and the absence of a certain
So, while many redheads have European ancestry,
not all do, and there are redheads of color
whose appearances challenge conventional ginger
Depending on how you measure it, gingers have
the thinnest, or the thickest, hair – and
it wants to stay red
On average, redheads have the thinnest hair.
They also have the thickest hair.
How can you untangle this gingery paradox?
The truth depends on your definition of “thick”
or “thin” hair.
On average, a strand of red hair is larger
in diameter than strands of other hair colors,
red hairs are on average the “thickest.”
However, on average, redheads have the fewest
number of hair follicles on their scalps—90,000–vs.
brunettes, who average 140,000 follicles and
blonds who clock in with 100,000, on average.
So, in terms of number of hairs per head,
redheads have the “thinnest” hair.
In addition to these physical differences,
the composition of red hair means that, basically,
it fights to stay red.
Red pigment is the hardest hair color to remove
through bleaching, which is why brunettes
(whose hair contains some red pigment) trying
to go blond may end up with a brassy shade
Additionally, as gingers age, their hair is
more likely to appear strawberry blond than
grey, because the lightening effect that happens
to hair as we age combines differently with
red pigment than with other hair colors.
Gingers have inspired great art
Red hair catches the eye, both because of
its brightness and relative rarity.
This quality has long attracted artists, many
of whom have featured redheads prominently
in their work.
Titian, the leading member of the 16th century
Venetian school, featured redheaded women
in several of his works.
His use of color was very progressive for
the time and his signature “Titian red”
color survives to this day, both as a paint
color and an adjective applied to gingers.
Later, the painter Rossetti would also be
inspired by redheads, using several as models
for his portraits of “
flaming libertines,” and even taking one
as his lover.
Other artists drawn to redheads include Toulouse-Lautrec
Degas painted perhaps the most ginger painting
of all time, “La Coiffure” (“Combing
the Hair”), which features a an older redheaded
woman brushing out the fiery locks of a younger
woman on a red background.
Gingers aren’t going extinct any time soon
In 2014, there was a flurry of media coverage
that suggested that redheads could be going
the way of the dodo.
Articles, such as this one, suggested that
a change in climate that produced less cloudy
weather could cause the recessive gene that
causes red hair (and also allows for better
Vitamin D absorption in locales without much
sunlight) to die out within a few hundred
So will humanity’s future be gingerless?
The premise of the extinction of redheads
is based on a lot of faulty science.
Basically, even if we assume the future will
be sunnier, and that redheads will be uniquely
disadvantaged in their ability to handle the
new climate, and that redheadedness is exclusively
linked to a single gene which confers no other
qualities than hair color and reaction to
sunlight (all of which are themselves problematic
and likely incorrect assumptions), this premise
ignores the fact that most carriers of the
gene that is most clearly linked to red hair
are not, themselves, ginger.
Basically, as long as anyone with any ginger
in the family tree is producing offspring,
there’s a chance that the gene survives
and eventually, when two non-ginger carriers
of the gene have a baby (or several), BAM,
gingers will be produced and redheads will
Gingers have their own dating websites
Speaking of not going extinct, gingers have
found another way to ensure the continuity
of their redheaded genes—through ginger
Taylor Swift once reportedly said, “I like
people with red hair, I would do a ginger”
and the existence of numerous matchmaking
websites for redheads (and those who love
them, or want to love them) proves that Taylor’s
not alone in that sentiment.
While mainstream dating website Match.com
came under fire for ads that suggested red
hair and freckles were “imperfections,”
sites like redheaddates.com, findaginger.com,
and gingersingles.com are designed for those
who think redheads are the perfect potential
Most of these sites only offer their services
in countries where redheads are relatively
more common—the US, the UK, Ireland, South
Africa, Australia, and New Zealand, so if
you’re in a part of the world that’s light
on gingers, you may have to meet them the
Being a ginger can be a pain—literally!
Do redheads really feel pain differently?
Even the researchers who conducted studies
around this issue admit that they initially
viewed the idea that redheads require more
anesthesia as an, “urban legend in the anesthesia
However, science has shown that those who
carry the MC1R gene (which includes a majority
of redheads, as well as some non-redheads
who are carriers) really do have different
reactions to pain medication than the general
In terms of anesthesia, redheads require more
medication for general anesthesia and are
less sensitive to the effects of local anesthesia
(like the numbing agents used by dentists).
A study by the American Dental Association
showed that redheads were more likely to have
dental phobias and avoid dental care, perhaps
because of this effect.
Gingers are also more sensitive to pain caused
by temperature—so grabbing an overly hot
cup of coffee may cause more intense pain
for a redhead than for someone without the
But it’s not all bad news for gingers.
In some areas, like opiate/analgesic painkillers,
drugs actually impact MC1R carriers more strongly,
meaning redheads can withstand more pain at
the same dosage of painkiller, than their
blond and brunette counterparts without the
Redheads are rare, but less so in some countries
While there is no “ginger census,” making
exact figures difficult to come by, it is
generally estimated that 1-2% of the world’s
human population has red hair.
However, these tens of millions of redheads
are not evenly distributed across the globe.
Instead there are “ginger pockets,” places
where the genetic predisposition for red hair
is carried by a higher percentage of the population.
These redhead hot spots fall largely where
you might expect, with England, Scotland,
and Ireland having the highest per capita
Scientists suggest that a form of natural
selection that took place tens of thousands
of years ago meant that the ginger gene became
most common in human settlements in areas
with less sunshine, since redheads are more
easily able to produce Vitamin D, even with
minimal sun exposure.
According to a 2013 DNA study, Scotland is
the Earth’s ginger capital, with roughly
6% of Scots having red hair.
The Edinburgh region was the most ginger area
of Scotland, with 40% of the population carrying
a genetic predisposition for red hair.
In terms of sheer numbers, the US is likely
to have the largest ginger population of any
country, up to 18 million according to one
Gingers have been well-represented amongst
Redheads have been well represented on the
British throne and amongst its Tudor royal
Perhaps the most well-known royal redhead
is Elizabeth I, who reigned as Queen of England
from 1558 to her death in 1603.
Queen Elizabeth often wore wigs, and made
her red hair a signature part of her look,
with some rumors suggesting that she even
had the tails of her horses dyed to match.
Why did she make her ginger tresses a key
component of her look, especially since, at
the time, red hair was stigmatized for its
association with the “barbaric” Irish
and Scots, as well as its association with
Judaism (including the frequent depiction
of Judas, who betrayed Jesus, as a redhead)?
Queen Elizabeth had a few reasons for her
Her father, Henry VIII, had been a redhead,
so her red hair helped definitely establish
that she was clearly his legitimate child,
and therefore, entitled to the throne (her
cousin, Mary Queen of Scots, also inherited
the Tudor red hair, but her tresses were not
sufficient to protect her throne, or ultimately,
The red hair, coupled with her pale skin,
also helped to differentiate Elizabeth’s
look, and Protestant England, as distinct
from the darker looks and Catholicism that
predominated elsewhere in Europe.
While she clearly chose to be a redhead through
her wigs, accounts suggest Elizabeth’s ginger
roots were also natural.
The most prominent contemporary royal ginger
is Prince Harry.
Prince Harry once complained that an official
portrait made him look, “a little bit more
ginger…than I am in real life” and shared
that his brother and Army buddies had teased
him for his red hair.
Prince Harry’s lack of redhead pride didn’t
stop a so-called “ginger extremist,” with
neo-Nazi beliefs and mental health problems,
from concocting a bizarre plot to murder Prince
Charles and Prince William so that Prince
Harry would become king and the crown would
once again rest on a ginger head.
Luckily, the plan was foiled, and those who
want to see a redhead on the throne will now
have to hope that Prince George (William’s
son) gets more ginger with age.