I have always had a thing for red hair. Maybe it was my obsession with Anne of Green Gables growing up. Or maybe it’s because my name is Annie, and I watched my namesake movie so many times as a kid that my older brother still complains about it.
Regardless, I find red hair stunning. On babies, on kids, on the cute guy in my college poetry class with the curly red hair and glasses—no matter who’s sporting it, ginger hair grabs my attention. Always.
If you’re a ginger yourself or you’ve got kids with red hair, here are some fascinating facts about our scarlet-topped fellow humans:
1. Red is the rarest hair color.
Worldwide, only 2% of people have red hair. In sheer numbers, the United States boasts the most redheads, but the highest concentrations are in Scotland (13% of the population), and Ireland (10% of the population). The true unicorn, though, is red hair matched with blue eyes. Most redheads have brown eyes.
2. Red hair can occur in any ethnicity.
Though it’s much more common among the British Islanders, red hair can pop up in populations all over the world, in diverse races and ethnicities.
3. Redheads are more likely to be left-handed.
Both red hair and left-handedness come from recessive genes. And since recessive genes tend to come in pairs, redheads statistically have a greater likelihood of being southpaws.
4. Red hair is hard to dye.
Scarlet locks hold their pigment more firmly than other colors, which makes it difficult for hair dye to work. (But why would you dye your hair, anyway, Ginger? Don’t do it!)
5. Red hair rarely goes gray.
Redheads may get blond or white streaks as they age, but not gray. The pigment in red hair just fades over time, it doesn’t gray like other colors do.
6. Redheads have thicker hair than the rest of us, but less of it.
Each strand of red hair is thicker than other colors. That’s why redheads often appear to have lots of hair, even though they actually tend to have fewer strands. The average brunette has 140,000 strands of hair, while redheads have about 90,000.
7. Redheads require more anesthesia.
My best friend’s daughter has red hair, and she learned this from her dentist. A small study in the journal Anesthesiology found that female redheads require 19 percent more anesthesia than non-redheads. The theory is that the protein mutation that causes red hair and fair skin makes people more perceptive to pain.
8. Redheads tend to be more sensitive to temperature.
And their bodies change temperature more quickly than the rest of us, too. The ginger gene, MC1R, may cause the gene that detects temperature to over-activate, so redheads tend to be more sensitive to the cold and the heat.
9. Redheads can produce their own vitamin D in low light.
The rest of us need a certain amount of sunlight for our bodies to produce vitamin D, or take it as a supplement, but redheads’ bodies can make it even with minimal light. Impressive!
10. Redheads have a wonderfully weird history of superstition associated with them.
Ancient Greeks apparently believed that redheads turned into vampires after they died. Hitler reportedly believed two redheads would have “deviant offspring.” In ancient Rome, redheaded slaves were sold for more than their non-ginger counterparts. And “gingerphobia” is a thing, too—a fear or intense dislike of redheads.
I don’t get it, being a gingerphile myself, but whatever. Keep on being your rare and fabulous selves, redheads!