Red hair (or ginger hair) occurs naturally in 1–2% of the human population. It occurs more frequently (2–6%) in people of northern or western European ancestry, and less frequently in other populations. Red hair appears most commonly in people with two copies of a recessive allele on chromosome 16 which produces an altered version of the MC1R protein.
Red hair varies in hues from a deep burgundy or bright copper (reddish-brown or auburn) through to burnt orange or red-orange and strawberry blond. It is characterized by high levels of the reddish pigment pheomelanin and relatively low levels of the dark pigment eumelanin. It is associated with fair skin color, lighter eye colors (gray, blue, green, and hazel), freckles, and sensitivity to ultraviolet light.
Cultural reactions have varied from ridicule to admiration; many common stereotypes exist regarding redheads and they are often portrayed as fiery-tempered.
The term redhead has been in use since at least 1510.
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