Questions on redness

This rubric compiles all the questions you could ask yourself about being a ginger. Nowadays a lot of people dye their hair to artificially obtain this rare hair color. In Antiquity, Roman brunettes would buy ginger wigs off of Germanic tribes.

Imagine the surprise of the first men of Antiquity as they discovered for the first time other men and women with a fair skin, light eyes and blond or ginger hair, characteristics of the Celts! They must have had a lot of questions. Questions that still remain today.

82596481_oHow many are we in the world?

Gingers represent approximately 1 to 2% of the world’s population, the equivalent of 70 to 140 million people. In Europe they represent 4% of the population. And they are mostly dominant (2 to 4%) amongst populations of Northern and Eastern Europe.

In France there are approximately 5% of gingers in total.

Where can we be found?

This hair color is mostly dominant in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Gingers are common amongst germanic and celtic people. Scotland gathers the most  with an average of 13% of the whole population. Then comes Ireland with 10% of light haired people (blonds, gingers or light browns) over the whole population. There is also a high percentage of gingers in Wales and at the Scottish border with England.

There is also a high number of gingers among the Ashkenazi Jews (jews that coalesced in the Holy Roman Empire around the turn of the first millennium).  Moreover, in European culture before the 20th century, being ginger was perceived as a real jewish characteristic.In Italy this stereotype was very strong, and still today gingerness still remains associated with judaism in certain parts of Oriental Europe and Russia.

In reality you’ll find gingers all around the Mediterranean Sea, a historic place of mixing of populations including Slav, Germanic and Anatolian people. Conversely, you will find almost no gingers in Asia and in the South Pacific region and very few in Africa.

Why is my hair red?

Let’s try and avoid middle ages’ associations of red hair and evil and instead take a look at actual science.

Same as skin pigments, the hair pigments are composed of all types of melanin. What is melanin you ask? It is a dark brown to black pigment occurring in the hair, skin, and iris of the eye in people and animals. It is responsible for the tanning of the skin  exposed to sunlight.

There are two main groups of melanin : eumelanin (black or brown) and pheomelanin (yellow-orange to red; in high quantity). Brown hair contains a high quantity of eumelanin, whereas someone with light hair (blond, red or light brown) has much more pheomelanins. Depending on the lightness of red hair, there is a higher or lower proportion of pheomelanins (and eumelanins).

So… You still believe Middle Ages myths..?

What is the origin of ginger hair?

Fasten your seat belts.

It is only in 1997 that was revealed for the first time the origin of red hair. About time right?? Especially when you think that the gene responsible, the MC1R, must be 50 000 to 100 000 years old! It is some variants of this gene, occurring on chromosome 16, that are responsible for red hair, fair skin and freckles.

I am not going to start with the explanation of the nature of the chromosome or the DNA (mostly because I cannot). The only thing to remember is that one particular version of the red-hair gene, the red-hair allele, is an allele that does not let red-yellow pigments (pheomelanins) turn into dark brown to black pigments (eumelanins). [See article : Why is my hair red?]. Therefore there is a cumulation of red-yellow color which gives the red color to the hair. Moreover you need to have two copies of this red-hair allele (one from the father and one from the mother) for this characteristic to actually happen.

As usual there is more than one possible outcome : some people only have their pubic hairs ginger, or their armpits hairs, or men can have brown hair and a ginger mustache or a ginger beard.

Was it the case of the bloody murderer Barberousse?

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Everything about freckles

Once more the origin of the word freckles is not a really good one. Once, in Scotland a man was banned from the Kingdom for his strange behavior that frightened the people who called him a freak. This man had a large number of speckles on his body. Hence the combination of freak and speckles which became freckles. How flattering.

BUT

83454156_oDid you know that the scientific name for freckles is Ephelis (from the roots Epi- for effect, result and helios- the sun, light)? Much nicer!

Where do freckles, or ephelis, come from?

Ephelis are hereditary. Meaning that parents pass them on to their children. It is NOT a skin anomaly but a physical characteristic just like hair, skin or eye color. They are very common among gingers but also among some blondes, brunettes or persons of mixed race. Situated most of the time on the face and arms, they can also appear on other body parts in different quantities.

83454110_oWhat is an Ephelis?

Skin naturally contains melanin, a dark brown to black pigment that protects from UV lights. It is the augmentation of the concentration of melanin on a particular spot of the skin that creates a freckle. When the concentration of melanin is even higher, that freckle will become a mole. In summer, freckles are more present than usual, meaning that our skin is tanning with the exposition to sunlight, but only partially.

Can you get rid of Ephelis?

You cannot get rid of them but you can make them lighter. There are two main ways to do so. The first one, which is recommended because it protects your skin, is to use  a lot of sunscreen in order to avoid more freckles to appear. The second one is completely NOT recommended because it is a product that gets rid of skin pigments and that is very toxic for the skin.

But the real question is why would you want to get rid of your freckles? Especially when other women find them so charming and would dream about having some. Men love it too!

Some of them go as far as saying that freckles are like “little confetti thrown by the sun”…What do you mean that’s really cheesy?

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1 Comment on Questions on redness

  1. Susan Rafferty
    June 23, 2017 at 7:03 am (5 months ago)

    Hello, Alexia, a great article from one ginger to another!
    W
    Judy and I are here in Italy with you!
    Lovely to meet you xxxx

    Reply

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