It’s a bad news day for all the rangas out there: studies suggest that not only do redheads have fewer hair follicles, but the follicles they do have are far more likely to fall out. Here, we break down the science of our not-so-hirsute ginger friends and explain some of the silver linings in the redheaded cloud…
Redheads have had a pretty rough time of it throughout history: they’re significantly more sensitive to pain, were deemed “deviants” and banned from marrying by the Nazi Party, and have even been threatened with global extinction. Some even say they don’t have souls.
On top of this, they’re the world’s rarest hair type, with only 2% of the global population having red hair – you might be unsurprised to hear that 13% of this number reside in Scotland and another 10% in Ireland, the two countries with the highest concentration of gingers – so finding strength and solace in numbers was never an option.
And still, it seems, there’s more to worry about: data suggests that redheads have significantly less hair than your average blonde or brunette bloke. Compared to the 140,000 follicles on every blondie’s dome, redheads have a meagre 90,000. That’s enough to make you see red.
Many make the argument that though redheads have less hair, each individual strand is said to look and feel thicker, helping to create a fuller head of hair overall and compensate for the lack of follicles. However, this wholly understandable coping mechanism doesn’t change the unfortunate fact that redheads are significantly more likely to lose their hair than men with other natural hair colours.
It gets worse: when winter rolls around, redheads are significantly more prone to hair loss induced by the cold (so it’s a cruel twist of fate that there are so many gingers in chilly Ireland and Scotland…)
So, though there is no hard data suggesting that redheads are genetically more prone to male pattern baldness or alopecia per se, whatever hair loss redhead blokes may already be suffering is highly likely to be rapidly accelerated during the winter months and lead to thinner-looking hair overall.
This is where the good news starts. There are a few things you can do to minimise this: moisturise and massage your scalp, use chemical-free hair care products, and avoid extremes in temperature like blow-drying or ice baths as these can make your hair more brittle and lead to increased shedding. For more haircare advice, have a look at our articles on the best hair products and some common styling mistakes.
Moreover, being a redhead has its perks. Redheads are far less likely to ever go grey because the pigment in red hair fades rather than discolours over time. Gingers turn blonde and even white, but almost never grey.
There are health benefits too: a study published by the British Journal of Cancer suggested that men with red hair are 54% less likely to develop prostate cancer than their brown and blonde-haired counterparts. Balding sucks, but we can all agree that getting cancer is a significantly worse fate – take the wins where you can find them.
Finally, a number of studies have shown that redhead women have up to 50% more sex than their blonde and brunette counterparts. We’ve not got any data on the blokes, but we reckon rangas should take some hope from this.
Losing your hair sucks, there are no two ways about it, but there are reasons for redheads to be cheerful. Keep your chin up, your scalp massaged, and gear up to rip on all your greying mates.