Just as the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence, so too is someone else’s hair always just a shade more special than your own. But what is the rarest hair color one can be born with?
Even though the question has a conclusive answer on a global scale, it’s more complicated than you’d think. Who knows? As ordinary as you find your hair color, you may still find a corner of the world where it’s the rarest and most coveted. But be warned: having the rarest hair color may not be as much of a prize as you’d think.
What Determines Your Hair Color?
Human hair has two types of melanin or pigments inside the hair shaft: eumelanin and pheomelanin. The former determines the brightness of your hair, so people with more of it have darker hair. However, this pigment comes in brown and black varieties, so it’s possible to have very dark brown hair without having it be black.
Meanwhile, pheomelanin is what makes your hair take on a cooler or warmer hue. Generally, people with red hair have this pigment in spades, while those with dull or blueish undertones don’t.
Like many human traits, hair pigmentation is mostly determined by your genes. The most important one to consider is the MC1R gene, which makes the protein that enables your cells to produce eumelanin. People who lack one or more of these genes end up with bright or red hair.
Of course, no matter what hair color you start with, one thing is certain — it will be white one day. As you age, your body will lose the ability to produce the amount of pigment you need to keep your hair color saturated. That’s most evident on redheads, whose hair usually pales or darkens as they age, transitioning into strawberry blonde or dark auburn shades.
Eventually, this process will culminate in you losing all of your pigment, going gray and then white. However, the exact time that happens is another thing that will depend on your genetic profile.
Finding the Rarest Hair Color of Them All
Now that you have a general idea of what makes your hair the color it is, let’s talk about statistics.
Believe it or not, about 75–85% of people in the world have black hair! After all, it’s the most common shade across Asia and Africa, which already covers quite a large group of people.
However, you’re bound to see someone with luscious dark brown, muted black, or jet black hair on any continent you set foot on. People of all ethnicities and nationalities can have it, so you know black hair pairs nicely with all sorts of skin tones!
To top it off, dark hair is a dominant gene. Therefore, if a person with black hair produces offspring with a light-haired partner, that child will probably inherit dark hair too. Nevertheless, if two dark-haired people carry the recessive gene for ginger hair, they could still produce a redheaded child. Moreover, there are many other genes and even medical conditions that can influence the color of your hair.
Like back hair, brown hair exists all over the world — from the Americas to Europe, Asia, and Australia. However, since black hair takes up such a large percentage of the global population, it may not surprise you to learn that only 11% of people are brunettes! But then, this distinction may be a matter of semantics.
Admittedly, the lines between black, brown, and blonde hair can get a bit muddled. However, you should still be able to tell which shades fall squarely into the brown category.
If you have black or brown hair and you find yourself wishing you’d been born with lighter tresses, take comfort in the fact that your shade is rare somewhere too. In Scandinavian countries where black and brown hair colors are a relative rarity, you’d be a sight to behold!
In any case, dark-haired women, specifically, certainly have all the best assumptions attached to the shade of their locks. Most people assume that they’re studious and competent, which is certainly better than being thought of as dim. Still, if you’re all about breaking stereotypes, you could just be more of a slacker.
Sadly, blondes have been plagued with rude assumptions for quite a long time now. Most people find them attractive but vapid and empty-headed. And let’s just say movies like Gentlemen Prefer Blondes didn’t help shatter the dichotomy between blondes and brunettes. At least Legally Blonde sought to repair some of the damage Old Hollywood did on that front!
Of course, most of these representations feature fairly obvious box blonde characters. So what does it take to produce a naturally blonde person? Again, the answer lies in genetics. Even though most of the world has dark hair, a mutation in the KITLG genetic sequence has allowed a good chunk of Northern Europeans to have all shades of blonde hair naturally.
It’s also worth noting that other ethnic groups can also have naturally blonde hair. For example, dark-skinned people with naturally blonde curls are a fairly common sight in Melanesia. Similarly, some ethnic communities in Asia, namely Hmong and Mongolian people, have historically had some percentage of naturally blonde people.
Still, even with that small amount of ethnic diversity thrown into the mix, only 2% of the world’s population has naturally blonde hair. And fortunately, despite reports that indicated otherwise, blondes are not an endangered species.
Despite the low percentage of natural blondes, red is ultimately the rarest hair color in the world. Nowadays, somewhere between 1 and 2% of the world’s population is a genuine redhead.
Moreover, red hair can be found on pretty much every continent and in every ethnic community, though it’s certainly most common in the British Isles. However, the mutation that causes it originally came from Central Asia. That’s probably why people of Asian and African descent can be born with red hair even without Caucasian influence.
All someone needs to have naturally red hair is a faulty MC1R gene or two. In fact, if both of the parents pass it on, the offspring will have shockingly pigmented hair, pale skin, red freckles, and hazel eyes.
Sadly, this abundance of red pigmentation also comes with a low tolerance for pain, as well as an increased risk of skin cancer and Parkinson’s disease. Of course, these complications are even rarer than redheads generally are.
Don’t Covet Your Neighbor’s Hair Color!
As anyone who grew up with a red mane will tell you, having red hair isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. So don’t be too quick to envy people who have the rarest hair color in the world. And hey, if you want to switch up your look, you could always schedule a consultation with your hair colorist.