Is Auburn Hair Natural?

Medically Reviewed on 3/17/2021

What is auburn hair?

Red hair varies from deep burgundy to bright copper, auburn, reddish-orange, burnt orange and strawberry blond. Auburn or red hair can be natural.
Red hair varies from deep burgundy to bright copper, auburn, reddish-orange, burnt orange and strawberry blond. Auburn or red hair can be natural.

Yes, auburn or red hair can be natural. Red hair is in fashion these days. Natural red hair is the rarest hair color in the world. A mere one to two percent of people are born with auburn hair. The prevalence is slightly higher in the northern and western fringes of Europe, especially the British Isles (mainly Ireland and Scotland), than in the rest of the world. The shade of red hair is not the same in all people. It varies from deep burgundy to bright copper, auburn, reddish-orange, burnt orange and strawberry blond.

To understand why red or auburn hair is so rare, let's understand what determines your hair color. The color of your hair is determined by the presence of a pigment called melanin, which is produced by a special type of cells called melanocytes. The relative abundance of two types of melanin, eumelanin and pheomelanin, in your hair imparts distinct color to your hair.

Table. Type and quantity of melanin according to hair color

      Hair color                  Type and quantity of melanin pigment            
Black Large amount of eumelanin
Brown Moderate amount of eumelanin
Blond Scanty amount of melanin (of which around 95 percent is eumelanin)
Red Abundant pheomelanin with scarce eumelanin

Thus, a greater amount of eumelanin makes the hair look darker whereas a larger amount of pheomelanin determines how red your hair is. Hair color is not just present in the above-mentioned four varieties. Rather, it ranges over a wide variety of hues. You may find people whose natural hair color may vary from flaxen blond to charcoal black. Several genes determine which type of melanin will be present in the hair and in what quantities. Some of the genes determining the hair color are MC1R, DTNBP1, ASIP, KITLG, MLPH, HERC2, GPR143 and SLC24A.

Besides the presence of the different varieties of these genes, their relative expression also determines what the color of your hair will be. This is responsible for the varied shades of hair color occurring naturally. Of these, MC1R is the most extensively studied gene responsible for hair color. This gene instructs the cells to make a protein called the melanocortin 1 receptor. This receptor is involved in the pathway that produces melanin. It regulates the production of different types of melanin in the cells (melanocytes). Activated or turned on melanocortin 1 receptor stimulates the melanocytes to make eumelanin. A blocked or turned off melanocortin 1 receptor makes the cell produce pheomelanin instead of eumelanin.

Red hair is called a recessive trait. This means that two copies of the gene responsible for red hair must be present to have the natural red or auburn hair. Hence, you may have the gene for auburn hair, but if the second copy of the gene is different, you will not get natural auburn hair. Interestingly, studies suggest that the gene responsible for red hair also makes the person more sensitive to pain. Hence, during a procedure, people who are born with red hair need a higher dose of anesthetics compared with people with another hair color.

Since auburn hair is in vogue these days, many people including celebrities and social media influencers are getting their hair colored auburn. If you wish to give your hair an auburn color, get the help of a professional stylist to get the best results. Auburn hair color must be protected from heat and sunlight. Thus, with this hair color, you might have to ditch heat-styling and washing your hair with hot water. Go gentle on your hair if you get it colored auburn. This includes using mild sulfate-free hair conditioner and shampoo on your auburn locks.

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Medically Reviewed on 3/17/2021
Medscape Medical Reference


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