‘Ginger Gene’ Discovered!

ginger hair, red head

We are often spotted on holiday cowering underneath paddling-pool sized sun hats having turned ourselves Marcelle Marceau white under layers of suncream.

But we flame haired folks can trace our  heritage back to the first intrepid explorers that traveled  from Africa to northern Europe.

It is now believed that the mutation that caused V60L allele otherwise known as the ‘ginger gene’, occurred around 50,000 years ago.

We gained our distinctive colouring as our skin lightened leaving behind only fragments of UV protective melaninand a freckled epidermis allowing us  to get more vitamin D from infrequent and weaker sunlight.

However, it has also increased our risk of melanomas – the deadliest form of skin cancer.

The mutation remains common across Europe, even in those with no outward signs.

For ‘rufosity’ to occur in an offspring, the gene needs to be carried by both parents as it is a recessive gene.

Researchers made the discovery while examining the evolutionary processes of particular genes of 1,000 people from Spain.

Study author Dr Saioa Lopez said: “As a consequence of depigmentation there has been a collateral damage consequence to health.

‘This can be reconciled if we assume that melanoma is typically a post-reproductive disease, and consequently should have little effect on the individual’s genetic contribution to the next generation.’

The study was published in the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution.

My childhood was regularly punctuated with taunts of “Oy – carrot top, ginger nut, Duracell”, “who wants a ginger biscuit?”, “can I join the dots on your freckles?”and the like. If only I’d had access to this research, how different my awkward teen years might have been, feeling so persecuted for the genetic curse of flame red hair and freckles.

Surely I could have quipped back “Yeah what of it? I’m not only more evolved than you, but I also have developed a superpower, with my sporadic arrangement of melanin, I am able to absorb vitamin D up to 10 times faster than you my swarthy brunette tormentor!”

OK maybe not, I’m also oppressed by gravity and at a gargantuan and 5 foot 1 it’s probably a good thing that instead I stuck with the time tested advice for dealing with bullies and “ignored them,” aided by my Walkman and a large hat!


50+UPF Sunny Sleevez


About sunnysleevez

I'm a freckly red head, originally from London now living in LA with 2 pale children. Frankly with our coloring we have no business being such an outdoorsy family and living in southern California. I grew up in a time when factor 8 sun milk was considered the best protection available to combat the hot rays of a holiday in southern Spain, that lead to 3rd degree burns and the rest of the vacation spent in the shade of our apartment. As a family we love to be outside, going to the beach, camping, swimming & hiking. We can't completely avoid the sun (nor should we) but taking sensible measures to avoid unnecessary UV damage is a priority. How do we do that? By staying in the shade in the middle of the day, wearing sun protective clothing (that's why I created Sunny Sleevez), a broad brimmed hat, UV rated sunglasses, using chemical-free broad spectrum sun screen on exposed areas & eating a healthy diet with as few chemicals as possible & lots of antioxidants.
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11 Responses to ‘Ginger Gene’ Discovered!

  1. Dra Martha Castro Médico WMA says:
  2. Jody and Ken says:

    I have a red-headed 17 y.o. daughter who has long learned to embrace her hair. Gingers rule!


  3. Hey fellow red head, great post, thanks for sharing the information and the paragraph about your childhood was.. well, a walk down memory lane. 🙂

  4. Heartafire says:

    imagine, my redhead, freckles face hitting that beach in florida every week-end. Bring on the sun screen.

  5. Heartafire says:

    reblogged to Heartafire with comment “I knew it”.

  6. Does the same principle apply to ginger kats??


  7. I’ve always known red hair is NOT a freak of nature! I’m biased, of course, since red hair runs on both sides of my family, and my own hair turns auburn when I stay outside for long periods during summer. I don’t understand people who say they ‘hate’ red hair. I don’t care how they feel about it, but if someone ‘hates’ red hair, they’re an idiot!

    I hope you don’t mind, Sunny, but I posted the link to this on my Facebook page.


    If you do, please let me know, and I’ll remove it. Either way, thanks for this!

  8. tadeusjus says:

    It is the ‘curse of flame red hair’ as a child but a bless as a grown up;) everybody loves red hair.
    I’m curious how long it will take untill they start changing people hair permanently instead of just dye hair..:P

  9. metiefly says:

    I am happily ginger, loved soaking up all the banter at school and tell my friends that have since lost their hair that when I grow old, I’ll go pink gracefully! – metiefly

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