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Is The Redhead Population Going Extinct

Is The Redhead Population Going Extinct

Recently, several publications announced that redheads, or gingers, as many affectionately call them, would soon be extinct. Media outlets around the world quickly picked this up in headlines, chatting with “genetic scientists” and other hair experts who were convinced that redheads would be extinct by the year 2060. Is the redhead population declining as rapidly as some think?  Will the red hair gene survive, or is it endangered?

Rest assured, all the commotion about redheads facing extinction is nothing more than a myth. The misinformation, often attributed to the Oxford Hair Foundation, mistakenly suggested that recessive genes, like those responsible for red hair, could “die out.”

In reality, recessive genes don’t vanish completely, though they can become rare. They only disappear if the person with that gene dies or doesn’t have children. So despite redheads becoming few and far between, there are enough people out there with the redhead gene that, unless some epic worldwide crisis happens or we experience the apocalypse sometime soon, redheads aren’t going anywhere.

Some of the content referring to this supposed phenomenon used the Oxford Hair Foundation as a reputable research foundation or scientific institute conducting independent studies. It only takes a quick online search to discover that the Oxford Hair Foundation is financed by Proctor & Gamble, a huge corporation selling many beauty products—red hair dye is one of them.

In the latest myths warning us of the extinction of redheads, certain news outlets claimed that an issue from National Geographic magazine from September 2007 was the origin of the claims. This turned out to be incorrect. In reality, the National Geographic issue in question merely presented some statistics in a short article about redheads. 

While the story’s data was accurate, it only referred to “news reports” of the redhead extinction rather than supporting those claims. Although National Geographic explicitly said that “while redheads may decline, the potential for red isn’t going away,” the damage was done. The misunderstanding about the redhead population becoming extinct has become widespread and is still believed everywhere.

Why Is Red Hair So Rare?

A mutation in the MC1R gene causes red hair. This mutation, which is also a recessive trait, requires two parents to pass on a mutated version of MC1R to reproduce a redheaded child. Due to being a recessive trait, it’s common for red hair to skip a generation. After skipping one or multiple generations, it might reappear if both of the child’s parents have the elusive red hair gene.

Little do people know, redheads aren’t the only hair color that’s endangered. Now, we’ll dive into why blondes are going through a similar struggle.

Are Blonds Going To Become Extinct?

Before there were rumors of redheads going extinct, there were blondes. In September 2002, news of blondes disappearing within 200 years swept the headlines and was the subject of TV news shows everywhere. At the same time, a BBC News article pointed to “German scientists” as a source who claimed blondes would vanish by 2202. In the same article, it was said that Finland, which is home to a large population of blondes, would be the place where a blond would be born. 

This declaration was based on the notion that not only was blonde hair a recessive gene, but men were turning more to dyed blonds, aka “bottle blonds,” over actual blonds. Some articles citing the same facts claimed that the World Health Organization provided the information.

This claim was controversial, and many prominent people said so. Johnathon Reese, a University of Edinburgh dermatologist, said that only blond hair would become “extinct” if being blond became an evolutionary disadvantage, which, at the moment, it wasn’t despite all the “dumb blond” jokes that exist. Reese commented that although blondes may become less common as time goes on, they won’t simply vanish.

Who Was Responsible For The Myth?

Snopes, a website that specializes in debunking urban legends and gossip, confirmed that the blond-extinction story was false. They did so using a Washington Post article as proof that the topic was overreported. Additionally, Snopes uncovered nearly identical stories about the anticipated extinction of blondes at various points in history, from 1865 to 1961. 

The 1961 article claimed blondes had a maximum of 140 years left, while the story from 1906 warned people that blondes would be wiped out in 600 years. They all cited “scientific research” and noted that men tended to find women with dark hair more attractive. 

The World Health Organization never conducted a study about blondes going extinct, which the Washington Post confirmed. However, no outlets that wrote about this phenomenon have bothered to fact-check and contact the WHO to confirm this. In Washington’s Post exposé, they tracked down the magazine where this WHO claim originated. Apparently, the German women’s magazine “Allegra” named an imaginary anthropologist working for the WHO as its source. In reality, that person didn’t exist. As a result of this discovery, numerous TV stations and newspapers were required to revise their shoddy reporting. 

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