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In species other than primates, red hair has different genetic origins and mechanisms.

Red hair is the rarest natural hair color in humans.

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The MC1R recessive variant gene that gives people red hair generally results in skin that is unable to tan.

Because of the natural tanning reaction to the sun's ultraviolet light and high amounts of pheomelanin in the skin, freckles are a common but not all-inclusive feature of red-haired people.

Red hair appears most commonly in people with two copies of a recessive allele on chromosome 16 which produces an altered version of the MC1R protein.

Red hair varies in hues from a deep burgundy or bright copper (reddish-brown or auburn) through to burnt orange or red-orange and strawberry blond.

The lower melanin concentration in skin confers the advantage that a sufficient concentration of important Vitamin D can be produced under low light conditions.

However, when UV-radiation is strong (as in regions close to the equator) the lower concentration of melanin leads to several medical disadvantages, such as a higher risk of skin cancer.In Africa, for example, red hair is selected against because high levels of sun harm untanned skin.However, in Northern Europe this does not happen, so redheads can become more common through genetic drift.It is characterized by high levels of the reddish pigment pheomelanin and relatively low levels of the dark pigment eumelanin.It is associated with fair skin color, lighter eye colors (gray, blue, green, and hazel), freckles, and sensitivity to ultraviolet light.If one of these changes is present on both chromosomes then the respective individual is likely to have red hair.

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