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The pigment pheomelanin gives red hair its distinctive color.Red hair has far more of the pigment pheomelanin than it has of the dark pigment eumelanin.Reddish-brown (auburn) hair is also found amongst some Polynesians, and is especially common in some tribes and family groups.In Polynesian culture reddish hair has traditionally been seen as a sign of descent from high-ranking ancestors and a mark of rulership.
Genetic studies of dizygotic (fraternal) twins indicate that the MC1R gene is not solely responsible for the red hair phenotype; unidentified modifier genes exist, making variance in the MC1R gene necessary, but not always sufficient, for red hair production.When henna is used on hair it dyes the hair to different shades of red.Emigration from Europe has multiplied the population of red haired humans in the Americas, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. the largest population of redheads in the world, at 6 to 18 million, compared to approximately 420,000 in Ireland and 300,000 in Scotland.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.
Cultural reactions have varied from ridicule to admiration; many common stereotypes exist regarding redheads and they are often portrayed as fiery-tempered.