There are a lot of misconceptions about red hair and how it fades or turns grey.
The color of the hair doesn’t actually change, it’s just that our hair eventually stops producing the pigment that gives it its color and that’s why it starts fading.
I’ve always been in love with red hair – growing up in a country where almost everyone has dark hair I naturally am drawn to unique hair colors.
My fiance has some red hair since he is half Scottish and there are so many interesting facts about red hair.
So, I’ve done a lot of research and I’ve wanted to include my findings in this post.
I’m going to talk about several topics like:
- What causes hair to be red?
- Does red hair fade or darken over time?
- Red hair fading with age: does it turn grey or white?
Let’s dig in because there is so much to uncover!
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1. What causes hair to be red?
First of all, I want to talk about why people have red hair.
Every person is born with 2 types of melanin for hair (Eumelanin and Pheomelanin) which is responsible for hair color.
Pheomelanin is responsible for blonde or red hair (lighter hair colors), whereas Eumelanin is responsible for brown or black hair (darker hair colors).
If you are a natural redhead then you have more Pheomelanin (the hormone responsible for red/blonde hair).
Red hair originates from Central Asia and not Scandinavia or Scotland as most people believe.
The red hair color is due to a mutation in the MC1R gene that fails to produce more Eumelanin and instead produces more Pheomelanin. It is also responsible for pale skin and freckles – that’s why a lot of redheads have pale skin and freckles to pair with their red hair.
1-2% of the entire world’s population have red hair.
2. Why does red hair get darker?
When many human beings go through puberty, their hormones fluctuate and this can cause more Eumelanin (the melanin responsible for dark hair) to be produced – thus turning red hair to dark red or brown.
Natural redheads can lose their orange-red tones and their hair can look more brown.
This hormone cannot be controlled and we have no control over the color of our hair – it’s also the same reason many people’s eye colors change during this time and eye colors can get darker or change to another hue completely.
There are of course a lot of ways to lighten red hair naturally without bleach and I discuss that here.
3. Red hair fading with age: Does red hair fade with age?
Now, as I’ve mentioned earlier – Pheomelanin is the pigment responsible for the hair’s red color.
As people age, hair naturally stops producing the pigment altogether or the quantity of the pigment being produced in our hair slowly decreases resulting in the red hair fading with age – otherwise called Achromotrichia.
Achromotrichia is simply the process by which the hair pigment slows down and eventually stops getting produced and this causes the hair to become lighter and lighter until to turns to grey and/or white eventually.
It is the absence or loss of pigmentation in hair.
During Achromotrichia, red hair can become orange, or copper or fade to strawberry blonde, until it becomes silver or white eventually.
Simply put, a redhead could look more blonde or strawberry blonde once Achromotrichia starts to set in even though they started out as a redhead.
It’s a completely natural process and there is nothing you can do to stop it.
4. Do redheads go grey?
This is a common misconception.
Redheads cannot go grey because red hair fades to:
- Coppery blonde
- Ashy or dirty blonde
- Strawberry blonde
before going silver or white completely.
Simply put, red hair will often lighten to blonde or some variations of copper-brassery tones before fading to white completely.
Only darker hair tones like black or brown hair will look grey as Achromotrichia sets in and that’s because the Eumelanin (the pigment responsible for dark hair) is less and the hair color will be lighter.
Lighter black or lighter brown will look more gray and as it fades even more, it will look silver or white.
It’s important to note that hair color never actually changes to grey or white – it’s simply the effect of the lack of pigment in the hair.
5. Why do redheads look younger?
Redheads (according to many studies) often look 2 years younger as compared to other people their age.
This is because of the mutated MC1R gene I mentioned earlier.
This gene is not only responsible for the red hair color but also causes skin to be pale and causes freckles.
Apart from that, redheads produce Vitamin D better than other people and this helps makes them less prone to diseases like Rickets, Diabetes, Asthma etc.
The mutation of the MC1R gene also helps reduce the effects of UV rays and inflammation in the body which causes a person to age.
That’s how this gene helps people look younger than they actually are.
Fascinating, isn’t it?
6. How to keep natural red hair from fading?
Now, I know you’re probably wondering what to do if your red hair fades.
I understand that you might not want to be called a blonde or you might want to retain your beautiful red locks because you love your red hair so much.
The solution isn’t to dye your hair.
There are so many natural ways to retain the red hair color. Let’s begin.
1. Use a SPF
Sun damages and lightens hair – it causes premature greying or premature whitening.
If you are noticing that your hair is already turning more ginger and orange, it means that your red hair is fading.
And the best way to slow it down is to apply an SPF spray for your hair before you step out in the sun.
2. Use henna
Henna is a very popular dye that is derived from a plant.
Here in India, a lot of people whose hair is fading prefer using henna to than dyes because it’s natural and doesn’t damage hair.
It adds a brilliant ginger color to fading red hair or even gray hair and looks very natural.
Here is one Henna I recommend that has loads of good reviews.
It is completely plant-based and has 100% coverage.
3. Use a color depositing shampoo
This works beautifully for naturally red hair that is fading to copper or blonde or white.
This shampoo and conditioner combo deposits red color every time you wash your hair and the color is brilliant.
The only downside to this shampoo is kinda dries your hair a bit, so I highly recommend using a deep conditioner or a moisturising conditioner afterward if you have dry or damaged hair.
7. At what age does natural red hair fade?
Until your 30s or 40s, red hair remains vibrant. It may get darker during your adolescent age, but it shouldn’t fade.
After you hit your 30s, you will notice your red hair fading.
This is due to Achromotrichia when the Pheomelanin slowly stops getting produced and your red hair will fade to strawberry blonde or coppery tones.
Your hair might look more blonde or certain sections may be more blonde than others – its totally normal.
There is nothing you can do to prevent this, however you can use external help like color depositing shampoos and henna to maintain the red hues in your hair.
I hope this helps answers all your questions! Let me know if you have more in the comments below.
I hope this helps, here are a few more posts you may enjoy:
- Why does red hair get darker? And how do I lighten it naturally?
- Why are Youtubers dying their hair in all sorts of colors?
- How to transition dyed strawberry blonde hair to grey?
- How to dye red-dyed hair to pink without bleach (naturally)
- What does purple shampoo do to green-dyed hair?
- 5 easy ways to temporarily hide your colored hair for an interview