Whether you’re a natural redhead or a non-ginger, the big question you’ll likely ask yourself at some point is, “Will I have a ginger baby?”
Nothing is cuter than a red-haired child (in our opinion, anyway), so knowing the probability of winning the genetic lottery and parenting ginger offspring is a hot topic. We explore the genetics and help you calculate if you will/might/won’t have redheaded babies.
What is MC1R?
The melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R) is a protein that controls levels of melanin in your body. Melanin is made up of various amounts of eumelanin and pheomelanin and dictates the pigment of your skin, hair and eyes.
People with mostly eumelanin will have darker hair, eyes and skin that will tan more easily, and are better protected against UV radiation in sunlight. Redheads, however, have a mutated MC1R protein, giving them much more pheomelanin than eumelanin, making them more likely to have fair hair (usually red or blonde), freckles and pale skin, and will be more vulnerable to sun burn.
It’s a recessive gene
A ginger child can only be born if both parents carry the gene. If one parent doesn’t carry the ginger gene, then your child will definitely not be ginger – both parents must carry it, whether they are redheads themselves or not.
Who has the ginger gene?
In the UK alone, it’s estimated that 40% of Britons carry the MC1R gene capable of producing a ginger child. We like to call these people ‘Secret Gingers’, if they’re not redheads themselves.
Don’t know if you have the ginger gene? If you’re a redhead, you definitely have the gene, and you will always pass this gene on to your children. Also, if someone in your direct bloodline has red hair, you will also carry the ginger gene, but won’t necessarily be a redhead (see table below). Otherwise, you can take a test to determine if you’re a secret ginger.
Will I have a ginger baby?
Below is a simple way for you to calculate your probability of having a ginger child with any given partner (as long as you know if they have the ginger gene).
There are also other genes at play that affect your skin colour, freckles and hair shade, however, which is why on some occasions redheads may be able to tan, or may not have freckles. Welcome to the weird and wonderful world of ginger genetics!