Why are we born red?
Over the centuries, freckles has long been decried, mocked. Remember that in the Middle Ages, having ginger hair was not very popular… and could even send you directly to the stake if you had the misfortune to be a woman! Even today, to be ” Red hair “ may turn out difficult for a child. A feature that hardly goes unnoticed in playgrounds. But where does this come from? red color ? Why is a child born red? “The freckles are due to a mutation in the MC1R (melanocortin 1 receptor) gene located on chromosome 16, specifies Professor Brigitte Dréno straight away. This receptor is involved in the production of melaninthe color pigment of eyes and hair”.
Strawberry blond, dark red or brown: a question of pigments
Skin pigments are made up of two main types of melanin: eumelanin, a brown/black colored pigment, and pheomelanin, a yellow/orange to red colored pigment. Pheomelanin is what is called a “precursor” of eumelanin. However, the mutation of the MC1R gene will block its synthesis and prevent it from being transformed into eumelanin. Result: the redhead children they have a higher concentration of pheomelanin than brown children and are more sensitive tosun because it skin pigment provides very poor UV protection. “The red color is characterized by high concentrations of the red pigment – pheomelanin – and fairly low concentrations of the dark pigment: eumelanin, confirms Pre Brigitte Dréno. It is most often associated with a pale skin andlight eyes (blue or green) and will be more or less marked depending on genetic variations: from Strawberry blonde to dark red Passing by auburn “.
Red is a rare hair color. “Only 1-2% of the world’s population has the Red hair, confirms Pre Brigitte Dréno. Freckles are much more common in northern and western European countries”. We find ahigher proportion of redheads in the United Kingdom, Ireland, Scandinavia as well as in North America and Australia (country of migration of these populations). Freckles are particularly important in Celtic-speaking populations, so much so that we sometimes speak of a “Celtic gene”. Thus, Ireland has 10% of redheads; the figure jumps to 13% in Scotland, which has the highest rate of redheads in the world. On the other hand, only 5% of French people are ginger. As for knowing if your future baby will be ginger… it’s all a question of genetic inheritance!
The genetic inheritance of the newborn
Indeed, just like the eye colourthe Hair color comes from genetic patrimony provided by the mother (50%) and by the father (50%). Remember that during the fertilization of the oocyte by a spermatozoon, the 23 chromosomes contained in the spermatozoon will merge with the 23 chromosomes of the oocyte to form the baby’s first cell. This will therefore have 46 chromosomes:
- 23 bring the genetic characteristics of the mother,
- and the other 23 the genetic characteristics of the dad.
Chromosomes are made up of DNAwho carries the genes (about 20,000). Each gene has two alleles: one comes from the father, the other from the mother. The allele that causes freckles being recessiveboth parents must be carriers of this MCR1 gene mutation so that their child be redhead. That is to say that both alleles must be present on both genes of chromosome pair 16, one coming from the mother and the other from the father.
On the other hand, if the parents are carriers of different alleles, the dominant allele (brown) will prevail over the recessive allele (red). Finally, two brown people can have a red baby if each of them has this variant of the MCR1 gene, but the probability will be slim (25%).
MCR1: the freckle gene
According to a scientific study published in the journal Nature Communications (source 1) on December 10, 2018 and conducted on nearly 350,000 English people, the MC1R variant alone is not responsible for the red color. Other genes would be taken into account in the expression of the MC1R gene, inhibiting or not the production of pheomelanin.
Hair color: at what age is it final?
Your baby was born with hair Strawberry blonde Where ginger ? Be aware that it is common for the color to darken with age due to the increase in the production of eumelanin. In effect, hormones produced at puberty influence the expression of genes involved in the Hair color. If red-haired children can darken as they grow up, the tint, on the other hand, will remain present…
Baby’s skin: watch out for the sun
Freckles are one of the risk factors for developing skin cancer. An Australian study published in 2019 in the British Journal of Dermatology (source 2) shows that being redheaded and having more than 20 moles on the body significantly increase the risk of developing melanoma. It is therefore strongly discouragedto expose his childunder the sun in a prolonged way.
Ginger baby: what is his phototype?
Dermatologists classify different skin types according to 7 skin types ranging from photo type 0 (albino people) at skin type 6 (people with black skin). More the phototype will be weakmore protect your child from the sun in order to avoid the development of skin cancer. “A red baby is phototype 1, specifies Pre Brigitte Dréno. This is characterized by very light, white skin that does not tan; of the blonde or red hair as well as blue or green eyes. This type of skin can also be accompanied of ephelides (freckles) that appear quickly when exposed to the sun. »
Why are ginger babies more sensitive to the sun?
The melanin has the role of us protect against ultraviolet radiation (UV) when exposed to the sun. the Sun tanning is moreover a natural defense mechanism of the skin. However, in red-haired children, the absence or rarity of eumelanin (the brown pigment) for the benefit of pheomelanin, makes their skin clearer and above all much less protective against the sun. This is why this one tends to blush and not to tan. On the other hand, a study carried out by American researchers shows that under the effect of UV rays, pheomelanin decomposes, releasing free radicals which increase the risk of cancer.
How to protect your child?
Since pheomelanin does not provide the same type of protection as eumelanin, it is important to avoid exposing your baby to the sun.
The sunburns of childhood and adolescence are the melanomas of tomorrow, warns the specialist. Especially in red-haired children whose risk of developing skin cancer in adulthood is greatly increased. This is why parents must avoid exposing them to the sun and above all protect them well.
- avoid exposing your child to the sun,
- to apply a very high protection sunscreen(SPF 50+) on the body and face, “ensuring that it covers UVA ++++, insists the dermato-oncologist. This is essential because it is UVA that most induces the production of free radicals. UVA rays are responsible for skin cancer and skin aging. To find out if the sunscreen protects against UVA, just check on the packaging: in general, there is a number surrounded by a circle indicating the level of UVA protection which must be at least equivalent to 1/3 of the SPF indicated. . »
- of renew the application every three hours and after each swim,
- to put on him sunglasses. The eyes of red-haired children are indeed more sensitive to radiation,
- avoid exposure between 12 p.m. and 4 p.m.i.e. the moment when the sun is highest,
- to put anti-UV clothing to her baby. “Be careful with the water, reminds the specialist. Clothing (T-shirts, etc.) will tend to provide less protection when wet. So, at the beach, it is advisable to opt for anti-UV clothing specially designed to filter and block the sun’s rays. »