Facing away from the camera, a natural redhead stands looking at the sky, their hair is tied in a messy bun; photo via Tyler McRobert/Unsplash.
Transatlantic Life

5 Questions You Should Never Ask a Natural Redhead

Making up roughly one to two percent of the world’s population, natural redheads are a rarity that seem to have many myths and misconceptions that follow us around (yes, I’m one of them). The fact that we’re uncommon means that people often want to ask questions — which most of the time is an enjoyable experience. However, all too frequently, our unusualness can lead some people to believe that their curiosity excuses inappropriate or offensive behaviour.

Most of the time, people react perfectly normally when they see a natural redhead — which is to say they might notice the colour but otherwise give it no more thought. To many people (including those of us who have it), red hair is merely a nice variation of a very human characteristic.

However, there are times when someone cannot contain their amusement, surprise and inquisitiveness (sometimes even derision) when they have a chance to talk to a redhead. It’s not an everyday occurrence, but awkward and really disrespectful comments and questions happen frequently enough that it becomes problematic. Unfortunately, I talk from extensive personal experience. It’s not all coming from strangers either, people we know can get in on the act; I’ve encountered friends and work colleagues who make very inappropriate queries.


I love being a redhead; it’s part of my identity I feel a deep ancestral link to. The natural red hair gene can be carried through generations but only crop up every now and then; it’s a distinctly visible link to those few people in our family tree that bear the same distinctive mane as we do. There are, of course, some families that have redheads peppered throughout each generation and ancestral branch — a beautiful connection to see.

Unusual Facts About Natural Redheads

Before we dive into the questions you should avoid asking, here are some interesting facts about redheads you may not know:

  • Red hair comes in a range of shades and hues from deep auburn to bright copper to strawberry blonde.
  • Although most common in people of Celtic or European descent with populations mainly clustered in Northern and Western Europe; red hair is found in all ethnicities and countries around the world.
  • The highest number of red-haired people per capita in the world can be found in either Scotland or Ireland (it sometimes fluctuates between the two); with each place having redheads make up somewhere between 10 -and 13% of the population.
  • Red hair does not turn grey with age; the pigment gradually fades over time and turns a very light strawberry blonde or white.
  • On average, redheads tend to have less hair on their heads with approximately 90,000 strands; comparatively, blonde hair has the most at roughly 150,000 strands; brown hair has about 110,000, and black 100,000.
  • Redheads can be more sensitive to certain types of pain and can require higher doses of anaesthesia and other pain-killing medications.
  • Redheads are more likely to be left-handed.
A close-up portrait of a young woman of colour with natural red hair; she has freckles and a nose ring.
photo via Luca De Massis/Pexels

5 Inappropriate Questions You Should Never Ask a Redhead

All of the questions featured below are ones I have repeatedly been asked over the years. The vast majority of curiosity that people have about redheads typically comes from a place of genuine interest and respect; however, there are moments when some individuals cross a line.

I can usually tell when someone is about to ask something inappropriate because they develop a certain look on their face; they make a beeline for you with a rather disconcerting, wry smile. I’m in my 40s and have observed this look so many times that I can pretty much guarantee it signals the beginning of a very uncomfortable encounter.

Let’s dive in …

Is your pubic hair ginger?

I have been asked if my pubic hair ‘matches’ [the colour of the hair on my head] numerous times, and not in scenarios where it would be permissible to do so — honestly, I cannot really think of a time when it is. All of the people asking were men, most of whom were complete strangers; with a few being parents/carers of the children I used to teach and also some work colleagues.

I have been asked this extremely creepy question in grocery stores, libraries, at bus stops, during taxi rides, on train journeys, and at work. Not all of these occurred when I was an adult; it also happened when I was a child waiting for my fries in a local McDonald’s (twice).

It’s not amusing, flattering or harmless; it’s definitely not innocent and every time it happened, I felt incredibly vulnerable. I recall one particular time I had dismissed my class of 5-year-olds when a student’s father came to ask about homework. I handed over the sheet, and then he inquired whether or not my ‘collars and cuffs matched’. He had that look on his face, the smarmy grin; and continued to ask a few questions about my genitals. I informed him how offensive he was being — he just laughed.

I cannot believe I have to write this, but it’s never okay to ask anyone about their pubic hair.

A young red haired man with a red beard looks at the camera smiling; he is wearing a white shirt.
photo via Dean Drobot/Canva

Are you sure those are your parents?

This particular question is more likely to come up if a natural redhead’s parents both have black, brown or blonde hair; as is the case with my family. My father had medium brown hair, and both my mother and sister have dark brown hair (and brown eyes), so I can at least recognize why someone might ask. Admittedly, fielding this type of curiosity stopped in my early 20s, but I still remember it being a strikingly insensitive question. You never know what family situation someone is a part of or the potential hurt this could trigger.

By seeking information out in this way, someone is essentially saying that the way you look makes you seem like you do not belong; which taps into many complex feelings. It’s extraordinarily entitled to demand someone explain their existence — especially coming from a stranger (I have only ever been asked this by people I do not know).

While the genetics of hair colour inheritance can be difficult to explain succinctly; the basics are that as long as both parents are carriers of the red hair gene, they can pass it on. If a child receives two copies of the red hair gene (one from each parent), they will be a redhead. Even though this is an oversimplified explainer of how it all works; hopefully, it makes it clearly understood that two people with either black, brown or blonde hair can indeed be the parents of a redhead. 

Do you know that redheads are going extinct?

Being asked about extinction is not exactly inappropriate, it’s more so that it recycles a tired, old bogus story that refuses to go away. This particular piece of misinformation was first started in 2005 by Oxford Hair Foundation; a now defunct institution that was fronted and funded by Procter & Gamble, makers of numerous beauty products, including red hair dye — which seems a little too convenient for me.

The gene that causes red hair comes from a series of mutations on the melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R); as a recessive trait, it has to be inherited from both parents in order to show up. As explored previously in this article, it’s not solely redheads that possess this gene, non-redheads can also be carriers.

While red-haired people are rare, and it’s recessive nature means it easily skips one or more generations; it would require all carriers of MC1R to stop reproducing or die out for red hair to go extinct. Barring some astonishing global catastrophe, it’s just not going to happen.

A red-haired woman sits looking into the camera; she is wearing a loose-fitting, light blue shirt.
photo via Monstera/Pexels

Don’t you think you’d look better if you dyed your hair?

I’ll be charitable here and say that sometimes this question is not intended to insinuate that being a natural redhead diminishes someone’s attractiveness; it could just be phrased in an exceedingly awkward and clunky way. However, the messaging behind it is still the same — that our looks would be improved if we did not have red hair. No matter which way you look at it though, this is quite an insulting opinion to express.

From my own experience, the people who have asked me this over the years have made it very clear they dislike red hair — and I’m okay with them feeling this way. What they neglect to consider in this particular interaction is that I don’t need them to like it; I’m not seeking their approval about something so fundamentally part of who I am. 

Do you have a fiery temper/are you wild in bed?

This is a question that sometimes arrives in two parts; thankfully, it doesn’t usually go any further than curiosity based on an overworked stereotype about redheads being bad tempered. However, asking about a fiery temperament is periodically used as a segue into a follow-up question about sex. Pondering out loud whether someone is wild in bed may be appropriate in certain, very specific situations; but much like the question about pubic hair, it frequently gets asked without any appropriate context.

Assigning disposition or sexual abilities to a particular hair colour is nonsensical; it bears no correlation in either of those areas.

In Summary

If it comes from a place of genuine interest, asking redheads about their hair can establish space for engaging and friendly conversations. Curiosity can open up opportunities for understanding and appreciation — it’s having to bust myths and misconceptions or dodge hypersexualization that is exhausting and intensely uncomfortable.

A small selection of the things that natural redheads get asked has been included in this article; even though there are many more things that could have been discussed; it would be wonderful if these five questions, in particular, could once and for all be laid to rest.

Did any of these questions surprise you? How would you react if you were asked some of these questions?

Further Info:

Photographer Explores the Beautiful Diversity of Redheads – The Modern Met

70 Redhead Facts & Secrets You Never Knew – Facts.Net

34 thoughts on “5 Questions You Should Never Ask a Natural Redhead”

  1. I’m shocked that people have asked you all these questions! Especially, about the pubic hair one! How creepy!
    I think red hair is beautiful. It would be boring if we all had the same colour of hair.


  2. Wow! Great article! How rude to ask someone such personal questions! I personally love red hair. My younger son has some red in his light brown hair, and I notice it when he’s out in the sun.


  3. Interesting facts about redheads. Speaking about redheads, I always remember Anne Shirley of Green Gables. I don’t understand why some people believe such a thing about redheads. I believe redheads are lovely people.


  4. I am from India and we only have different shades of black hair. I love natural red hair and no one should be subjected to harsh comments or extreme behaviour just because someone has a different hair colour, skin colour, or ethnicity.


  5. When I went to Copenhagen years ago, I found out that at the time, almost two thirds of the country was blonde…in fact, I did a photo essay called blondes on bikes, because it was truly overwhelming in a great fun way – and I also learned that roughly 10% of the country was redhead in some way…also interesting…loved this post and it’s truly bizarre and shameful the questions asked!


  6. My daughter has light red hair, and she has received compliments from strangers because, in Denmark, blond hair is the norm so she stands out with her hair.
    I’m so sorry you’ve been asked these questions, especially about pubic hair and if you’re wild in bed. Those questions are completely inappropriate, and that is so creepy that one of your student’s dad’s asked you that.
    Also, I have brown hair and my partner has blond hair, and isn’t okay to ask someone if your parents are really your parents just because you have a different hair color than them!


    1. Sadly, in some places these questions are very common and redheads field them quite a lot. I think it can get better if people are made aware of how inappropriate they are; I am hopeful that eventually this kind of interaction will stop! Thanks so much for reading!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I can’t even fathom these questions being asked! I love red hair, always did and always will, so these are never being asked!


  8. My sister and both of her children are redheads – I love them! They all have extremely thick hair (it has to be thinned out regularly). I’m sure they have all been asked these silly questions as some point in time. An enlightening post!


    1. Red hair can be super thick, I think that even though we’re supposed to have less hair on our head, each strand is thicker than other colours. I get my hair thinned out too so I know the struggle your sister and her children go through, haha! Thanks for reading!


  9. This is such an informative post! I’m so sorry to hear that you were asked such inappropriate questions. It’s wild how people think it’s okay and brush it off as innocent or being playful. People definitely need to educate themselves and reevaluate how they’re speaking to others. Thank you for sharing Molly!


  10. I’m a redhead and I love it! I’m not super bright red or “orange” (I hate calling it orange but there’s no other word to describe it but it’s beautiful!) but in the sun I have very copper / auburn hair. I hated it when I was younger. I dyed my hair blonde for most of my teenage years but I’d never do that again now. I love my hair colour!


    1. I wanted to dye my hair when I was younger but never got around to it — which in the end I am glad I didn’t do. I love my hair too; it’s unusual and vibrant and I am so glad I never changed it. Yay, for us redheads!


  11. Oh my goodness, questions 1 and 5 are just beyond belief! I mean, WHY would you ever ask someone these?! That’s an interesting statistic about one to two percent of the world’s population being naturally red-headed too. What a fascinating post and insight, thank you, Molly!


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