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What are the two rarest hair colors?

What are the two rarest hair colors?

Hair color is determined by the amount and type of melanin pigment produced in the hair follicles. Melanin comes in two primary forms: eumelanin which produces brown and black hues, and pheomelanin which produces red hues. The combination and ratio of these two melanins determines someone’s natural hair color.

While brown, black, blonde, and red hair are the most common, there are some very rare natural hair colors that occur in a small percentage of the population. The two rarest hair colors are white hair and true red hair.

The prevalence of common hair colors

Brown and black hair are the most common hair colors worldwide. It is estimated that over 90% of people globally have some shade of black or brown hair.

Blonde hair is rare, occurring naturally in around 2% of the global population. Natural blonde hair is most common in Northern and Eastern Europeans, with countries like Finland and Latvia having some of the highest percentages of blonde-haired people in the world.

Red hair is even more uncommon than blonde hair. Only 1-2% of the global population has natural red hair. The highest concentrations of redheads are found in Scotland and Ireland, where it is estimated 6-13% of the population has red hair.

So while brunette, blonde, and red hair colors attract a lot of attention, they are still relatively common compared to the world’s rarest hair colors.

White Hair

White hair, also known as albinism, is perhaps the rarest hair color in the world. It is estimated that only 1 in 17,000 people worldwide have some form of albinism.

Albinism is caused by an inherited lack of melanin pigment in the body and hair follicles. Without melanin, the hair grows in completely white or with a very light platinum blonde hue.

Most people associate white hair with age and graying, but some people are born with white hair or develop it at a very young age due to albinism.

True white hair from albinism is different from graying hair, as the hair lacks pigment completely rather than losing color over time. People with albinism often have very pale skin and light colored eyes as well.

While estimates vary, occurrences of albinism in different parts of the world have been documented as:

Region Estimated Rate of Albinism
Sub-Saharan Africa 1 in 5,000 to 15,000
United States & Canada 1 in 20,000
Europe 1 in 20,000

Due to this rarity, true white hair from birth is one of the least common hair colors worldwide.

Red Hair

While general red hair occurs in only 1-2% of the population, a specific subtype of red hair is even more rare.

True red hair, meaning hair that is a bright ginger or orange-red shade, is estimated to occur naturally in around 1-2% of redheads themselves. That means only around 0.05-0.2% of the total world population has true bright red hair.

The most vibrant and fiery shades of red hair contain the highest concentrations of pheomelanin. True red hair has a dominance of this warm pigment over cooler-toned eumelanin.

This intense saturation of orange-red pheomelanin in the hair follicles only occurs in a very small subset of the population. Most redheads actually have hair that appears somewhat blonde or strawberry-blonde rather than true red.

Populations with the highest percentages of true redheads include:

Country Estimated Percentage with True Red Hair
Scotland 0.5-1%
Ireland 0.5-0.8%
Wales 0.4-0.7%

So while red hair in general is rare, only a fraction of redheads inherit the genes for really bright, intense red hair. That makes true ginger-red locks one of the rarest hair colors on the planet.

What causes such rare hair colors?

White and bright red hair occur due to rare genetic mutations and recessive traits passed down within certain populations.

Albinism is caused by inherited mutations in genes related to the production of melanin pigment. Both parents must be carriers of the recessive albinism gene for a child to inherit the condition.

True red hair seems to be linked to mutations in the MC1R gene which controls melanin production. Two copies of a rare variant of this gene leads to intense pheomelanin production and bright red hair. This variant likely survived evolutionarily because it produced an adaptive advantage in cloudy northern climates.

These genetic quirks are passed down in isolated populations, concentrating the unusual traits. But globally, the odds of inheriting genes for white or very red hair are extremely slim.

That’s why vibrant white and fiery ginger-red hair are virtually unseen in most parts of the world. They are highly prized for their rarity!


While opinions vary on which is the absolute rarest, white and true red hair seem to be good candidates for the title based on global occurrence rates.

With white hair only occurring in an estimated 1 in 17,000 people due to albinism, and true bright red ginger hair estimated to occur in just 0.05-0.2% of the general population, these hair colors are hundreds of times rarer than common blondes and redheads.

The genetics and populations supporting these two unique hair colors make them very uncommon. White and fiery red hair easily rank among the rarest naturally occurring hair colors in the world. Their scarcity adds to their visual fascination and allure.