A Note from Your Neighborhood Ginger

By Samantha Ward

We go by many names: Red, Ginger, Carrot Top, Rusty, Cherry, Fire Cr. . . I think you get the idea. Once a year, when the shamrocks are unfurling and the green ale is flowing, redheads are celebrated along with St. Patrick (because apparently we are all Irish).

Considering only 1 to 2 percent of the world was blessed with fiery hair, it’s safe to say not many understand what it’s like to have red hair. Allow me to be your token ginger friend and to enlighten you on the ups and downs of the red head life.  

Genetically, there is so much more to redheads than any other hair type. Take a look at my MC1R protein, and you would notice it looks quite different from yours. It affects far more than my hair, and the most obvious victim of this difference is my skin.

Now that warm weather is here, many people are working on their tans. I’m just trying not to burn. Half an hour in the cloudless, summer daylight and my shoulders go pink. Double the time and they are bright red. I’ll be slapping aloe on them for at least a week.

However, I’ve now grown fond of my pale complexion. The unnerving alternative is guaranteed melanoma. My dermatologist already gives me a hard enough time about the countless freckles that all pose a similar threat.

The effects of my mutation don’t stop there. I am more sensitive to certain types of pain, like thermal pain, making sunburns that much worse. I also need more anesthetics for surgery. Don’t even get me started on how sick I felt after being put under for the first time.

Though I make it seem like being a redhead is the worst, there are plenty of benefits as well.

Back to sunlight (redheads are always thinking about the sun): It turns out that our hypersensitivity to UV light also makes our bodies the most efficient at generating vitamin D. That ability in turn helps keep our bones and immune systems strong when paired with the proper amount of calcium.

Longer sun exposure also turns my copper hair into a vibrant red. It can be so dazzling in the light that it draws the attention and compliments of total strangers. Even when I’m slathered in layers sunblock, I can’t help but thank the sun for helping me look my best.

On a more personal level, my red hair helps me on the journey of self-love. Body positivity is an issue for so many people, myself included, but finding at least one physical thing to love about yourself really helps you realize just how beautiful you are, along with every other human being.  

By keeping my ruby crown, I proudly carry on my heritage, which in my case does happen to be Irish, and I’ve come to appreciate even more so the differences that make us all exquisitely unique.

So as you’re celebrating the Emerald Isle’s saint, make sure to show some love to your neighborhood ginger (even if they are not Irish)!

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