Red hair or ginger hair occurs naturally in one to two percent of the human population , appearing with greater frequency two to six percent among people of Northern or Northwestern European ancestry and lesser frequency in other populations. It is most common in individuals homozygous for a recessive allele on chromosome 16 that produces an altered version of the MC1R protein. Red hair varies in hue from a deep burgundy or bright copper , or auburn , to burnt orange or red-orange to strawberry blond. Characterized by high levels of the reddish pigment pheomelanin and relatively low levels of the dark pigment eumelanin , it is associated with fair skin color , lighter eye color , freckles , and sensitivity to ultraviolet light. Cultural reactions to red hair have varied from ridicule to admiration with many common stereotypes in existence regarding redheads.