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Why do redheads not age well?

Redheads often get a bad rap for not aging gracefully. But is there any truth to the stereotype that redheads don’t age well? Let’s take a closer look at the facts around red hair and aging.

Do redheads wrinkle more?

There is some evidence that redheads may be more prone to wrinkling and showing signs of aging earlier than people with other hair colors. This is because redheads often have fairer skin that is more susceptible to sun damage. Fair skin contains less melanin, which is the pigment that protects against UV radiation. Without as much protective melanin, redheads are at higher risk of developing wrinkles, age spots, and other signs of premature aging from sun exposure.

One study found that redheads are more likely to show signs of aging, like crow’s feet and forehead lines, by the time they reach their early 20s. The research compared closeup photos of redheads and non-redheads between the ages of 10 and 50. Before age 30, redheads showed significantly more aging features compared to those with dark hair.

The lack of melanin also means the skin of redheads has less antioxidant protection against free radicals that contribute to the breakdown of collagen. Collagen loss leads to wrinkles and sagging. With less melanin defense, redheads may start to lose collagen integrity sooner.

Does red hair turn gray faster?

Red hair contains two types of pigment – reddish pheomelanin and darker eumelanin. As we age, the amount of eumelanin decreases faster than pheomelanin. Because red hair has a higher ratio of pheomelanin, the aging of eumelanin leads hair to become less black-tinged and more bright coppery red.

Eventually pheomelanin also starts to decrease with age, causing red hair to fade to a strawberry blonde or light blond. The reduction of pigments altogether leads to gray or white hairs. This process seems to happen faster in redheads, causing them to go gray at an earlier age.

On average, redheads begin to see gray hairs in their mid-to-late 20s. By the time they are 30, most redheads have at least some gray hairs interspersed with their natural color. They typically go completely gray by the time they reach their mid-30s to early 40s.

Average age redheads go fully gray

Women 35-40 years old
Men Mid 30s

Is skin cancer a bigger concern for redheads?

The increased susceptibility to sun damage also makes redheads more vulnerable to developing skin cancers. melanoma is the most dangerous form of skin cancer. Having red hair is associated with a higher melanoma risk.

One study found redheads have a nearly 70% higher likelihood of developing melanoma than those with black or brown hair. Researchers estimate that redheads need to be especially diligent about sun protection to minimize skin cancer risk.

Risk of developing melanoma by hair color

Redheads Almost 70% higher risk
Blonds Over 20% higher risk
Brown or black Lower risk

Do redheads look older than their age?

The effects of sun damage, graying hair, and wrinkling can make redheads appear older than their chronological age. Having fair skin dotted with freckles and age spots can add to a more mature look.

However, studies offer mixed conclusions about whether redheads actually look older than individuals of the same age with other hair colors:

  • One study using facial modeling software showed that redheads look about two years older than their non-redhead counterparts.
  • But another study using similar technology found no real difference in perceived age between redheads and others when accounted for chronological age.

The effects seem to be most noticeable at younger ages. Some analyses indicate redheaded children look older than children with darker hair. But among adults over age 30, red hair didn’t consistently correlate with looking older.

Do redheads have shorter lifespans?

Some research points to redheads having a slightly shorter lifespan on average. One large study of over 500,000 people in England found that redheads had a nearly 8% higher mortality rate than those with blond, brown or black hair. The difference amounted to redheads living around 2.5 fewer years.

However, studies are not conclusive about mortality rates. Other analyses have found no significant difference in lifespan between redheads and the general population.

It’s possible the jury is still out because there are relatively few natural redheads – only 1-2% of the population. More research on larger groups of redheads is needed to confirm if their physical traits translate to shorter longevity.

Can redheads slow visible aging?

Despite being prone to premature wrinkling, graying and skin damage, redheads can take steps to slow signs of aging:

  • Use broad spectrum sunscreen daily to minimize UV exposure and skin cancer risk.
  • Wear protective clothing like wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses.
  • Get regular skin cancer screenings by a dermatologist.
  • Quit smoking to prevent collagen breakdown and wrinkling.
  • Eat a healthy diet with antioxidants to fight free radicals.
  • Use anti-aging skincare products with ingredients like retinol, vitamin C and alpha hydroxy acids.
  • Consider collagen supplements to counteract collagen loss.
  • Get treatment for skin damage, like laser resurfacing or dermal fillers.


Redheads do tend to show visible signs of aging earlier than people with other hair colors. Factors like sun sensitivity, lack of melanin protection, and early graying contribute to an older appearance faster. However, redheads can take measures to protect their skin and hair to slow premature aging.

While they may wrinkle and go gray sooner, redheads can still maintain a youthful glow by being vigilant about sun protection and taking care of their skin.