Red hair--a desirable mutation?

J Cosmet Dermatol. 2002 Jul;1(2):62-5. doi: 10.1046/j.1473-2165.2002.00036.x.


Red hair is one of the most striking variants of human hair coloration and has historically been of profound social importance. Red hair in man is due to certain loss of function mutations of one of the peptide products of the pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC) gene, the melanocortin-1 receptor (MC1R, MIM 155555). Such functional mutations enable the melanocyte to produce red-yellow pheomelanin in preference to the default, black-brown eumelanin. This paper reviews the path of discovery of the MC1R in control of animal coat colour, the subsequent role of MC1R in human physiology and possibly wider role of MC1R in human skin carcinogenesis and human development through history.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Hair Color / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Mutation*
  • Receptor, Melanocortin, Type 1 / genetics


  • Receptor, Melanocortin, Type 1