Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Red hair raises profile

Carrot tops claim they have more fun than blondes these days

The Cincinnati Enquirer and Gannett News Service

        Good grief, Charlie Brown, you were right all along. After centuries of being teased about their pale skin and lashes, shunned over their supposed short fuses, even burned as witches or buried alive to extinguish their fiery personalities, little (and big) redheaded girls are in. Way in. Red-hot, you might say.

Krista Mayer before
| ZOOM |
Krista Mayer after
| ZOOM |
        On television, the big screen and the pages of the trendiest magazines, shades of strawberry blond to deep burgundy frame faces everywhere.

        “People want to be unique, and what's more unique than a redhead?” asks Candi Wilt, a 26-year-old carrot top from Lawrence, Kan., who runs a redheads Web site (www.realmofredheads.com)that has doubled its membership in the past year.

        Only an estimated 2 percent to 5 percent of the U.S. population is born with red hair, due to the recessive nature of the gene that produces it. That gene, the melanocortin 1 receptor, was discovered on the 16th of the 23 human chromosome pairs in 1995 by Jonathan Rees, a professor at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.

        Statistically, though, the vast majority of red hair comes from a bottle. Women are tinting their hair red at an unprecedented rate. Research by Clairol shows 30 percent of women ages 18 to 34 who color their hair are going auburn or red, compared with 27 percent brown and 26 percent blond.

  A list of well-known redheads and whether their tresses are natural or “adopted.”
  • Actress Nicole Kidman: real.
  • Director Ron Howard: real.
  • Former St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Mark McGwire: real.
  • Singer Mick Hucknall of Simply Red: real.
  • Actress Cynthia Nixon (Sex and the City): fake.
  • Comedian Lucille Ball: fake.
  • England's Prince Harry: real.
  • Sarah Ferguson, the Duchess of York: real.
  • Singer Bette Midler: fake.
  • Singer Geri Halliwell: fake.
  • Actor Eric Stoltz: real.
  • Tennis pro Boris Becker: real.
  • Actress Sissy Spacek: real.
  • Actor David Caruso: real.
  • Comedian Red Skelton: real.
  • Bozo the Clown: fake.
  • Actress Debra Messing: fake.
  • Ann Boleyn, wife of Henry VIII: real.
  • Comedian Carrot Top: real.
  • Actress Marg Helgenberger: real.
  • Thomas Jefferson: real.
  — The Arizona Republic
        Geographically, the West leads the pack, with 20 percent of all retail sales of hair color being red, compared with 17 percent on the East Coast. Nationally, sales of red color are up 17 percent in the past six months.

        “Red is pretty in right about now,” says Loretta Englemon, a hairdresser at Final Touches Hair & Nail Gallery in Over-the-Rhine. “Everybody has red hair . . . probably because it's springtime and it really shows up. When the sun is bright, you can see it really well.”

        Middle-aged and younger women, she said, are asking for red hair, usually in lighter shades.

        “When it's hot outside, people want bright colors.”

        But all red all the time isn't exactly what clients have in mind, she says.

        “In most cases, we don't do the whole head. We streak or highlight or just do the tips. That's the thing now.”

        Jeremy Teal, manager at Salon LA in Norwood, said he has been ordering more red dyes in the past three or four weeks.

        Amy Davis-Francis, a hairdresser at the same shop in Rookwood Commons, confirmed that clients like “a lighter look for spring.”

        Mr. Teal said manufacturers have introduced multiple new shades of red hair color this year.

Risks for redheads

        Dr. Debra Breneman, the red-haired director of clinical research at the University of Cincinnati's department of dermatology, says people who become redheads by choice may get added attention, but they don't get the increased risk of skin cancer that natural redheads face.

        Like all fair-skinned people, redheads are more at risk for painful sunburns and wrinkles. And they're at higher risk for melanoma and other skin cancers.

        Willie Estep, 43, of Clermont County, describes himself as strawberry blond. Mr. Estep, a retired hydraulics specialist, was diagnosed with melanoma four years ago, He had to have 43 lymph nodes removed and last October, doctors found that the cancer had spread to his colon and stomach, resulting in another surgery.

  Sun is especially tough on redheads and their fair skin. Here are some tips on protecting both:
  • Apply waterproof sun block with a minimum 45 SPF in the morning and as needed throughout the day.
  • Wear a hat to shield your hair and face from the sun.
  • Always wet your hair before getting into a pool, so that it can't absorb the chlorine in the pool water.
  • Always shampoo after swimming.
  • If your hair is colored, ask your hairdresser to recommend a shampoo that will help prolong the color. Use a color refresher, found in shampoo or conditioner, once or twice weekly.
  • Visit a dermatologist at least twice a year to have your skin checked for cancer.
  — The Arizona Republic
        “I'm constantly checking myself” for suspicious moles and other signs the cancer has returned, Mr. Estep says. “And I'm just basically putting on sunscreen and a big hat and getting up and going day by day.”

        Theories vary on why redheads and others with fair skin are more at risk, says Dr. William Hoppenjans, a Crestview Hills dermatologist. Most experts agree that it has something to do with lack of pigmentation that protects the skin from sun damage. Fair-skinned people are two to four times more likely to develop melanoma than the rest of us.

        People of Celtic, German and northern European descent — “basically, the people we have around here” — tend to be at higher risk for cancers caused by sun damage, Dr. Hoppenjans says. The best example is Australia, which has the world's highest melanoma rate, and populated largely by pale people of English, Scottish and Irish descent.

        Redheads and fair-skinned blonds tend to be people with type 1 or 2 skin, says Dr. Breneman. “A type 1 person can't tan at all,” she says. Tanning is a response to injury to the skin caused by sun damage, she says, and it affords a slight degree of protection against future damage.

        Mr. Estep didn't tan, but he grew up on a farm and spent a lot of time outdoors playing sports. Now he tries to limit his outdoor activity to early mornings and late afternoons when the sun is at its weakest.

        “I burned a lot. I never tanned. I burned and blistered,” he says, adding the only tan he ever saw was on his arms — the classic “farmer tan.”

Common ground

        Mindful of the damage sun can do to her freckly skin, Paula Pennypacker wears her own brand of sun block. Ms. Pennypacker launched Just For Redheads beauty products in 1993 after running for mayor in Toledo, and being dismayed at her scary black-eyed appearance on television.

• About 13 percent of Scotland's citizens are redheaded, the highest percentage in the world.
  • Redheads were a favorite subject of 19th-century British artists, including the Pre-Raphaelites and John W. Waterhouse. Many of the most famous Victorian paintings featured beautiful red-haired ladies.
  • Redheads have between 85,000 and 90,000 hairs on their heads, compared with blondes (140,000) and brunettes (180,000). Redheads appear to have more hair because red hair shafts are much thicker than those of blondes and brunettes.
  • Strawberry blondes tend to have light-colored eyes; auburn reds more often have hazel eyes.
  • Queen Elizabeth I washed her hair three times a year in lye. It fell out, and she wore a red wig.
  • Witches were said to need the fat of a person with red hair when making poisons.
  • The Egyptians regarded the color as so unlucky that they had a ceremony to burn redheaded maidens alive to wipe out the tint. It failed.
  • In Denmark, it's an honor to have a redheaded child. In Corsica, if you pass one on the street you spit and turn around. In Poland, it's said if you pass three redheads, you'll win the state lottery.
  - The Arizona Republic
        With her husband, Duane Abbajay, Ms. Pennypacker today sells more than 150 products, has increased sales 10 percent each year and does half of her business via the Internet (www.JustForRedheads.com).

        Now with a redheaded, 2-year-old son of her own, Ms. Pennypacker remembers being teased about her hair and freckles as a child.

        “I hated it. I didn't have a lot of boyfriends. But later, it was a great political attribute. I got a lot of attention, and now I love it.”

        Candi Wilt started her Web site about four years ago after an Internet search for redheads revealed little more than XXX-rated adult sites. Today, she has more than 2,000 redheaded members from all 50 states and 27 countries who discuss books, share makeup tips and wish each other happy birthday online.

        “I think redheads have a bond, at least the natural ones,” Ms. Wilt says.

        Members range in age from 14 to 60-plus and are both natural and faux redheads. Ms. Wilt doesn't discriminate between those who were born with red hair or got it from a bottle — a decision that has riled some real reds.

        “They don't like that the others didn't pay their dues, they didn't grow up being teased. But I don't agree. I look at them wanting to join as a flattering thing.”

        These days, you can't top the copper top.


- Red hair raises profile
Playing cards promote patriotism
Russian painter turns everyday into extraordinary
Get to it
NBC gets rid of weakest links
Even 'Heroes' can't go home again
Tristate Best Sellers List
What Tristaters Are Reading
CCM opera is seeking new director
Ovation offers trio of satirical spoofs
Supersuckers' shtick doesn't come together