- 4 minute read – 1100 words
I myself am naturally blonde haired. When I was younger I always wanted to have dark hair because, well, I guess everyone always likes the opposite. Just recently I found out how many people in the world have blonde hair. Now I know it’s extremely rare, I appreciate more that I am part of this exclusive group of people in the world.
So; why are you blonde? And how many of us are there? Or do you like blondes and you want to know how big the chances are “The One” for you is blonde?
The science behind blonde hair
So how come there is blonde people at all? I am talking about adults by the way. There is many children that are blonde and turn into brunettes or even darker colored haired adults after a while. Also all those people who dye their hair are not taken into account. Why blonde hair even exists is not exactly clear but there are two theories:
1. Blonde hair because of vitamin D deficiency
The first is explained by pigmentation. When you are in the sun a lot you get a tan to protect yourself from burning. Besides getting a tan, being in the sun makes your body trigger the production of vitamin D. However, in the North of Europe there is less sun. The lighter the skin, the easier the body is triggered by the sun to produce vitamin D. But less pigment in the body for the skin means less pigment for the hair, explaining blonde hair.
There is other sources of vitamin D (fish for example) explaining other people in the world with less sun to still have darker skin and/or hair.
By genetic mutation 11,000 years ago because of pigmentation, genes were then transferred to generations to come. By people moving around and mixing it became something seen in other places then North Europe alone.
2. Blonde hair because of sexual selection
This has been a more popular story and is based on the premises that blonde haired women with blue eyes are more popular. Because they are rare, they stand out and are for that matter more interesting for potential mates. The Canadian anthropologist Peter Frost based this on the fact that blondes were to be found in a specific area.
Though sometimes it seems that blondes indeed are found to be more attractive by some people then the darker haired (majority) of the people, it seems far fetched to be true for me personally.
Types of blonde hair color
We jumped right into the science behind blonde hair, but there are different types of blonde hair to be distinguished. German professor of anthropology and medicine Eugene Fischer and doctor and anthropologist Karl Saller together came up with the Fischer-Saller scale. They rated all existing hair colors from A to Y. From these letters, the letters A to O are all types of blonde, letters P to Y are brown and black. Red colored hair is in a complete different category, Roman numbers I to VI, where also red blonde is categorized.
This shows how many types of blonde hair there are. From almost white to light blonde, platinum blonde, gold blonde, ash blonde, dirty blonde to sandy blonde and bleached blonde. On the picture you see the full scale of colors.
Blond hair in history
There are many stories of blondes in (ancient) history. Because blondes where rare, not to be explained and you could only inherit it from one or both of your parents, it soon became something divine and magical.
While South Europe mostly counts dark haired people, most of the Greek and Roman gods were said to be “fair-haired” or blonde. Also kings and heroes in literature and writings are said to be blonde. In ancient Greece this was a stronger phenomenon than in ancient Rome. Even worse, in the early period of ancient Rome, blondes were associated with prostitutes, making blondes want to dye their hair dark. Later when the cultures of ancient Greece and Rome mixed, people saw being blonde as being special. In Rome, people died their hair blonde with pigeon shit!
How many blondes are there in the world?
So how many blondes are there in the world? To give you an answer right away: approximately 1,8% of the (adult) people in the world have (real) blonde hair. This is an extreme low number, but think of the Chinese population for example. Stereo typically black haired and they count for a fifth of the world’s population. India and South America are also almost completely populated with dark haired people, together they count around 1,5 billion people, around 20% of the world as well.
Only 1,8% of people in the world have blonde hair
So where do you find blonde people? Mostly in North Europe, as is clear from the world map with the percentage of blonde haired people. The colors represent the amount of blonde haired people, not hair colors on itself. On the map you can clearly see that there is almost no blonde haired people in Central America, Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Or to look at it in another way; around the equator which actually supports the first theory. Mix the first theory with colonization and we can go a long way of explaining why blonde haired people live in the countries and regions we now know they do.
In North Europe you will find the highest percentage of blonde haired people. From 45% to 80% of the people in North European countries has blonde hair. From Belgium and the Netherlands to Scandinavia and even up to Iceland and Estonia you can find high concentrations of blonde people. With the increasing mobility of people and the globalization this might change in the future. The blonde gene is actually less likely to pass on to the next generation when mixed with the gene that generates a darker color of hair. This leads to the believe of some people that one day there will be no more blonde haired people left.
Interesting facts about blonde hair
- The word blonde comes from old French (blund)
- The English word Blonde was first used in 1481
- Blonde women, after pregnancy, often have darker hair because of hormones which affect pigmentation
- Marilyn Monroe was not a natural blonde
- A lot of Melanesians are known to have blonde hair. However the gene responsible for blonde haired people in Melanesia is a different one than the one with Caucasian people. (TYRP1 vs MC1R)
- Dumb Blonde probably comes from a French play where a blonde prostitute is portrayed as being less than smart
- Researchers couldn’t find evidence in difference between intelligence and hair color
- Blondes have more hair on their head than red- or dark colored hair people.