Blond hair is relatively rare globally, while being extremely common in certain areas. It’s estimated that about 84% of the world’s population has black or dark brown hair. Brunettes come in second with 11%. Only about 3% of the population is blond, and an additional 2% are redheads.

The percentage varies regionally. Black is the most common throughout Africa and Asia. But in the U.S., only 7.5% of the population has black hair. Scotland has the highest percentage of redheads, with 13%. Red hair with blue eyes is the rarest combination of hair and eye color. Blond and blue-eyed is the second least common. Dark brown hair with brown eyes is the most common.

Blond hair evolved about 11,000 years ago, at the end of the last Ice Age, due to a mutation in the genetic code. Of the 13 billion “letters” in human DNA, a single letter switched. That allowed the variations of hair color we see today. Blonds likely stood out in the crowd to such an extent that they attracted mates with great regularity, spreading the gene.

Around the same time, eye color also diversified, although a different gene controls it. The genetics of blond hair affect only the hair color, not the eye or skin color. Still, however, the more melanin in the eye’s iris, the darker the color.

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The people of Finland have one of the highest concentrations of blond hair. Nearly 80% of their population has blond hair, and 89% of the population has blue eyes. Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, and Denmark also have high percentages of blue-eyed blonds, ranging between 50 and 79% of the population.

There are several places in the world where dark-skinned people with blond hair are found. In some regions of Australia, up to 90% of Aboriginal children are born blond. People in the Solomon Islands have some of the darkest skin outside of Africa, yet between 5% and 10% have naturally blond hair. About 10% of the Melanesians of New Guinea are blond. Researchers found that in these cases, the flipped genetic “switch” was entirely different from the one in Northern Europe, proving that blond hair evolved not once, but twice.

Melanin is the pigment that determines hair color, eye color, skin color, and how easily the skin tans. The name comes from the Greek meaning “black” or “dark”. In hair, there are two types of melanin. The balance of these two pigments determines hair color.

Blond hair tends to be thinner than other colors. As a result, more hair can fit on the scalp. A natural blond might have 150,000 individual hairs, while brunettes have 100,000 and redheads only 90,000. The density and the darkness of hair protects the head and scalp from the sun’s damaging rays. Because blonds have the least melanin not only in their hair but also in their skin, they are more susceptible to sunburn and skin cancer.

The factors that govern hair color do not stay constant throughout one’s life. It’s common for blond-headed children to become brunettes when puberty sets in, as the melanin in the scalp increases. Many new mothers who were blond before pregnancy find themselves brunette after giving birth.

Only one out of every 20 white American females is a natural blond. When it comes to hair dye, however, one-third of women who dye their hair choose to be a blond.