MC1R – U.S. National Library of Medicine





The Ginger Gene – Secret of Youthful looks

“Scientists say they have made a leap in knowing why some people retain their youthful looks while others age badly.

They found the first part of human DNA – the genetic code – that seems to affect how old people look to others.

The mutations, reported in the journal Current Biology, were in the genetic instructions for protecting the body from UV radiation.

But these can also lead to red hair, and experts caution the findings may be confused by eye, skin or hair colour.

The study into “perceived age” was organised by the Erasmus University Medical Centre in the Netherlands and Unilever.

Dr David Gunn, a senior scientist at the company, said perceived age was a phenomenon everyone was familiar with.

He told the BBC News website: “You meet two people you haven’t seen for 10 years, and you happen to notice one doesn’t look a day older than you remember and then the other person you think ‘Wow what happened to them?’.”


The MC1R Gene & Youthful looks


  • We present the first genetic associations with how old people look (perceived age)
  • Variants in MC1R, a pigmentation gene, significantly associated with perceived age
  • The MC1R association was independent of wrinkling, skin color, and sun exposure
  • The MC1R genetic effect resulted in looking up to 2 years older for one’s age


  1. The MC1R Gene and Youthful Looks

    Liu, Fan et al.
    Current Biology , Volume 26 , Issue 9 , 1213 – 1220