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What Is Chestnut Hair?

By Ray Hawk
Updated May 21, 2024
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Chestnut hair is a shade of brown hair that has a slight reddish tone to it, and is often broken down into the two colors of chestnut brown or light chestnut brown hair. It is a brighter shade of brown than standard brown hair, but not as red in color as auburn hair, which has lighter and more easily visible red tones to it. Hair colors like chestnut hair can often be misidentified because there are many shades of brown hair in the population, which span a spectrum from golden brown colors to reddish hair, and browns that approach black in color.

The colors of hair in the human population tend to follow fairly distinct geographic regions, though brown shades such as chestnut hair can be common throughout the world. In Europe, in general, 60% to 80% of the population has light-colored hair in the Scandinavian countries of Iceland, Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. Much of the UK, as well as northern regions of Germany, Poland, and the Baltic states, including Finland, are also populated by largely light-colored hair such as varying shades of blond. Where chestnut hair predominates, it defines many border regions between these lighter hair populations and darker brown and black tones. This includes northern regions of Spain, southern regions of France and Germany, northern Italy, and more.

Since chestnut hair contains an element of red to it, populations such as those of the British isles and Ireland often have a significant number of people with chestnut shades of hair as well. This also tends to include Slavic regions of eastern Europe and northern areas of Africa and the Middle East. Like people with red hair, chestnut hair colors are often found on people who are have fairly pale skin and often blue, green, or gray eye colors. Darker versions of the hair color tend to reflect darker skin tones and brown eye color as well.

Hair color is known to be determined by two pigments in the body, and levels of these can alter as someone ages, resulting in the shade of his or her hair changing over time. Pheomelanin is the dominant pigment for conveying red hair color to individuals. Eumelanin can be of the brown or black type, and gives hair either a shade of brown or black color. The absence in the body or low concentrations of the brown version of eumelanin will result in blond hair colors, though this effect tends to fade with age and blond hair grows darker.

BeautyAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By bagley79 — On Sep 26, 2012

I can't think of a single naturally blonde person in my immediate family. All of us have what ranges from dark to light chestnut hair. I love the color of chestnut hair because it has so much more color than just plain brown hair.

My hair is a lighter chestnut color and it really lightens up in the summer when I spend time outside in the sun.

The only disadvantage I have found to having darker colored hair is that the gray hairs are more pronounced. The lighter your hair color, the easier it is to hide some of the gray hairs. With darker colored hair, they are much harder to hide unless you start coloring your hair.

By Mykol — On Sep 25, 2012

I have what would be considered dark chestnut hair with slight undertones of red in it. You really notice the red when the sun shines on it just right. I also have brown eyes and a darker skin tone, which is common for people with dark chestnut hair.

I like the color of my natural hair and feel like I have enough natural highlights and undertones that I don't need to spend the money to add highlights to my hair.

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