– People with red hair are special in many ways. Hair color is primarily genetic, and red hair is caused by mutations in the MC1R gene.
People with red hair are not often encountered because only 1% and 2%, or 70 to 140 million people around the world, have red hair. Scotland boasts the highest percentage of natural redheads, with 13% (40% might carry the gene there) while Ireland comes in second with 10%.
Red hair and blue eyes is the rarest combination in the world.
Studies show that redheads are differently constituted in terms of pain perception and body reactions and people with red hair might be genetically superior and special.
There are many myths about redheads. Some of these myths have been confirmed by modern science, while others can be dismissed.
It is often said that redheads are much more sensitive to pain and can endure less than other people.
However, researchers at the Aalborg University in Denmark have confirmed that redheads simply react more strongly to certain type of pain such as dental pain or extreme cold. It was also confirmed that redheads are less responsive to subcutaneously administered anaesthetics and are at greater risk of developing sclerosis and endometriosis.
Redheads need 20 percent more anesthesia than their dark-headed counterparts. Because the MC1R gene belongs to the same family of genes that play a role in pain, the mutation causes redheads to be more sensitive to it.
So it’s true that redheads have problems coping with temperature changes, even slight ones. They feel hot and cold temperature changes faster and with greater intensity than those with other hair colors
On the other hand, scientists discovered that people with red hair are less sensitive to stinging pain in the skin. So, redheads are in many ways much tougher than other people. Redheads simply feel pain differently.
This was shown in tests where capsaicin, the active substance in chilli, was injected into the skin to produce pain.
“Our tests showed that redheads are less sensitive to this particular type of pain. They react less to pressure close to the injected area, or to a pinprick. They seem to be a bit better protected, and that is a really interesting finding,” says Professor Lars Arendt-Nielsen of the Center for Sensory-Motor Interaction at Aalborg University.
Scientific studies also showed that redheads are more also more sensitive to painkillers. Redheads can take smaller doses of painkillers to reach the same level of pain tolerance as others.
Northern European countries have the highest concentrations of redheads, and there’s a reason for that. When humans migrated out of Africa tens of thousands of years ago, their skin lightened over time because they were exposed to less Sun.
People with darker skin developed it to block some of the sun’s harmful UV rays, but in the process also lost the ability to naturally produce high levels of vitamin D. On the other hand, people with red hair, who don’t get much sun, were able to adapt; their bodies learned to efficiently generate the vitamin D their bodies needed.
According to the Danish researchers MC1R seems to be involved in central functions in the brain along with the subgroups MC2R, MC3R and MC4R.
Perhaps the gene may even be linked to intelligence. A British-American study concludes that redheads are four times more likely to become CEOs than others within the same demographics.
So, whether redheads are genetically superior or not can be debated, but their unique gene mutations make them different and special.