Seven Crazy Health Facts For People With Red Hair

People who have red hair naturally are an anomaly in the human species. Current estimates state that redheads are only about 1-2 percent of the global population.

red hair
Photo Credit: Sunny Ripert/Flickr/Wikimedia Commons

The cause of red hair was only recently discovered. In 2000, scientists identified the melanocortin 1 receptor (MC1R) protein as the source of red hair in humans. Everyone has this gene, but it’s only in a select few that the gene mutates to give the individual red hair, along with light skin and pale eyes.

Interestingly, people with red hair are not just a rarity. According to several reports, they also have a unique set of health consequences. Due to genetic mutations and other mysterious causes:

1. They are more sensitive to painkillers.

That same MC1R mutation isn’t just responsible for red hair. Redheads have a higher degree of analgesic responsiveness, so they do not need the doses of opioid narcotic painkillers (such as hydrocodone) that people without red hair do.

2. They are human thermometers.

MC1R also makes people with red hair more sensitive to even the slightest changes in temperature. They feel hot and cold changes more quickly and with greater intensity than those who do not have red hair.

Any guy dating a redhead who refuses to give her his jacket when it’s cold is even more of a dick than the rest of us.

3. They make anesthesiologists work harder.

Redheads need, on average, about 20 percent more anesthesia than those who do not have red hair. Again, this is because of MC1R. Research also indicates that because of their higher resistance to anesthesia, redheads are twice as likely to avoid going to the dentist.

Not enough novocaine? They’re going to have a bad time.

4. They are their own source of Vitamin D.

Northern Europe has the highest concentration of people with red hair. Why?

When humans migrated out of Africa tens of thousands of years ago (not 6,000, but tens of thousands!) their skin lightened due to decreased sun exposure. Darker skin develops as a means to block UV radiation. Unfortunately, UV shielding comes at a high price. Darker-skinned people cannot produce high levels of Vitamin D naturally.

Since the skin of people with red hair can pretty much be described as clear, their bodies naturally produce high levels of Vitamin D when exposed to low-light conditions.

Guess what, suckers! This is human evolution!

5. They have an increased risk of certain diseases.

Studies have found that people with red hair are at a higher risk to develop Parkinson’s disease compared to those who do not have red hair. The correlation was published in a 2009 study that examined 130,000 people over a span of 16 years, finding that those with red hair were twice as likely to develop Parkinson’s disease. Scientists still don’t know why.

Also, people with red hair are at an increased risk of developing melanoma, the Thanos of skin cancer. The mutated MC1R does not bind to the PTEN gene. The binding of MC1R and PTEN prevents tumors and acts as a safeguard against cancer. When a redhead’s skin is exposed to UV radiation (such as from the sun), the PTEN gene breaks down and pigment-producing cells quickly grow, leading to melanoma.

6. They rarely go gray (those bastards!).

While the rest of us examine our scalps in mirrors, redheads laugh at us. On top of retaining their hair pigment longer and typically having thicker hair than their counterparts, pigment depletion in people with red hair has stages of light copper, then blonde, and finally white.

7. They have more sex (seriously, those bastards!).

Color psychologists say that red stimulates arousal and is an indicator of youth and fertility. According to Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman, red hair gives those with the Mc1R mutation an advantage in the mating game, particularly women.

Also, on a large scale, we’re attracted to rarity. It’s just human nature.

There is a reason why redheads compose some of the most beautiful people in the world. Their locks are enticing, they’re uncommon, and above all, they’re unbelievably fascinating. I suppose it’s enough to make people without red hair succumb to jealousy, since for some ridiculous reason, a lot of us are still convinced they’re going extinct.

Robert could go on about how he was raised by honey badgers in the Texas Hill Country, or how he was elected to the Texas state legislature as a 19-year-old wunderkind, or how he won 219 consecutive games of Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots against Hugh Grant, but those would be lies. However, Robert does hail from Lewisville, Texas, having been transplanted from Fort Worth at a young age. Robert is a college student and focuses his studies on philosophical dilemmas involving morality, which he feels makes him very qualified to write about politicians. Reading the Bible turned Robert into an atheist, a combative disposition toward greed turned him into a humanist, and the fact he has not lost a game of Madden football in over a decade means you can call him "Zeus." If you would like to be his friend, you can send him a Facebook request or follow his ramblings on Twitter. For additional content that may not make it to Liberal America, Robert's internet tavern, The Zephyr Lounge, is always open