While redheads are acutely sensitive to the sun’s harmful UV rays, bringing with it a higher risk of skin cancer, do they hold any genetic tricks up their sleeves? They can develop vitamin D using lower levels of sunlight and our natural ginger shade stays with us than people’s other hair shades, but is that the extent of it?
It turns out that the mutated MC1R ginger gene is not only responsible for red hair; it also affects the way that redheads feel pain. Here’s a rundown of the different ways gingers feel pain differently to other people.
Redheads have been found to be more sensitive to changes in temperature, able to detect even slight hot and cold changes faster and with greater intensity than those with other hair shades.
It’s been found that redheads require approximately 19% more anaesthesia than other hair colours during surgery. This is also applicable to novocaine-type drugs often used by dentists, which is a good reason for redheads being more afraid of having dental work.
However, despite this doom and gloom, natural gingers are believed to be a little more hardcore when it comes to opioid types of painkillers, such as codeine or fentanyl, which are generally available via prescription.
This extra resilience to pain is thanks to our MC1R gene, as redheads’ brains are able to release a hormone that mimics endorphins, giving us a little self-painkilling boost. This means that in theory redheads can have the same effects of pain relief from using a smaller dosage.