Many mysteries, blessings, and curses in the realm of redheads!

I came across this article today and decided immediately that I needed to search no further. Being a redhead, I have been blessed and cursed. I love freckles; however, my skin is super-sensitive to the sun. Being in a worldwide group of 2% has added much joy to my life!

Brief History The MC1R (melanocortin 1 receptor) hormone produces fair skin with freckles and red hair. We think that redheaded people originated in the Scandinavian countries, but research now tells us that they came from central Asia. Over time, migrations occurred, and most people with that gene settled in northern climes.

It is a blessing in the higher latitudes because redheads can produce more vitamin D than their darker peers giving them several advantages with many aspects of health. Most think that red hair is a recessive gene; however, eight out of eleven in my family were born with red hair. My father was a redhead, and my mother was blonde.

New Research Redheads have a lower threshold for pain. The MC1R produces lower levels of POMC (proopiomelanocortin) that regulates the levels of pain tolerance. The melanocortin 4 receptors inhibit pain perception. Redheads have a double whammy by having low levels of both hormones.

Scientists thought that each hormone’s low levels would cancel each other out, but further evidence shows that the body produces more non-melanocyte-related factors that activate the opioid receptors that increase pain sensitivity.

My personal experience with pain is felt every time I go to the dentist. I usually take one or two extra shots of Lidocaine to numb the area around my teeth. In some regards, I seem to be more tolerant of sunburn, although I avoid it as much as possible. A little exposure is great, but a lot can be dangerous.

I have had several skin cancers over the years and see my dermatologist every four months. It is rare when I do not have a liquid nitrogen treatment for burning off a couple or more actinic keratoses. Last week, I had two biopsies done, and I expect one will be a squamous cell carcinoma. They are very distinctive and easy to identify.

Other Studies Redheads are more challenging to sedate, according to several studies. History shows that they require more anesthesia and are more sensitive to opioids than non-redheads.

Statistically, redheads require about twenty percent more anesthesia to be effective. Topical treatments, such as Lidocaine or Novocain, must be increased. I did not know but can attest that redheads are more perceptive of hot and cold temperatures. Being bald adds an extra level of cold awareness. However, I rarely overheat, even in south Texas summers.


I knew redheads were different in many ways. Now, I know that my recognition of requiring more topical anesthesia at the doctor’s office is not my imagination.

Live Longer & Enjoy Life! – Red O’Laughlin –




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