In the U.S. and England, only about 4% of the population are natural redheads; in Germany, it's 2%; and in Asia, Africa and South America even less. Scotland has the most redheads: 14 of every 100 people are “gingers.” Ireland, also known for its high number of redheads, has 10%. So redheads are not only rare, they also stand out – and they have genetic differences that set them apart from people with other hair colours. International scientists have shown that five variants of the MC1R gene lead to red hair. Another, HCL2 on chromosome 4, also appears to play a role but too little is as yet known about it. Because of the rarity of the “red gene,” some scientists believe there will no longer be any redheads in the world by 2060.

Jeffrey Mogil at McGill University in Montreal has shown that mice and red-haired people with MC1R gene variant experience pain differently than dark-haired people. Mogil and other scientists have also shown that red-haired women are more sensitive to cold and heat. They are also more sensitive to a certain kind of painkiller but less sensitive to narcotics. A team working with Lars Arendt-Nielsen of the International Association for the Study of Pain, that also conducts research at Aalborg University in Denmark, wanted to find out more about red heads’ reaction to pain. They conducted research on 20, pale-skinned women with red hair, and 20 women with dark or blonde hair. They applied a cream containing chili pepper on their skin and left it for a half hour. All the subjects reacted identically. In a second round of the experiment, the researchers irritated the women’s skin mechanically: and here, red heads turned out to be a lot less sensitive to the pain. Arendt-Nielsen and his team reached the conclusion that redheads are less sensitive to certain types of pain such as needle pricks or applied pressure. It seems that the pain resulting from exposure to cold or heat is processed differently by the body than pressure, pricks and scratches. Redheads are less sensitive to the latter, and more to the former.

Well, there you have it. If you're a complete prick, don't despair.  Find yourself a redhead to love. They won't care - well, at least, not so much.

Full story at DIE WELT.



  1. hmmm, as a red head I find this fascinating. I always thought I had a high pain threshold – guess I was right! redx

  2. My dentist knows he has to use extra anesthetic; it takes longer to have full effect and wears off early and usually requires a boost.

    Heat and cold pain? Shoot, sunburns and other burns hurt like the dickens, and winter is hard on my hands. I get rashes fairly easily, foo. Don’t get me started on allergies and stress.

    Both parents were redheads and the doctors and nurses howled with laughter when Mom groggily asked “what color is its hair?” I wasnt even fully in the world and people were already laughing at my hair