Redheads have always had a reputation for having fiery personalities, but a new research paper published in the Journal of American Dentistry suggests that people with red hair actually have lower thresholds of pain than those with brown, black, or blonde hair. The study found that those who possessed the red hair mutation were more likely to suffer from anxiety surrounding visits to the dentist. It is believed that these feelings could be related to the redhead’s levels of pain sensitivity. Could this also be the reason why their personalities are so volatile?
In non-redheads, a gene for the melancortin-1 receptor produces melanin which gives the hair its color. A mutation in MC-1R causes pheomelanin which makes the skin fair and the hair red. The MC-1R gene is closely related to genes found in pain receptors in the brain, and because of this, mutations in the gene could affect a person’s sensitivity to pain.
Another study, conducted in 2004, discovered that redheads required greater amounts of anesthesia than non-redheads. They found that people with red hair required, on average about 20% more anesthesia than those without.
The initial reason for conducting such studies was because an anesthesiologist had heard so many anecdotal accounts of redheads requiring more anesthesia that he decided to conduct the study on his own. “The reason we studied redheads in the beginning, it was essentially an urban legend in the anesthesia community saying redheads were difficult to anesthetize. This was so intriguing we went ahead and studied it. Redheads really do require more anesthesia, and by a clinically important amount.”
It has long been common knowledge that redheads are more sensitive to sunlight and sunburns, but now we know they are more sensitive when it comes to pain as well. I guess this gives a whole new context to the phrase, “beaten like a redheaded step-child.” Maybe this is a good reason for everybody to take it easy on the gingers from now on.