Redheads: They Have Genetic Superpowers

Redheads were found to have several genetic superpowers compared to others, they are more tolerant of pain and naturally produce their own vitamin D.

The idea that redhead people (women in particular) may have superpowers goes, at least, as far back as the 19th century when, in 1886 the book Le Parfum de la Femme et Les Sens Olfactif Dans L’Amour – Étude Psycho-physiologique by Augustin Galopin was first published in France. Is there any scientific basis for this? When it comes to the genetics of redheads, science-backed up some of Galopin’s claims.

According to the 19th-century French doctor, a specific odor emanates from redheads. This odor, or aroma, which is allegedly unique to redheads, is referred to as ambergris. Dr. Augustin Galopin thought of this aroma as sensual and appealing. Since then, scientists have gone further into this and discovered that the smell that redheads tend to emanate is the result of the acidic film covering their skin. Everyone has a thin acidic film all over their skin, but it is true that, in the case of redheads, this is what makes them discharge the aroma that Galopin noticed.

Le Parfum de La Femme (or Women’s Perfume in English) is a fascinating read because of all the insights it offers on redhead women. Being redhead or ginger is extremely rare. It is estimated that only between 1% and 2% of the world’s population have red hair. That would account for something around 70 to 140 million people. Although the country with the largest number of redheads is the United States of America, Scotland is probably where redheads are more noticeable, as they are about 20% of the country’s population.

Why Do Some People Have Red Hair? 

It would be fun to be a redhead… you can get away with being, like, really volatile and fire-y because you’re like, ‘I’m just a redhead; what can I say’? – Anna Kendrick

There is a very simple answer to this question is that most people with red hair have a mutant gene known as MC1R. This mutation is caused by a recessive allele on chromosome 16. This gene is responsible for their hair but also their skin color as it determines their skin pigmentation.

As can be easily observed that there is a great variety among redhead people. Some people have darker hair, almost a burgundy hues while others have a strawberry blond or a burned orange hue. When it comes to skin color, the combination between high levels of pheomelanin (reddish pigment) and low levels of eumelanin (dark pigment) is responsible for their fair skin hue, their freckles, and their light eye colors. Redheads are also more sensitive to ultraviolet light than other people. Most people with natural red hair have a northern or western European heritage.

But, is it true that redheads have genetic superpowers?

Redheads Need Less Vitamin D Than Other People  

While most people need to make sure that they consume plenty of vitamin D, redheads have the genetic advantage that they naturally produce their own.

This seems to be linked to an evolutionary fact that most redheads have historically lived in Europe where they were exposed to temperate and cold climates and whole months with very little sunlight. Why is this ability to produce vitamin D so advantageous? Vitamin D is key is reducing autoimmune disorders, diabetes, or heart diseases. But it also helps reduce obesity, hypertension, depression, and other conditions. Whereas vitamin D can be obtained naturally from sunlight, modern lifestyles, and the weather in many parts of the world make it hard for many people to get the amount of vitamin D they need. So, it is an advantage or “superpower” for redheads to be able to produce it on their own.

Redheads Have A Stronger Sensitivity To Temperature  

One of the effects of their MC1R gene is that most redheads are more sensitive to be sensitive to changing temperatures.

So, ginger people can feel even the smallest changes in temperature and they would perceive whether it is getting warmer or colder than most other people.

Pain Management

Scientists have also discovered that on average redheads are more tolerant to pain than any other group of people.

There are several studies showing just how resistant to pain redheads are. For example, the University of Louisville in Kentucky has found that redheads need more anesthesia in order to be fully sedated (about 20% more than people with other hair colors). Scientists at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec, Canada found that tolerance to pain can be as much as 25% than that experienced by other groups. And a study carried out by scientists at the University of Oslo, Norway, has shown that women with redheads experienced less pain than others when they prick them with a pin. Ouch!

“I’ve had years of teasing about my red hair, but I definitely think it toughened me up. If you’re ginger, you end up pretty quick-witted.” — Ed Sheeran

These are the main superpowers than scientists have discovered so far, but they are other things that set redheads apart from the rest.

Do All Redheads Have Fair Skin?

One of the most surprising things about redheads is that not all of them have fair skin. While it is true that all redheads with European heritage are fair-skinned, that is not often the case with redheads in other continents.

For example, redheads with darker skin can be found in many distant parts of the planet. In Africa, mostly in the North African Berber population concentrated in Morocco and Algeria. Or in the Asian countries of Lebanon, Syria, Israel, Jordan, Palestine, Turkey, or as far east as China.

They Are More Resistant to Hair Dye 

There can be no doubt that redheads are very easy to spot, whereas with people with other hair colors can sometimes hide it, either by dyeing it or simply by being exposed to different lights, redheads are always more noticeable. Although they can, and some of them do, dye their hair even when they do so it is often easy to notice that they are naturally ginger. This is mostly because, for most redheads, their hair color is only one of the features that distinguish them from everybody else.

About Juan Ramos

Juan has been writing about science for over a decade and regularly keeps up with technological and scientific advancements. Juan is known for taking complex research and technology and presenting it in an easily digestible form for education. Juan holds a Master's degree from The Open University in the UK.

Questions & Answers (12)

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  1. Question

    I’ll be honest, I was reading my high school annuals of yesteryear and the people signed my annual in a negative way because I had red hair. They would say better to be red headed than dead or maybe it’s better to be dead. I got kidded all the time for being red headed. One guy told me he would date me if I didn’t have red hair. He hated women with red hair. Joe Namath the football player hated women with red hair. I dyed my hair in my early twenties to blonde. I look good as a blonde and my complexion is light and I carry it well. To be honest, I hate red hair. People have been cruel to me.

    Dorothy Rockwell
  2. Question

    The author seems to have interpreted “tolerance to pain can be as much as 25% than that experienced by other groups” incorrectly as redheads having higher tolerance for pain. That’s quite a bit lower. Everything else seems right to me.

  3. Question

    Im a redhead and I’ve noticed that I can feel changes in the temp and that when I get hurt I basically just brush it off. Like I got boiling water sprayed on me and it hurt at first but I was fine a few days later, not a single blister.

    Ranga Girl
  4. Question

    Lots of my friends at school are always making jokes about me being ginger and other people but now I can just tell them brunets to shut up XD

    1. Answer

      Nothing better than a huge mouthful of a fiery orange & wiry ginger muff. None of this fake sh** like the brunette (see eyebrows) in the picture above . Your can take that to the bank.

      GingerSlayer PRO INVESTOR
      1. Answer

        Um…I’m not going to speak to the muff aspect, and although I’m not sure about the woman in the photo being a natural redhead or not, there are in fact natural redheads with dark eyebrows and lashes. I’m one, both of my brothers are others, and I’ve gone to school with a couple of others. My mother, my sister, two uncles and all of my redhaired cousins have red or nearly invisible light lashes and eyebrows. My mother and sister were quite envious of my “natural mascara.”

        Rhonda PRO INVESTOR
    2. Answer

      Know you’re beautiful inside n out! We’re different… different is cool… quirky… interesting… intriguing… and individually beautiful. So yes, this gets attention, usually unwanted attention but remember their intrigued (or just di**s!) I didn’t know this for a long time! Feeling different can be unsettling and give you low confidence. Sod that don’t waste time on any perceived negativity, it’s not real, just fun/ignorance. Be chilled & be proud that slows them down, repeat their comments back to them with a smile – this easily emphasises the stupidity and puts the spotlight back on them. Hehe stay cheeky! 🙂

      Chrissy PRO INVESTOR
    3. Answer

      Tell them how special you are. Only 1-2% of the entire planet’s population has your hair color. And, your hair will never go grey; you do not have the melanin pigment for that color. Your hair will go from red to white, dye it as you may. Plus if you have blue eyes you’re REALLY special. It is the most rare hair/eye color combination of all. About 17% of the planet has blue eyes, so blue eyes and red hair (both recessive genes) are quite unique. Left-handed? Blame that on red hair too. I’m writing a proposal to submit to the U.N. to name Redheads a Threatened Species seeking money for…uh…research. Yeah, research.

      Rondo Hunter PRO INVESTOR
  5. Question

    As usual, I see less information about GINGER guys. Also, for what it’s worth, when working in a beekeeping warehouse, I was stung by bees all the time. After working there for a couple weeks, I got used to it and scarcely noticed it. I don’t know if it has anything regarding being ginger, but, it was what it was. I don’t have depression at all. I do have issues with sensuality. Gosh, I love the ladies. And, to quote the Rolling Stones, “I can’t get no satisfaction.” Two of my daughters have gotten melanoma. My son got burnt to the point of being blistered when we moved to the mountains and needed to be taken to the hospital. I do have problems with my wife and her trying to keep the room hot and cold at night. I want her to just leave the thermostat alone. When she messes with it, I can’t sleep. And, so now we smell? Isn’t that precious.

    1. Answer

      I’m an old (now) redhead guy and bee and hornet stings don’t bother me much. The sting stings a bit but tolerable, then quickly fades .. I was cycling and a hornet or yellow jacket got stuck in my helmet strap and just kept stinging.. oh, well, I just kept cycling..

      Bishop Levi PRO INVESTOR
      1. Answer

        Redheads are more likely to be female than male, at least when it comes to phenotype (what you see). With the growing knowledge we have of what is going on with DNA we now know that if, for instance, a man is a brunette or blonde but has red hair in his beard then the odds are high he is in fact genetically a “redhead” even though it’s only facial hair that is red. This explains why my redhaired mother and brunette father produced nothing but redheads. When my father grew a beard for the first time in his thirties there was a lot of red to it. He actually had a redhaired brother and was almost certainly a redhead genetically himself even though he appeared to be a brunette.

        Rhonda PRO INVESTOR
  6. Question

    Pain quite the opposite. Bad science here.


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