8 Things you didn't know about redheads

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And does their skin really need extra protection?

  1. Redheads make up only 1 to 2 percent of the total population

    • Northern Europe houses the highest percentage of them, with some of their countries having up to 13 percent of their population redheaded! 

  2. Redheads are more efficient at producing vitamin D

    • Vitamin D is produced when UV light reacts with a compound found in the skin called 7-dehydrocholesterol (lets call it 7-D). Redheads lack a protective dark pigment that absorbs and scatters the sun’s UV rays called eumelanin. Because of this deficit, the UV rays can more easily react with the 7-D in their skin producing vitamin D very efficiently. 

  3. Redheads need more anesthetic

    • Based on a 2004 study, women with red hair needed 20 to 30 percent more anesthetic to reach the same sedation level as women with blonde and brown hair. This goes for local anesthetics as well, such as those used by your dermatologist to perform a biopsy or skin cancer surgery. Researchers think this is because the mutated MC1R gene that all redheads have belongs to a family of genes that play a role in pain management.

  4. Redheads have less hair

    • They do indeed have fewer stands of hair on their head, but each strand is much thicker than that of a blond or brunette. This might make them look like they actually have more hair, especially if it is curly. Redheads only have 90,000 strands of hair on average, while brunettes have about 140,000. 

  5. Redheaded men have a lower risk of prostate cancer

    • It is unclear which factor this lower risk is directly related to, but studies have found that redheaded men were 54 percent less likely to develop prostate cancer in comparison to men with light brown hair. This could be related to the mutated MC1R gene, their higher vitamin D levels, or associated with sun exposure. Whichever factor it may be, it’s a big plus for them!

  6. Redheads bruise more easily 

    • There has been no found difference in a redheads hemoglobin concentration, platelet numbers or coagulation tests to explain this phenomenon. However, a 2006 study found that redheads reported more bruising than their black or brown haired subjects. 

  7. Redheads are NOT becoming extinct

    • Every year you see a new article claiming that redheads are going to be no longer. They base that argument on the assumption that recessive genes can disappear or die off, but that is not actually the case. They could become very rare, but the only way for redheads to become extinct is for all of them to die or fail to reproduce. And the tenacious redheads we all know and love will not allow that! 

  8. Redheads are more likely to develop skin cancer

    • It has been found that carrying the redhead gene adds an extra 21 years of sun exposure right off the bat. The two most common types of skin cancer are basal cell carcinoma (BCC) and squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). Redheads are more than one and a half times as likely to develop BCC and more than 12 times as likely to develop SCC than those with non-red hair. So they really do need extra protection from the sun to keep their skin cancer free!

Doerfler, MD Laura B. and Hanke, MD C. William. “Redheads at Risk”. The Skin Cancer Foundation Journal 2018: 44-46. Print.