The Advantages Of Having Red Hair

For better or for worse, people have always been fascinated with redheads. Historically, red-haired individuals have faced either god-like worship or even witchy persecution. Today, redheads are subject to unfair modern stereotypes. but, we now know that people with red hair are spiritually and physically the same as everyone else. However, research does indicate that there are more perks associated with being a natural redhead than one would typically assume — and none of them involve being the spiritual reincarnation of a fire deity, as wonderful as that sounds.

Red-haired folks have the MC1R gene to thank for their copper-toned locks. Or, more specifically, they possess a variant of the MC1R gene, which is believed to be responsible for their unique hair, although other genes may influence red hair color, too. A variation in this receptor is rare, so only a small percentage of people are born with red hair. Those born with red hair belong to a tight-knit group that makes up only 1 to 2% of the entire population, with the majority of redheads being of Northern European descent.

That said, redheads are not specific to the isles of Great Britain and Ireland. Natural-born redheads occur across several geographic regions and populations, including the Polynesian islands, the Middle East, and Africa — specifically, Morocco and Algeria. The redhead gene is also prevalent in the Uyghur population, a Turkic ethnic group present in China and neighboring areas. Regardless of location, redheaded babes everywhere can boast to their friends about some unique medical advantages, including increased vitamin D-making abilities and a lower risk of certain diseases. 

Redheads are more efficient at making vitamin D

According to a 2020 study published in the journal of Experimental Dermatology, natural redheads don't require as much sunlight to produce functional levels of vitamin D. To produce this essential vitamin, which is involved in immune function and mood regulation, the body requires regular exposure to the sun's rays — specifically, ultraviolet B (UVB) rays. When you expose your skin to the sun, UVB rays interact with a vitamin D precursor found in the skin and convert it into vitamin D.

Per the 2020 study, redheaded individuals produce higher concentrations of vitamin D than the rest of the population. That is, they don't need to spend as much time out in the sun, as their bodies produce vitamin D through more efficient means than non-redheads, who require higher levels of light exposure to generate a healthy amount of vitamin D. As stated in the study, researchers suggest that red hair could be genetically advantageous, which makes sense when you consider that the highest population of redheads resides in Ireland and the United Kingdom — the part of the world that spends most of the year deprived of ample sunlight.

They possess less skin sensitivity

Beauty is pain, or so the saying goes. Individuals with a low pain tolerance would certainly agree that having a high tolerance for pain makes things much easier when their monthly waxing sesh rolls around. Well, as it turns out, redheads have a genetically altered sense of pain that gives them a distinct advantage over others when it comes to their pain threshold. For instance, ginger folks exhibit less skin-related sensitivity, meaning they're less sensitive to stinging or pricking sensations on the skin, per a 2011 study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Pain.

That said, redheads do not necessarily feel less pain than others. Instead, they perceive and respond to pain differently, which acts as both an advantage and disadvantage, depending on the situation. This altered pain response makes it more difficult to administer pain medication, such as general anesthesia, opioids, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (ibuprofen, aspirin, etc.). According to a 2004 study published in Anesthesiology, redheads require 19% more inhaled anesthesia than the average patient to receive the same effect. As such, redheaded people may require higher doses of analgesics for pain management. However, they do feel less skin sensitivity, and, to some, this advantage far outweighs the cons.

They are less likely to develop certain health issues

Despite the legends and oral histories, redheads do not possess superhuman powers. As such, they are equally immune to health issues as their non-redhead counterparts. However, having red hair does present specific health advantages that fall back on their ability to produce and maintain healthy levels of vitamin D, even in low-light environments.

For instance, studies indicate that arthritis is more prevalent in those with a vitamin D deficiency, as it helps your bones absorb calcium. In general, those born with red hair don't appear to have an issue generating vitamin D, which can make them less likely to develop arthritis or similar conditions that have been linked to a lack of this essential vitamin, including prostate cancer, per a 2014 study published in Clinical Cancer Research. Low vitamin D also affects the synthesis of serotonin, so it may also reduce the chance of mental health issues such as depression or anxiety. Although there is a lack of research on the topic, redheads may have a lower chance of developing other conditions tied to insufficient vitamin D.

If you or someone you know needs help with mental health, please contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741, call the National Alliance on Mental Illness helpline at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264), or visit the National Institute of Mental Health website.

Don't underestimate the gingers

It's no secret that hair color plays a large role in a person's attractiveness, whether we admit to it or not. As it is, red is a highly coveted shade due to its associations with passion and love. The versatility of red hair also lends to its popularity, as red hair appears on a spectrum from dramatic dark velvet to earthy brown-auburn — one of spring 2024's most popular hair colors.

What's more, the notoriety of copper-haired individuals impacts their social status. That is, it can affect their careers and others' perceptions of them. In 2006, for instance, British researchers found that of the 500 CEOs involved in a study published in the Journal of Human Behavior in the Social Environment, 4% of the group were redheads. If you consider the startling low percentage of people with red hair, this places the 4% figure into perspective. What likely contributes to this workplace observation is the fact that redheads are often perceived as highly competent. This is one of the rare circumstances in which childish stereotypes surrounding hair color work in your favor.

Redheaded beauties don't go gray

It's an undeniable fact that red hair is considered a physically attractive trait — most notably as it helps you stand out from the crowd. It may not surprise you to learn, therefore, that those with red hair remain exceptions even as they grow older. As everyone ages and their hair gradually becomes peppered with gray, those with red hair skip over the traditional color wheel and head straight to white. Instead of turning gray over time, red hair dulls and appears more white or blond than gray. This tendency leads some to believe that redheads age slower — which is not true — and sustain a more youthful look.

Moreover, red-haired folks have thick strands of hair. They possess very few strands, significantly less than blonds and brunettes, yet each strand of hair is thicker than it appears. So, even if your hair thins, a ginger's hair still feels full and healthy while handling.