It was once believed that a recessive genetic trait caused redheadedness, but recent genetic research has revealed that it is actually called by a genetic mutation. Redheads have a mutation of the MC1R.3 gene, which causes their bodies to overproduce pheomelanin. Pheomelanin is a yellow-red pigment that affects the colour of the hair and skin. Redheads also have several other traits in common, which may be directly linked to their genetic mutation.
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Edwin Liem, an anaesthesiologist at the University of Louisville, found that redheads have a significantly lower pain tolerance than their counterparts with other hair colours. He found that redheads require between 20 per cent and 30 per cent more anaesthesia during surgery to achieve the same level of sedation as a brunette or blonde. Redheads also feel pain more intensely and are more sensitive to any physical contact, because their skin has more nerve endings per square inch than other people do. Redheads begin to feel pain as a result of chilled skin when the temperature around them drops below 6.11 degrees C. This contrasts with brunettes, who can tolerate temperatures nearing freezing. According to "New York Times" writer Tara Parker-Pope, redheads are also twice as likely to avoid the dentist and experience more dental-work anxieties than others do, because of their low pain tolerance.
For decades, anesthesiologists have held the common belief that redheads are harder to sedate. That was proven correct by Dr. Liem, who in his August 2004 study "Anesthetic Requirement Is Increased in Redheads," found that redheads require between 15 per cent and 20 per cent more anaesthesia to experience the same level of sedation as those with other hair tones. Specifically, his research showed that redheads have a resistance to lidocaine and other injectable anesthetics.
Redheads tend to have a very light and very pink skin tone. This is directly related to the increased levels of yellow-red pigment they are producing. As a result, their skin is much more sensitive to UV radiation. They commonly burn when in the sun without appropriate protection and develop freckles on all exposed skin. They are predisposed to skin cancers. Anecdotal evidence also suggest that redheads bruise more easily than their darker-haired peers.
Accordingto the "LA Times" and the Daily Mail Online, a 2006 study by Hamburg Sex Research Professor Dr. Werner Habermehl found that women with red hair have significantly more sex than other women. Similarly, a 2009 survey, published in "The Telegraph" in England, found that redheaded women had sex an average of three times per week, while blondes and brunettes had sex twice a week.
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- "New York Times"; The Pain of Being a Redhead; Tara Parker-Pope; August 2009
- "Anaesthesia and Analgesia"; Increased Propensity to Bruising in Red Haired Females...; Emmanuel J. Favaloro BSc, PhD; December 2006
- "Anesthetic Requirement Is Increased in Redheads"; Edwin Liem et al.; August 2004
- Increased Sensitivity to Thermal Pain and Reduced Subcutaneous Lidocaine Efficacy in Redheads"; Edwin B. Liem et al.; March 2005
- "Journal of The American Dental Association"; Genetic Variations Associated With Red Hair Color and Fear of Dental Pain, Anxiety Regarding Dental Care and Avoidance of Dental Care; Catherine J. Binkley et al.; July 2009
- Daily Mail Online: Redheads Have More Sex Than Blonds Or Brunettes; August 2006