How Are Redheads Unique and Different?
I was born a redhead, and of course to be a real and true redhead, you must be born that way. Bottled red hair just does not count here. Sorry.
For a long time I have said red hair is not just a color, but also a chemistry. We redheads usually have pale skin to go with our hair color and that paleness can be either creamy white, or more ruddy, accompanied with a gazillion freckles. Thankfully, my freckles were limited to a charming dusting across my upper cheeks and nose when I was a child, and I got the coveted creamy white complexion for life.
Yes, I know I do not look like a redhead in my photo, but for some reason when I got into adulthood, my skin started tanning more easily. It still burned initially, and pretty badly, but then it turned a nice golden tan. Having grown up in the north where tans are appreciated, I was ecstatic when I found I could get a lovely tan at last, instead of being pale as a ghost.
So now you know why I chose to research the unique biology and chemistry of redheads. I knew I would have to dig deeply through the folklore to find the facts, and I was quite surprised at what I found!
Famous Natural Redheads
Unique Biology of Redheads
Low Threshold for Pain? It seems that redheads are more sensitive to pain and require more anesthesia for surgeries. Many studies support this idea, and I have listed one website where you can find their names in the reference section below.
While I personally have a high threshold for pain, I realize that one person who is different does not disprove a finding. A handful of people who do not conform to research findings is quite normal. The percentage of redheads in the study that had a lower threshold for pain was in the 90 percentile range, but that is not 100 percent. Apparently, I place in the 10 percent who did not have a lower pain threshold. Even so, I do wake up from anesthesia more easily and quicker than most people.
Predisposed to Skin Cancer? Something that is a negative is that redheads are more predisposed to develop skin cancer than people with other hair colors, but that is not really news, is it? Pale skin has been known for a long time to be more susceptible to damage from the sun.
Prone to Allergies? It is thought, but not proven, that redheads are more prone to allergies because of their proven extremely sensitive nature. Well, I am allergic to everything in the world, except maybe myself, so maybe there is some proof in that, but I have relatives with allergies, even though they are not as bad as my own, who do not have red hair or even a tint of red in their hair. So maybe it is simply genetic without the requirement of red hair. Or maybe my allergies are far worse because of my sensitive nature?
Eye Color? Some authentic redheads are born with turquoise eyes, and this is said to be scientifically proven, though no proof was offered at the site where I found this information. My own eyes are hazel and usually present as green. Light or medium blue eyes would seem to be the most rare among redheads, while brown eyes are said to be the most common. I have never known a brown-eyed redhead.
Recessive Genes? The redhead gene is recessive, so lots of people may carry that gene, but not exhibit the red hair or accompanying traits, yet they may pass that gene on to offspring and it may be a dominant gene in that individual.
A Royal Redhead
Fewer than 2% of people worldwide have naturally red hair. That same percentage -- fewer than 2%, is true in the United States also. Redheads are primarily concentrated in the countries of Ireland where about 10% of the population is redheads, and Scotland where the number of redheads in their population is about 13%.
Redheads Are Over Represented In Math, Science, Philosophy, and Comedy
Next I came across a guy, Dr. Barry Kort, a redhead himself, who had gathered all kinds of interesting statistics. According to Kort, a renowned scientist, redheads are “way overrepresented” in” the areas of math, logic, science, philosophy, and comedy.” Who knew?
Dr. Kort lists a few famous redheads:
- King David
- Vincent van Gogh
- Mark Twain
- Thomas Jefferson
- Queen Elizabeth I
- Sir Winston Churchill
- King Arthur
- JK Rowling
- Jane Goodall
Redheads Are Underrepresented In Sports and the Military
Kort’s research results show that redheads have lower levels of adrenalin, meaning (in his interpretation) that they tend to be less physical, not making good soldiers or athletes. Kort believes the low levels of adrenalin account for them being more cerebral (logical, mathematically inclined, philosophical) and less physical.
In fact Dr. Kort says the only “notable redheaded general in American history . . . was one of the worst generals the U.S. Cavalry ever had. His name was George Custer.” I guess Dr. Kort is not aware that former general and President of the United States Dwight D. Eisenhower was a redhead also. Yes, and do not forget the father of our country, George Washington, a great general if ever there was one. Also, John Glenn – former marine fighter pilot and astronaut, never a general, but a great American hero just the same.
Dr. Kort seems to be of the opinion that adrenalin is necessary to be good at soldiering and sports, and perhaps that is where his interpretation of the findings of his study goes awry. Why could a ‘cool head’ not be an advantage in sports or soldiering? I think it could be, because it means a person is less likely to shoot from the hip, more likely to think things through, and as a result, be more effective, not less.
An Abbreviated List of Famous Redheaded Sports Stars
- John Mayock: middle-distance runner from Great Britain
- Chuck Norris: 6-time World Black Belt Karate Champion, and yes, the famous actor also
- Shaun White: Olympic gold medalist in snowboarding
- Bill Walton: American professional basketball player
- Boris Becker: Olympic gold medalist in tennis, from Germany
- Cameron Ling: footballer from Australia
- Clara Hughes: Olympic speed skater and cyclist from Canada
- Johnny O’Connell: American race car driver who has broken many records
The list goes on and on. To be sure, sports are not an area where redheads rule, but they are represented and many seem to do quite well in spite of their low adrenalin.
Redheads Smell Better
Erin La Rosa says redheads exude more pleasant pheromones and so they attract more mates because they are simply more sexually desirable. La Rosa says, “Our pheromone effect and our delicious scent has been scientifically proven!”
Stephen Douglas (author of The Redhead Encyclopedia) writes that the skin of redheads has a naturally sweet and musk-like scent. Douglas claims that the redheads' scent changes with their emotions.
In the Erotic Review, Rowan Pelling says that redheads have a “strong natural scent,” and also, “redheads famously have a distinctive civet scent that drives admirers wild.” The scent of a civet (wild cat) is said to have aphrodisiacal qualities that are, and have been highly prized, for centuries.
Some other men have described the redhead scent as smelling like “amber and violets,” saying redheads have the strongest scent of any women.
Needless to say, redheads are known for their fiery tempers and great passion in intimate matters. There is nothing like a redhead when it comes to certain things!
It is observed that the redhaired of both sexes are more libidinous and mischievous than the rest.— Jonathon Swift, "Gulliver’s Travels"
Will Redheads Be Extinct In 100 Years?
Cort Cass (Redhead Handbook) said, “the continued presence of redheads was one of the issues that 'haunted' Charles Darwin because he could not fit redheads into his Survival of the Fittest theory.”
Cass compares redheads to peacocks, which he calls “predator magnets” because of their heavy tails that would, in turn, seem to mark peacocks for extinction. Instead, it is the peacock with the biggest, brightest tail that draws the most peahens.
Likewise, Cass believes prospective mates instinctively know that redheaded women are tough and intelligent, which is desirable in the continuation of the species. Indeed, I have had a few guys tell me my allure is my intelligence. Since they were correct in their assessment of my intelligence, I did not believe them! ;)
Man, you ain’t lived till you’ve had your tires rotated by a redheaded woman.— Bruce Springsteen
Other Interesting Tidbits About Redheads
For some reason, redheads seem to have contributed disproportionately to history, stories, and folklore. Maybe because they are unusual (natural redheads that is), and so we stand out? Grab your attention? Well, before bottled redheads were invented we did that anyway.
Do They Have Hot Tempers? We have all heard how redheads have short tempers. Pagans used to believe that they had an “aura of magnetism and mystic power.” Ancient Egyptians used to bury redheaded men alive as a sacrifice to their God Osiris.
What About Sex? Here is something that is proven by Dr. Werner Habermehl, a leading sex researcher in Hamburg, Germany. Habermehl did a study about sex habits involving hundreds of German women in which he compared the women by hair color. Habermehl determined that redheads were clearly more sexually active, having more sex and having it with more partners than other women. So the moral of the story (or research project) according to Habermehl is that while blondes have more fun, redheads have more sex!
In History? The Spanish Inquisition singled redheads out for persecution, believing their hair to be a sure sign that they had stolen the fires of hell. In medieval times, redheads were regarded as witches, werewolves, and vampires, and thousands of redheads were burned at the stake because of the general pervasive ignorance that existed at that time.
Discrimination Today? Even today, redheads are discriminated against. Sympatico News is reporting that Cyros International, the world’s leading sperm bank, is turning away redheaded donors because the demand for redheaded children is so low. Since my research suggests that redheads are the smartest and most attractive of our species, the most charismatic, and the sexiest, why would redheaded children not be desirable?
So now you have a better idea of why redheads are special. Natural redheads are very uncommon, and we have a certain body chemistry that sets us apart from everyone else. While seemingly the weakest of our species in some respects, we make up for that in some interesting ways. ;)
In the best of all possible worlds, all children would be a blessing, and it would not matter what color their hair might be (or how they were conceived).— Christopher Peterson
Why Don’t Sperm Banks Want Red Headed Donors?
Let me remind you that natural redheads are less than 2% of the world’s population, and so they are extremely rare. They are not rare in Ireland or Scotland, and that could lead people in those countries to believe they are common, but in other parts of the world, they are not at all common.
Another thing that might give the impression that redheads are not so rare is that lots of women dye their hair some shade of red. In this article I am only referring to people born as redheads because the characteristics that are unique to redheads cannot be bought or obtained from a container or kit.
Christopher Peterson, Ph.D. in Psychology and recognized around the world for his many accomplishments, particularly in the field of positive psychology, decided to investigate why sperm banks do not encourage redheads to be sperm donors.
What Peterson discovered was that Cyros International, located in Scandinavia, is the only sperm bank that does not seek more sperm from redheads. The reason is that redheads are plentiful in the Cyros International location and that ‘bank’ already has some 140,000 “doses” available, which more than meets the demand.
Writing for Psychology Today, Peterson says, “Apparently, sperm from red-headed donors is in demand in Ireland and to some degree in the United States. Why? People want their children to look like them . . .”
Peterson thinks there are many reasons why parents prefer that their children resemble themselves, among them a desire to avoid unsolicited questions and comments, some of which may be insensitive or downright rude.
Resembling other family members physically can help children to feel more like they belong. That is also true when it comes to physically resembling the majority of people in the community where one lives -- looking similar can prevent prejudice and teasing.
Research indicates that there are certain advantages to being a redhead, so maybe when the word gets out about those advantages more people will appreciate them.
Tall donors are always in demand, regardless of their hair color or eye color.— Christopher Peterson in "Psychology Today"
Why I Wrote This Article
I made the decision to write this article on redheads just for the fun of it, and mainly for entertainment purposes – my reader’s entertainment. I started out by researching “the chemistry of redheads,” having no idea what I would find, and really, expecting to find nothing.
My hair went from obvious red (not carrot top or copper) when I was born, to blonde as a toddler and preschooler, to a dark red that was barely noticeable except in certain light as a teenager and adult. No matter. Redhead chemistry doesn’t change even if hair color does modify to some extent.
Red hair can be a recessive trait and may only show up in every second, third, or fourth generation, coming as a surprise to new parents who may have been expecting a blonde or a brunette.— C. E. Clark
Facts, folklore, statistics and musings about redheads:
- Seeing Red
- Psychology Today:What's Wrong with Red Hair?
- Ever Noticed How Redheads Just Smell Better Than Everyone Else?
- Smithsonian Magazine: Requiem for the Redhead
- Redheads require 19% more drugs for anesthesia purposes: Anesthetic Requirement is Increased in Redheads
Questions & Answers
If I was born with red hair and it changed to Auburn on top, but remained red underneath, am I still considered a redhead? My aunts have Tissot red hair.
Yes you are still a redhead. There are many shades of red hair. Carrot top is more orange, ginger is much like the color of the ginger spice. Tissot is more like a shade of brown with a redish tint or red highlights, some people with more red than others.
© 2012 C E Clark