Facts About Natural Redheads

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Redheads are nearly all Caucasian.
Redheads are nearly all Caucasian. (Image: Jupiterimages/Pixland/Getty Images)

There are fewer than 4 percent of redheads in the world and more redheads are found in the United Kingdom than the United States, according to Marion Roach, author of “The Roots of Desire: The Myth, Meaning, and Sexual Power of Red Hair". Yet, despite their small numbers, throughout history red hair has attracted and repelled, inciting emotions from awe to fear and condemnation.

Mistreatment

Throughout history, people with red hair have experienced persecution in various forms. During the height of the 16th and 17th century witch trials in Europe, red hair was considered a mark of witchcraft and red-haired women were put to death. In "The Ginger Survival Guide: Everything the Redhead Needs to Cope in a Gingerist Cruel World", author Tim Collins notes that some Renaissance paintings depicted Judas Iscariot, the man who betrayed Jesus, with red hair. The misconception of red-haired people continues to this day. Natural redheads are sometimes stereotyped as being highly sexual and hot-tempered.

Genetics

According to "Redhead Handbook: A Fun and Comprehensive Guide to Red Hair and More" by Cort Cass, people who are natural redheads inherit their hair color from genetic traits passed down from both parents. Since red hair is a recessive trait, both parents must have a red hair gene to pass down in order to have red-haired children. People who do not have red hair but carry the gene, pass it down to their children. A mutation in the MC1R gene, which determines hair color, may have an affect on red-haired individuals' pain sensitivity. According to a report published in 2009 in the "The Journal of American Dental Association," red-haired people are twice as likely to avoid dental care as dark-haired people. These findings come after 2004 and 2005 studies published in the "Anesthesiology" journal found that red-haired people require 20 percent more general anesthesia compared to brunettes and blonds and that redheads are more sensitive to thermal pain.

Redheads and the Sun

Author Cort Cass explains that redheads need to take precautions when in the sun since they can easily develop skin cancer. Having red hair and fair skin with freckles are just some of the factors that place a person at a high risk of getting skin cancer. The susceptibility of redheads to melanoma skin cancer may have to do with genetics and melanoma's connection to variations in a gene that redheads share and pass down in their families. Natural redheads can protect themselves from the sun by staying in the shade and wearing sunglasses and sunscreen.

Famous Redheads

Author Tim Collins points to various presidents and celebrities who were born with red hair. The American actresses Marilyn Monroe and Ginger Rogers were both natural redheads. The first president of the United States, Georgia Washington, made his naturally red hair lighter by powdering it white. Other U.S. presidents who were natural redheads were Thomas Jefferson, Martin Van Buren, Andrew Jackson, Ulysses S. Grant, Calvin Coolidge and Dwight Eisenhower.

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