Do Red Heads Feel More Pain?

I have always been fascinated with red heads- I don’t know why, but I think their rareness interests me.

We all have heard at least some form of jokes thrown around about red heads, but who knew there was some truth behind their hair color?

There appears to be some kind of correlation between your hair color and how much pain you feel just by what is being produced and how your body can process things.

The X variable in this experiment is the red hair (MC1R- I’ll explain what this is later) and the Y variable is the amount of pain the person feels.  When the variables are measured you can see in the hypothesis that the sensation of pain is altered.


Researchers studied the tolerance of pain in redheads and have found that they are more suceptible to pain than other hair colors. In this study you will see how a person’s hair color can have an effect on a person for the rest of his/her life. This experiment is entirely observational and can possibly be a mechanism due to redheads feeling pain.

Oddly enough, researchers have found that redheads need 20% more anesthesia due to their sensitivity to pain. Scientists believe that this is due to a genetic mutation that has to do with the MC1R gene (produces red pigment in hair).

The MC1R is responsible for the red hair and fair skin, but can also do with a lower tolerance to cold weather and pain medication.  Interestingly, redheads will typically avoid dentist appointments because of fear/anxiety- they will receive more tooth aches and a tolerance to novocaine than other hair colors. Dentists and doctors will have to increase the dosage of medication typically in order so redheads do not suffer in pain.

With having paler skin, redheads will typically avoid the sunlight and create a vitamin D deficiency within themselves since they are not getting the proper nutrients.

While certain key vitamins are missing in a mutation- extra vitamins may need to be taken to assure good health for personal reasons. There can be serious health problems like the risk of death from cardiovascular disease, cancer and asthma. It’s important to note that these are effects if the deficiency is not taken care of.


When the MC1R gene is mutated it produces pheomelanin instead of melanin, (allows you to tan/have darker features) a protein that accounts for red hair, pale skin, and freckles.

When experimenting with redheads researchers found that those effected with the MC1R mutations also had an altered perception of pain and the effectiveness of certain drugs meant to block or numb the sensation of pain did not work right.

Unfortunately there is no way to test redheads in a situation like this, but there seems to be some kind of correlation between redheads and not having melanin. Whether or not pain is different for redheads, it doesn’t seem to be causing an issue in their daily lives.

This experiment rules out reverse causation because you cannot make someone a “real redhead,” yeah- you can dye their hair, but they will never fully be a “real” redhead. This has to be done to an actual, born redhead in order to see results and test their pain.

The article and research concluded that the evidence isn’t clear as to if in fact redheads actually do feel more pain, but there is a clear correlation that the mutation has something to do with redheads having more sensitivity.

The next time you are out- appreciate everyone’s uniqueness because without you and I, we wouldn’t be here.

Mythbusters Video -In this video the Mythbusters test a group of redheads and non-redheads to see who can withstand more pain with their hand in a cold bucket of water. The evidence speaks for itself, take it as you will, but there seems to be something here- whether it has to do with hair color or not.

3 thoughts on “Do Red Heads Feel More Pain?

  1. Trevor Richard Dennehy

    Apparently, there’s a whole host of extra effects that having red hair could have on one’s life, including being able to generate their own extra vitamin D, which could explain why they typically have fairer skin, as they need less sun than most people. Here’s an article which outlines several of these other effects, including the one you mentioned.

  2. Daniel J Lehecka

    I had never heard that having a different hair color changes pain tolerance, but that’s actually super interesting. Something I wonder about with red heads is if because they have a lighter skin complexion, could their skin possibly be more fragile and thus they are more susceptible to being hurt? It makes sense in my non-scientific mind, but I don’t know how you could possibly test that. Just something interesting to think about I suppose.

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