The Chemistry of Redheads

The Chemistry of Redheads


This saint paddies day, we want to celebrate
something besides green beer, so how about Ireland’s other famous calling card, red
heads! Today we’re digging into the chemistry of
those fiery locks and finding out that those aren’t the only thing that make redheads
unique… Chemically speaking, the thing that sets redheads
apart from the crowd is pigmentation, and in particular, pigments known as melanins. Not only does that stuff give color to your
skin, but your hair as well – more on that later. Melanin is produced by special cells called
melanocytes which make two different kinds: eumelanin which ranges from brown to black,
and pheomelanin which ranges from yellow to red. When UV light rays hit your skin, your melanocytes
increase melanin production to protect your cells. The dark color from eumelanin dissipates absorbed
radiation as heat, which stops the damaging UV from reaching your DNA where it can cause
mutations and start some forms of cancer. People from sunnier regions of the earth are
genetically predisposed to having higher quantities of eumelanin to keep them safe from the intensity
of UV. So as far as environmental factors go, is
there really that little sunlight in Ireland? Redheads have a particularly high abundance
of pheomelanin, with very little eumelanin, so what’s the deal? On the surface of melanocytes is a protein
called the melanocortin 1 receptor or MC1R for short. When activated, MC1R causes melanocytes to
specifically produce eumelanin over pheomelanin, which ultimately balances out an individual’s
ratio. Redheads are born with a genetic variant that
causes MC1R to chemically function differently on the melanocytes, resulting in less eumelanin
and more pheomelanin production. Now, these genetic variations are recessive,
which means that they can have redheaded kids only if both parents carry that MC1R mutation. In this case, neither parent has red hair,
but they’re both carriers — there is a 25% of redhead. If just one parent is a redhead and then other
is a carrier, it’s a 50/50 chance. they have pale skinned kids. What if one parent is a redhead but the other
is not a carrier? Sorry — no redheads! If both are redheads, that’s a 100% chance
of red, folks. Now about that hair, How does melanin production
affect its color? At the bulb of a hair follicle, those pigment-producing
melanocytes form protein clusters called melanosomes. These clusters become bound within the keratin
that’s produced to form hair as it grows. With an overabundance of reddish pheomelanin,
you can guess why their hair turns out red. With non-redheads, a mix of different pigments
including eumelalin make for the rainbow of hair colors. While that pale skin makes redheads susceptible
to sunburn and skin cancers like melanoma, their genetic difference may affect the way
they feel pain as well. Research has shown that redheads have a higher
sensitivity to different types of pain and a slightly greater sensitivity to cold than
others in the population. Some other small studies have suggested that
redheads might need more anesthesia during surgery. No one has pinpointed exactly why redhead
genetics results in a different sort of pain, but one finding suggests that MC1R is expressed
in the neurons of the periaqueductal grey – an ancient part of the brain that governs
some pain sensation. Genetic variants may heighten this neural
activity, giving redheads’ a different sensitivity. But most of all, redheads are a big part of
Irish heritage and for that, we here at Reactions will raise up a big green glass to MC1R proteins! Did we miss any interesting redhead claims? Post them down in the comments and we’ll
see if there’s any science to back them up. Don’t forget to give a thumbs up and subscribe
on the way out!

50 thoughts on “The Chemistry of Redheads

  1. this is very exclusionary as non whites can't have red hair, this is completely unacceptable. you should talk about a hair color that everyone can have, not just whites. this racist content is publicly funded.

  2. I need more anesthesia and numbing medication, so does my mom and grandma. Yep, all redheads. I tell every doctor this and half don't believe me but anesthesiologists ALWAYS do because they see it all the time. Really not fun when a dentist does believe you, though.

  3. My wife and I are brunettes and both had great grandmothers with red hair. Our two daughters are red headed. None of our cousins or siblings have kids with red hair. We told our kids they got their red hair because they were adopted from Ireland.

  4. i've ever seen someone with red hair in my real life.. maybe because i'm arab.. most ppl here have a black hair

    i wish i could see those gingers😧

  5. Redheads are the true minority of the world, less than 2% of them.
    There would be more immigrants in the UK than actual redheads

  6. Never get laid or over sexed, one of the extremes. This gorgeous Japanese woman, probably a tourist wouldn't stop staring at me.

  7. I have a redhead mom, and a brown haired dad, but I have a small percentage of read hair in my beard, and beard alone… Why?

  8. Yeah, some of this is straight up bullshit. I’m a natural redhead and I have like 4 freckles on my face, tan easily and have gotten a sunburn maybe once in my life ( I live in Texas, so we get plenty of sun). I also have very dark brown eyes so not all redheads are blue and green eyed.
    I also can withstand cold temperatures and rarely wear a jacket in the winter. (Although I was born in Russia so maybe that’s just my Russian genes)

  9. Redhead girls make me melt this one at my school looks at me a lot and I fucking die every time I have no problem talking to girls but redheads fucking redheads are my kryptonite y'alls ghostly blueish eyes full of mystery are to fucking die for

  10. 100th comment and where's my strawberry blondes at 😉 we got are souls and no one can tell us we don't have one! Bc we don't care! We just ignore them!

  11. I want to colonize an island with Redheads where they can live in a sanctuary of peace and harmony,
    unfortunately, my quest is like chasing a Unicorn with a Leprechaun jockey

  12. I can vouch for the anesthesia problem, especially a the dentist, that stuff just doesn't work on me very well. My last trip to the dentist cost me 14 shots of Lidocaine.

  13. If I have bright red hairs is this gene active? I have a few and they're the hairs right until of my forehead on the sides.

  14. It's a little bit discriminating to just refer to redheads in Ireland because i'm a redhead and i'm half Spanish and Swedish but whatever

  15. I have a lower sensitivity to cold. I think it's the opposite where redheads have a lower sensitivity to cold and a higher sensitivity to heat sense most of us burn easily.

  16. So basically Redhead genes are stronger than blondes but babies born from couples with a blonde partner will have their red colours fading into blondish red while Redhead gene is recessive against brown or dark hair, but redheads born from a dark hair/redhead couple will have those lovely fiery red hair colour instead of carrot/strawberry blonde. The requirement for a natural redhead to be born is the presence in the DNA of the gene responsible for ruthilism which can be passed to anyone. So even if all redheads would start dating Italian guys with dark hair this would only spread the redhead gene further contributing to more redheads being born

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