Whether we’re talking about the full-on flame of Ed Sheeran and Jessica Rabbit or the auburn stylings of Isla Fisher or Game of Thrones’ Rose Leslie, society is always throwing out confusing messages about redheads. One minute they’re unique and sexy, the other they’re weird and different.
“It’s hard to know what to believe anymore,” writes flame-haired author Erin La Rosa in her book, The Big Redhead Book: Inside the Secret Society of Red Hair. “Our eyes aren’t naturally drawn to the fiery embrace of red hair, and yet society gives us mixed messages about what it means to be ginger (some good, some less so).”
In her book, Erin reveals a whole bunch of cool facts about redheads. For starters, she refers to them as ‘the unicorns of the human world’.
“Think about it: We’re rare (only two percent of the world’s population), we’re beautiful (hello, Jessica Chastain), and have the ability to fly (see any of the Weasley family in Harry Potter),” she writes.
But Erin thinks the special nature of redheads runs even deeper. Like, for instance, research shows that redheads have higher thresholds for pain thanks to the MC1R gene mutation, which is what gives their hair its colour. A 2003 McGill University study showed that redheaded women can tolerate up to 25 percent more pain than those with other hair colours.
The University of Louisville also found that it takes 20 percent more general anesthesia to put a redhead under, and that, while a brunette might only need one shot of Novocaine at the dentist, a redhead needs two or three. That means the mutation is literally a strength-providing superpower, which is sick.
Because of this mutation, redheads also need less Vitamin D than the rest of us mere mortals, and are able to produce more vitamin D in a shorter amount of time. That one’s a good advantage, given that low levels of vitamin D can lead to problems like rickets, diabetes and arthritis.
They also know when it’s getting cold. In 2005, the University of Louisville looked into it and found that the MC1R gene may overactivate the human temperature-detecting gene, making readheads more sensitive to thermal extremes – or, in simpler terms, Erin says: “We know when winter’s coming.”
They’re also apparently funnier, according to Professor Andrew Stott, who teaches the history of comedy at the University of Buffalo. He links red hair with the use of wigs in comedy back in the 19th century, where red was the colour of choice because it stood out in large theatres.
He might be right, too, as proven by Erin’s sarcy tone throughout the book.
“You also may not know that when you call us firecrotch, it automatically lands you on our list of people to casually forget about forever,” she writes.