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National Redhead Day

As a natural redhead myself, I’m intrigued by the subtle genetic differences that make me (and all redheads) different than 98 percent of the population. But beyond the fair skin and tendency to freckle, there are a few other interesting skin-related differences that set us apart.

1. Redheads May Have a Lower Pain Tolerance

I recently stumbled upon this 2005 study about whether or not redheads are more sensitive to pain. Researchers decided to take a closer look after seeing a consistent connection between having red hair and needing higher doses of lidocaine for pain relief. Indeed, the study did find that redheads are more sensitive to thermal pain, both the cold and heat varieties, and are most resistant to lidocaine. This study alone established that the genetic mutation that leads to red hair also plays a role in pain sensitivity.

2. Redheads Can’t Get Laser Hair Removal

Although advancements in laser technology have now made it possible for people with just about any skin tone to get laser hair removal, redheads and blondes are still out of luck (The Dermatologist). That’s because laser hair removal works by targeting the melanin in hair follicles, but redheads and blondes don’t have enough melanin in their hair to be able to attract the laser. So for now, you’re going to have to stick with traditional hair removal methods.

3. Redheads Burn More Easily

Those of us with red hair also have less eumelanin, the pigment responsible for dark skin and hair. With less of this type of pigment, redheads are more likely to burn with even a little unprotected sun exposure. This fact makes those with red hair more prone to skin cancer as well.

Even more, eumelanin also has a natural antioxidant effect, so with less of this pigment, our skin is less able to defend itself against the damage that leads to skin cancer. And as if that weren’t enough, the pheomelanin that makes our hair red has been found to generate free radicals when exposed to UV light, which leads to even more cancer-causing skin damage.

While Harvard dermatologist Madhu Pathak calls redheads “three-time losers” because of these three factors, I like to instead say that redheads are “eumelanonically challenged.” You can read more about this at www.howtobearedhead.com, where I’ve been featured as a guest writer.

So What’s a Redhead to Do?

Admittedly, these three “fun facts” don’t exactly sound all that fun for redheads. But the good news is that maintaining healthy skin and hair doesn’t have to be as complicated as it might seem. Obviously, the best line of defense against skin damage is to wear sunscreen 365 days a year and treat your skin to antioxidants, both topically and internally. Then, get a UV-protectant spray to help preserve the healthy, beautiful red tresses that most women have to go to the salon to get!

 

Dr. Leslie Baumann, M.D. and her team at Baumann Cosmetic Dermatology believe in proof, not promises. World-recognized for both cosmetic and general dermatology, our treatment strategies rely exclusively on evidence-based, scientifically verified products and procedures that promote skin health and a natural appearance. We combine effective medical procedures with individualized instruction on proper skincare, nutrition, supplementation and lifestyle in order to maximize the health of the skin and body as a whole while minimizing the effects of aging. For more, visit Dr. Baumann’s blog for daily updates Monday through Friday, or inquire about an appointment through Derm.net.

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