Redheads have a higher PAIN threshold than blondes or brunettes because their skin’s pigment-producing cells lack the function of a particular receptor, research shows.
- Redheads have a defective receptor on the skin’s pigment cells that stops them from tanning
- But it also has a hormonal knock-on effect, which results in an increased pain threshold
- The end result is that gingers produce more opioid signals than people with other hair colors and compositions and have an increased pain threshold
Ginger men can tolerate more pain than brunettes and blondes, and a new study has discovered why this is.
It found that the skin cells that determine a person’s pigmentation, called melanocytes, are crucial in determining a person’s pain threshold.
Redheads have a genetic mutation, which means that their melanocytes have a faulty version of a key receptor and therefore cannot make a dark pigment to get a tan.
A knock-on effect of this is a chemical imbalance that leads to a cascade of different hormones that ultimately enhance the effect of pain-blocking opioid receptors.
The end result is that gingers produce more opioid signals than people with other hair colors and compositions and therefore have an increased pain tolerance.
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Redheads have a genetic mutation, which means that their melanocytes have a faulty version of a key receptor and therefore cannot make a dark pigment to get a tan. But a domino effect of this is a chemical imbalance that leads to a cascade of different hormones that ultimately amplify the effect of pain-blocking receptors (stock)
Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital looked at mice with red fur in a lab.
Rodent skin cells are similar to humans and the cause of red hair is similar in the two types.
Dr. David Fischer led an earlier study that found that people with fiery hair cannot create dark pigment and brown color due to a loss of functionality in melanocytes.
Gingers, the rarest human hair color, like all humans, have a receptor on their melanocytes called melanocortin 1 that protrudes from the surface of the cell.
Gingers, the rarest human hair color, like all humans have a receptor on their melanocytes called melanocortin 1 that mediates the production of dark skin pigments. But in redheads, it is defective. This leads to a hormone level that differs from that of people with a different mind and results in an increased pain threshold (stock)
Going gray ‘is caused by stress’
Scientists have finally proven what conventional wisdom has been telling us for decades: that stressed hair turns gray.
However, researchers at Columbia University also found that the process can be reversed in hair that has only recently turned gray.
Reducing stress could prevent gray hair, scientists say, and it is hoped that drugs can be developed to further prevent the unwanted process.
The study found that hairs all over the scalp can reverse graying. It also found that beard and pubic hairs can regain their color after they turn gray.
Scientists believe that the aging problem is caused by changes in the metabolic pathways that make up proteins in the body.
These pathways are greatly influenced by hormones created when a person is stressed, and therefore relieving stress can reverse the process.
Its normal role is to check when the body starts to produce dark brown or black pigment.
However, it doesn’t work on redheads, causing the pale skin of many gingers that never turns bronze and is prone to sunburn.
But Dr. Fischer found that these faulty receptors also alter the production of a chemical called POMC, which is then broken down into various hormones.
These hormones provide a balance between pain-relieving and pain-promoting receptors.
In redheads, the damaged melanocortin 1 receptor causes less POMC to be produced and therefore they have lower levels of the derived hormones.
This means that the balance in redheads is in a lower concentration than in people with other hair colors.
This therefore amplifies the impact of other hormones – not made by the skin pigment cells – that amplify the effect of the pain-relieving opioid receptors.
As a result, redheads have an increased pain threshold, the researchers conclude in their study, published in Science Advances
“These findings describe the mechanistic basis behind previous evidence suggesting different pain thresholds with different pigmentation backgrounds,” says Dr. Fisher.
“Understanding this mechanism provides validation of this previous evidence and valuable recognition to medical personnel in caring for patients whose pain sensitivity may vary.”