Redheads Have A Higher Pain Threshold, According To Study


Redheads have a higher pain threshold, according to a recent study. 

Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital say their latest research proves that cells from a person’s hair colour – known as melanocytes – can help determine a person’s pain threshold.

To carry out the investigation, scientists tested the theory on red-coloured mice. As animals’ skin cells happen to be very similar to humans, this makes for an easy comparison.

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Celebrity redhead, Jessica Chastain.
Research suggests redheads have a higher pain threshold. Credit: Instagram/@jessicachastain

People who have ginger hair carry a genetic mutation which means their melanocytes feature a faulty receptor. This explains why they can’t make the dark pigment that allows a person to go tanned.

However, this has revealed an unexpected knock-on effect, as the research shows it’s also led to an enhanced effect on a person’s pain-stopping receptors.

The particular receptor in question is called melanocortin 1It’s the one that produces the colouration when people spend time out in the sun. But for redheads, this doesn’t work and that’s why they often burn rather than tan.

Simultaneously, this receptor is altering a chemical called POMC. This is responsible for the various hormones produced that create the balance between pain inhibition and pain enhancement.

So for lucky redheads, less of the POMC is being produced.

Dr David Fischer, who published the findings in Science Advances, said: “These findings describe the mechanistic basis behind earlier evidence suggesting varied pain thresholds in different pigmentation backgrounds.

“Understanding this mechanism provides validation of this earlier evidence and a valuable recognition for medical personnel when caring for patients whose pain sensitivities may vary.”

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Written by Aimee Walker

Aimee is a senior content editor at IGV who specialises in finding the best original stories, trending topics and entertainment news. She graduated from Birmingham City University with a degree in Media and Communications.