Red All Over


Here's an Intelligent Design riddle: There are redhaired people all over the world—in sunny climes and grey, in the South Sea Islands, in the furthest reaches of Asia. There are redheaded Jews, redheaded Arabs, redheaded Italians. Wherever you go in this wide world, sooner or later you'll find a redhead.

So why would the Designer place all these unfortunate people in areas where they're targets for skin cancer—even if they can avoid getting a sunburn? A new study explains why people with red hair are at a much greater melanoma risk. It's all about the melasomes, don'tcha know. Considering the increased risks, the recent news that redheads are also more resistant to pain than the rest of us is particularly welcome.

Get all your redhead gear at Realm Of Redheads here.

Fiery redheads heat things up in the Bullzeye gallery of hot redheads here.

Professor Leonard Jeffries' Ice People/Sun People thesis explained here.

Mary Schmich's "Wear Sunscreen" essay, source of the legendary Kurt Vonnegut hoax and Baz Luhrman's hit song.

Buffalo quartet Redheaded Stepchild plays bluegrass and roots music.

NEXT: New Atlantis 2: Electric Boogaloo

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  1. Anesthesiologists have for some time compiled anecdotes of people with red hair being especially difficult to operate on, sometimes waking up in the middle of surgery. I don’t recall the details, but in the past several years people have begun to investigate, to see if the anecdotes point to a more universal truth. As I recall, they’ve found that the factors that lead to red hair can interfere with common anesthetics.

    So this recent study makes sense to me, that redheads would respond somewhat differently to pain.

    Of course, this study was done in mice rather than humans, but so far it all makes sense.

  2. I woke up in the middle of my wisdom tooth extraction, thoreau.

  3. Just anecdotally: My mother and sister take huge amounts of anesthetic to feel relief, the dentist is always shocked, both are red-heads, and both are tiny. I (reddish-brown hair, red highlights) am also pretty resistant, particularly to nitrous oxide, so these clinical results don’t really surprise me.

  4. Funny, I just heard “Everybody’s Free (To Wear Sunscreen)” on a college radio station here about two weeks ago.

  5. Who remembers the theory a while back that redheads were remnants of neanderthals?

    Q: How can you tell when a redhead is satisfied in bed?
    A: She unties you.

    Old Redd Foxx toast: Here’s to the redhead. I kissed her there, I kissed here there, and then I kissed her THERE.
    She was no redhead…

  6. red hair can interfere with common anesthetics

    That’s why they invented Scotch whisky.

    And as a redhead in Arizona, I don’t particular appreciate this post. I was worrying that maybe I ate too many donuts last night, but now you’ve given me a real problem to think about. Thanks alot.

  7. The long-term benefits of sunscreen have been proved by scientists

    Is that really true? I seem to recall reading that long-term studies have failed to demonstrate the benefits of sunscreen that scientists expected. I believe they tried to explain this by speculating that the people in the study who wore sunscreen may have spent more time in the sun because they had the sunscreen on, but I believe this was mere speculation. Have I got this wrong?

    Also, I once met a fellow with long flaming red hair who reported that he was always asked if he were Irish, to which he always responded that the only reason the Irish had a preponderance of red-haired members of their group was that during a certain period of history his own group, the Scandanavians, had raped so many Irish women and killed off so many Irish men that the Irish had come to take on many of the Scandanavians’ traits. Charming fellow, he.

  8. I’ve always known that I was susceptible to sunburn, but I never knew that about the anaesthetics. Although that DOES explain a lot of the trouble my dentist had in extracting my wisdom tooth a few months back. He shot my jaw full of enough Novocaine to knock out an elephant and I STILL wasn’t numb.

  9. I wonder how much novocaine would it take to knock out a redhead of large proportion .

  10. So why would the Designer place all these unfortunate people in areas where they’re targets for skin cancer even if they can avoid getting a sunburn?

    Because skin cancer comes along too late to keep them from reproducing? Oops. That’s evolution.

    Because for some strange reason folks who push the “Intelligent Design” theory always seem to believe in a god that isn’t very intelligent.

    I mean why on Earth would the Almighty construct a universe with all those unimaginably complex processes the ID folks point too, which He has to constantly tinker with to keep things running. Why wouldn’t a really intelligent God come up with a bit of programming that would take care of the scut work for Him. Like evolution.

  11. Chalk up another redhead who, after that article, gets to spend the day examining suspicious freckles. And I’ve had the same experience with anaethesia. It simply doesn’t work very well on me. Nor do tylenol, asprin, or any other OTC pain medication. Of course, I’ve also won more than my share of juvenile “how much pain can I tolerate” contests.

  12. I once dated a girl who had a Kurt Vonnegut quote tattooed on her forearm.

    /too much coffee, no real point.

  13. Media-What was the quote?

  14. In the words of King Crimson: “neurosurgeons scream for more/at paranoia’s poisoned door/21st Century schizoid man”:

    Here’s some doctors who managed to get away with electro-torturing human females who were “natural redheads”, the screening process alone may have required a “safe word”.

    Outcomes Research Institute and Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine, Louisville, Kentucky 40202, USA.

    BACKGROUND: Anesthetic requirement in redheads is exaggerated, suggesting that redheads may be especially sensitive to pain. Therefore, the authors tested the hypotheses that women with natural red hair are more sensitive to pain and that redheads are resistant to topical and subcutaneous lidocaine. METHODS: The authors evaluated pain sensitivity in red-haired (n = 30) or dark-haired (n = 30) women by determining the electrical current perception threshold, pain perception, and maximum pain tolerance with a Neurometer CPT/C (Neurotron, Inc., Baltimore, MD). They evaluated the analogous warm and cold temperature thresholds with the TSA-II Neurosensory Analyzer (Medoc Ltd., Minneapolis, MN). Volunteers were tested with both devices at baseline and with the Neurometer after 1-h exposure to 4% liposomal lidocaine and after subcutaneous injection of 1% lidocaine. Data are presented as medians (interquartile ranges). RESULTS: Current perception, pain perception, and pain tolerance thresholds were similar in the red-haired and dark-haired women at 2,000, 250, and 5 Hz. In contrast, redheads were more sensitive to cold pain perception (22.6 [15.1-26.1] vs. 12.6 [0-20] degrees C; P = 0.004), cold pain tolerance (6.0 [0-9.7] vs. 0.0 [0.0-2.0] degrees C; P = 0.001), and heat pain (46.3 [45.7-47.5] vs. 47.7 [46.6-48.7] degrees C; P = 0.009). Subcutaneous lidocaine was significantly less effective in redheads (e.g., pain tolerance threshold at 2,000-Hz stimulation in redheads was 11.0 [8.5-16.5] vs. > 20.0 (14.5 to > 20) mA in others; P = 0.005). CONCLUSION: Red hair is the phenotype for mutations of the melanocortin-1 receptor. Results indicate that redheads are more sensitive to thermal pain and are resistant to the analgesic effects of subcutaneous lidocaine. Mutations of the melanocortin-1 receptor, or a consequence thereof, thus modulate pain sensitivity.

  15. So why would the Designer place all these unfortunate people in areas where they’re targets for skin cancer

    Forgive me for taking that question seriously when in all probablity it’s just a variation on the for want of immunity or a bowl of rice theme, but red heads migrated around the world just like everyone else.

    One might also ask why red heads didn’t evolve the protective mechanisms that everyone else in the sunny climes seemed to manage. Perhaps they should have been naturally selected out of the gene pool but they weren’t. Why is that?

    As for sunscreen, whether or not it actually provides long term protection may be unclear but using it sure beats the crap out of a nasty sunburn this afternoon.

  16. Number 6-

    It was “In the water I am beautiful.”

  17. So why would the Designer place all these unfortunate people in areas where they’re targets for skin cancer?even if they can avoid getting a sunburn?

    That’s right. It was natural selection. Old ppl don’t produce enuf, consume too much. Kill off some old ppl at the margins and your race thrives. Natural selection has the courage to do what is needed even when mercyful gods won’t.

  18. BTW, for the want of immunity or a bowl of rice is actually a far better argument against ID than red heads getting skin cancer.

  19. And a damn good Rush lyric, at that.

  20. Smacky- Damn good lyric, damn good song, damn good band.

  21. Not to contribute to thread drift again, but I have a question:

    What is it with libertarians and prog rock?

    Mention Rush, Dream Theater, Savatage, etc. around most normal people, and they look at you quizzically.

    Mention those bands around libertarians, *BAM* instant recognition.

  22. So why would the Designer place all these unfortunate people in areas where they’re targets for skin cancer even if they can avoid getting a sunburn?

    Just because the Designer is Intelligent doesn’t mean he can’t have a sick sense of humor, too.

  23. Just because the Designer is Intelligent doesn’t mean he can’t have a sick sense of humor, too.

    Some people say….ha, ha….SOME PEOPLE say that humor is a sign of intelligence, NAY, the greatest sign of intelligence of all.

  24. This subject requires study. I will sequester myself with two redheads…no, three. An even dozen. Me and twelve redheads. Somewhere secluded. Give us a week. No, a month. Anyway, we’ll bring a variety of whips and nipple clamps and other items to determine how much pain they can handle and, more importantly, how much they can administer.
    This is delicate work. It is vital that we are not disturbed.

  25. You’re going to need a control group, Jeff P.

    Just to be safe, you’d better include a broad spectrum of hair colors.

  26. I only need a objective measure of performance, not a comparative study.
    However, an observation of how much pain 12 redheads can inflict on a blonde might be worth looking into.

  27. As for sunscreen, whether or not it actually provides long term protection may be unclear but using it sure beats the crap out of a nasty sunburn this afternoon.

    Well, DUH-UH! Sill leaves open the question of whether to use it even when one doesn’t expect to be in the sun long enough for a sunburn, as has been pushed a lot in recent years.

  28. I saw something about redheads being more able to withstand pain, and it told me a lot about some of the, ahem, sexual fetishes one of my ex-girlfriends (a redhead) had…

  29. I recently heard a lecture from the “Great Courses” series on Egyptian history. In one of the lectures the prof said that Ramses the Great had been a redhead and that they could tell from his mummy (assuming that it was, in fact, him in that sarcophogus). I have to admit that it threw me for a loop.

  30. Do we have an unusual preponderance of redheads here or something? There aren’t that many around, thinking about the people I know. Genetic correlation between red hair and unpopular political views, maybe?

  31. Fyodor, it may be DUH, but it is reasonable to conclude that the less you burn your skin the better off you are, irrespective of the degree of cancer protection you are afforded in the long run.

    It’s like taking vitamins, it ain’t going to hurt you to slap a little sunscreen on your nose when you’re going out to work in the garden. So if it helps avoid a sunburn….toss in the possibility of keeping the cancer bogeyman away and I don’t see a downside here.

  32. JD: Yes, Libertarians are a race of redheaded prog rock-luvin’ geeks.
    Sadly, if all the redhead prog-rock luvin’ geeks voted Libertarian, the party would have a beeter showing than it does now.

  33. Media, I don’t think it’s prog rock per se, it’s just that most rock is anti-mind (sounding positively Randian here) anti-capitalist, anti-liberty, and so when a great band like Rush comes along with great lyrics we get excited. And there were some great Boingo lyrics here and there as well (like Capitalism).

    Aside from that, for us old guys Rush was a mainstream and highly recognizable quantity way back in the mean days of disco. I mean, it was Rush, Bob Segar, and a handful of others OR it was Donna Summer……..

  34. I listen to progressive, industrial, power pop, goth, jazz, classical, polka, punk, zydeco, techno, lounge, swing, klezmer, ambient, metal, just about anything but country or blues.

    Awful stuff, the blues, just awful.

  35. “the party would have a beeter showing”
    Jeff P., did you do that on purpose?

  36. Media-I don’t know, but you named three of my favorite bands. Perhaps it’s a congenital disease. I do know that my dad introduced me to libertarianism. Several years later, I turned him on to Rush. I ended up taking him to the Vapor Trails tour.

    If anything, I’d say that libertarians tend to be eggheaded types, and prog rock is eggheaded music.

  37. Pssst. Hey, that Jeff P. ain’t around, let’s play some of those Blues.

    Blues is the roots, everything else is the fruits-Willie Dixon

  38. Don’t get me wrong, I dig prog rock. What with being a libertarian and everything, I freely admit to fitting the stereotype of a prog-rockin’ liberty luver. It’s just something I’ve observed recently. Heck, my currently favorite band of all time is TOOL, and they’re, well, progish.

    And I would love to see Rush live. That’s got to be a heckuva show. My brother recently showed me the Rush DVD from their South American tour. Worth checking out.

  39. “Rush in Rio” it’s called – 4.5 / 5 stars at allmusic. I was thinking of checking that out myself. Being a Rush newbie, I only have the Best Of and Presto, and of course memories of hearing them on the radio all the time growing up.

  40. There’s a new Rush DVD of thier 30th anniversary tour due out next month.

  41. Rush in Rio is more than worth it. As for must-have Rush albums, I’d recommend Moving Pictures, Counterparts, Roll the Bones, and Vapor Trails to start with.

  42. RE: Rush – thanks for the recommendations

  43. Ruthless: No, my pun was unintentional. Mine are usually groaners, and I long for a Callahan’s Punday Night.

    Perhaps at Jennifer’s NYC get-together? Hmm?

  44. Oh mother of God… all these libertarian Rush fans. My illusions are crushed. I may just become a Republican to spare myself the shame. What’s next? “Libertarians who love REO Speedwagon”?

  45. Wait a second. This thread was about redheads, I never meant to post about prog rock.
    Anyway, I only know a few redheads, all are a bit scary. I really don’t count ginger haired men; they aren’t scary so much as sad in most cases (when they are scary, they are seriously scary but leave that aside). I had a girlfriend who was a redheaded dancer and she got pissed off at me and shot up an overdose of heroin to get my attention. It worked. I know another redheaded woman who chopped off her brother’s finger with a hatchet.

    Dear Lord, I love redheaded women.

  46. so if libertarians are nerds

    and older nerds are into prog

    would that mean that younger nerds
    who would be into say math rock

    would be more likely to be

    (i have my doubts)

  47. And more importantly, where does nerdcore fit in there?

  48. Sorry to spoil all your geek fun but Rush was just a wannabee Genesis. And what an awful lead singer, truly among the worst to ever land spit on a microphone, IMHO.

  49. Jeff P. – Wash your mouth out with soap for that comment about the blues! Rock’n’roll ain’t nothing but turbocharged blues. Anyway, I was never that much of a Rush fan myself, but I’m a huge King’s X fan, which should establish sufficient prog cred. I have vaguely reddish highlights in my facial hair, too. Come to think of it, we haven’t touched on that – “baroque styles of facial hair among (male) libertarians”, which seems to be another marker, but maybe not as much as it used to be.

  50. I’m happy that great bluesmen like Leadbelly and Howlin’ Wolf and Interstate Brickface (king of the one-string guitar) get their historical due, but the idea that rock and/or roll is just a souped up version of the blues is absurd. You can do variations on “Goodnight Irene” for fifty years and it won’t become “I Am the Walrus.”

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