15 surprising facts about redheads

Red-haired womanRed hair: In the Middle Ages, some people were afraid of red-haired women because this color was associated with the devil.

Red hair is noticeable – and very rare. Only about one to two percent of the world’s population have them, usually in combination with fair skin and freckles. Did you know that redheads need more anesthesia than others? We have collected more facts about redheads.

1. Red hair: A mutation on chromosome 16

The reason for the unusual hair color is a mutation in the protein MC1R. This determines which pigments, i.e. dyes, are formed. The pigment melanin is responsible for the color of hair, and in humans it occurs in two variants: eumelanin and pheomelanin. The respective mixture then results in the hair color: A lot of eumelanin ensures brown and black hair, a lot of pheomelanin ensures blonde and red hair.

Eumelanin usually prevails. For most redheads it is non-functional. The pigment pheomelanin predominates in them, which is also responsible for light skin. As a rule, red hair is only inherited if the father and mother are redheads or at least blonde. Since red hair retains its pigments longer than other hair colors, it only turns gray later, but usually white.

2. Special reading material

There’s a magazine just for redheads. The name? MC1R!

3. Murderous obsession

Beguiling mirabelle plum girl: The first and last women murdered by the outsider Jean-Baptiste Grenouille in Patrick Süskind’s novel “Perfume” are redheads.

Scene from “Perfume – The Story of a Murderer”
Scene from “Perfume – The Story of a Murderer”: Grenouille is so carried away by the scent of the mirabelle plum girl that he wants to possess her – and kills her. 

4. A little cultural history

Redheads may have already existed among the Neanderthals. A team of researchers from Leipzig and Barcelona reported in 2007 that at least one percent of Neanderthals in Europe may have had red hair. During genetic analyzes they discovered a mutation in the MC1R gene.

5. The green island is red

The highest proportion of redheads is in Scotland : around 13 percent of Scots are redheaded. In Ireland and Wales it is around ten percent each.

A red-haired boy lies in a lush green meadow.
Not a rare sight in Scotland and Ireland: a red-haired boy lying in a lush green meadow. 

6. Quality instead of quantity

Redheads have less hair than blondes and brunettes: about 90,000 as opposed to about 100,000 to 120,000. However, they are usually thicker.

7. Not so easy to rivet

Redheads are said to have a different sense of pain – at least that’s what some studies have shown. They are said to need up to 20 percent more anesthetics than others.

8. Hurray, hurray – the Pumuckl is here!

The children’s book author Ellis Kaut is said to have come up with the idea for the cheeky goblin Pumuckl while on a winter walk with her husband. Since she – like the Klabautermann – liked to play practical jokes, she pulled on a hanging branch to get a load of snow on her husband’s head and collar. Looking at her reddish hair and her nose, reddened by the cold, he suddenly shouted: “You’re a real pumuck!” The name and inspiration for the iconic red-haired leprechaun was born.

Writer Ellis Kaut with a self-made Pumuckl doll
Writer Ellis Kaut with a self-made Pumuckl doll in her Munich apartment.

9. A woman runs – and many run after her

Tom Tykwer’s 1998 film hit “Lola Run” with Franka Potente was so popular in England that many hair salons offered the hair color “Lola red”.

10. “The hairstyle lasts” – for weeks

And again “Run Lola”: The leading actress Franka Potente was not allowed to wash her hair for seven weeks during filming so that the color would not fade. The stringy head of hair may not have just been the result of the make-up artist…

11. Redheads put their heads together

The Netherlands dedicates its own day to redheads. Every year on the first weekend in September, people with this hair color (and many other interested people) meet in the city of Breda to attend events and exchange ideas. The finale is the traditional group photo, which regularly breaks records.

12. An age-old cliché

In the Middle Ages, red-haired women were often thought to be witches because this color was associated with the devil and danger.

13. Whoever digs a pit for others…

The American animated series “South Park” is known for its socially critical content. In the 136th episode “Ginger Kids” she satirically addresses the topic of discrimination: After the protagonist “Cartman” denigrates redheads in a hate speech and assumes that they have no soul, he falls ill with “Gingervitus”. The symptoms: red hair, paleness and freckles. The ne’er-do-well then becomes a victim himself.

Scene from "South Park"
Scene from “South Park”: As soon as the suddenly red-haired Cartman (center front) is mocked because of his appearance, he starts the “Ginger Separatist Movement”. 

14. Robbery of beauty

Redheads held an enormous fascination for some peoples. Roman women are said to have cut off the red hair of their northern European prisoners to make wigs.

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    15. A song against discrimination

    In the nine-minute music video “Born Free” by the English artist MIA, red-haired boys are taken by a police unit into a desert in a bus, forced to run across a minefield and shot there. The controversial clip of the musician, whose parents come from Sri Lanka , is seen as a sign against racism , state oppression and genocide.


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