If you’re a proud parent of a gorgeous little ginger, there are a few extra-special things you need to know about raising a redhead.
Only 4% of the world’s population carry the gene for red hair, and even fewer are lucky enough to actually sprout the splendid coloured tresses. However, the rare gene mutation which is responsible for red hair also causes a wide range of other physical differences, from the well-known problem of fair hair vs. sunshine to the less-widely known issue of redheads experiencing pain differently.
If you are a redheaded mama, you’ll probably already know about 80% of what’s in this article, but there are still a few nuggets of wisdom that will make reading to the end well worth your while.
A Redhead Feels Pain Differently
This is especially true for pain caused by heat or cold. Professor Lars Arendt-Nielsen of the Center for Sensory-Motor Interaction at Aalborg University, conducted experiments using capsaicin, the active substance in chili and injecting it under the skin. The professor said: “Our tests showed that redheads are less sensitive to this particular type of pain. They react less to pressure close to the injected area, or to a pinprick. They seem to be a bit better protected, and that is a really interesting finding.”
In practical terms for parents, this means your inquisitive ginger is more likely to touch hot items, and stay in contact with them for longer, than other kids. They are also more likely to become dangerously hot or cold while playing outside, without realizing it.
A Redhead Is More Sensitive
While redheads are less sensitive to temperature-induced pain, we are more sensitive to changes in temperature and will notice the mercury travelling up or down the thermometer way before you do.
This isn’t a huge problem but just be aware, your child might be cranky because they are too hot or too cold, while you feel perfectly comfortable. It is always wise to dress them in layers and carry some extras so you can add or subtract clothes as necessary.
Skin Issues for Redheads
There is more to know about redheaded skin than the fact that it burns easily.
Black & Blue
Gingers bruise more easily than other people. Not only that, we tend to have more spectacular, longer-lasting bruising than our non-redheaded contemporaries. As a consequence, when you ask your child how they got that gargantuan bruise on their leg be prepared for them to look at you and shrug because they have no idea how it happened.
And Red All Over
Most babies have at least a degree of skin sensitivity. The majority of people outgrow this stage, but your redheaded child is likely to remain prone to allergic reactions, rashes, breaking out in hives, and a general, all-around overreaction to any colors and fragrances.
It is no secret that the pale skin enjoyed by the majority of gingers is super sensitive to the sun and you have probably already stocked up on sunscreen. However, if you think the only way for your child to suffer a sunburn is for them to be in direct sunshine with exposed skin, think again. Everyone should be aware of the following sun safety information, but the parents of redheads should be especially alert.
- You can still burn in the shade or on cloudy days. The UV rays that cause skin damage can reflect off surfaces like sand, water, and grass. Using shade alone will not necessarily protect your baby from harm. In addition, cloudy days may block sunshine, but UV rays can penetrate the cloud and burn.
- The winter sun still burns. Likewise, the sunlight in winter is still capable of burning delicate pale skin if exposed for too long. This is especially true at higher elevations and in the snow. The reflected light from snow can cause severe burns if you fail to use sunscreen.
- Don’t forget tiny eyes. UV rays can damage our peepers so ensure your little one has eye protection.
- Clothes only help. As someone who has been sunburned after spending the day outside in a thin long sleeve shirt, I can confirm, clothes are not sufficient protection for many hours in the sun.
Ultimately it’s a good idea to:
- Think sun protection every day of the year.
- Never rely on just one barrier. Use sunscreen, layers of clothes, a hat, sunglasses, the shade, and limit time in the sun.
Everyone Loves a Ginger Baby
It is not unusual for people to stop and coo over a newborn or a young child. But, if your babe is a ginger, then expect this extra attention to be a permanent element of your day. No matter how big your kiddo gets, someone will stop to talk about their hair.
They Look Good in Every Colour
There was a time when the closet of a redhead child was packed full of dark greens and browns but, no more! Feel free to wrap your bundle of joy in the brightest oranges, yellows, and pinks if that’s what you’d like and tell the naysayers to take a hike. Clashing is the new matching.
Less is More
Don’t fret if your child’s ginger mane seems to be on the thin and wispy side. Redheads have the fewest average number of hair follicles, so we have the least hair. However, we also have–on average–much thicker strands which give it the fuller appearance. As your child’s hair grows, you’ll notice how much more thick and full it looks.
You May Want to Talk to Your Redhead
Sometimes, to kids, being different makes them an ‘easy target’. As the parent of a ginger, it’s a good idea to try and ensure they are self-confident enough not to let bullies get to them, that they are able to talk with you openly about any problems with their peers, and that you ensure any school or social groups deal with the situation swiftly and effectively.
And that, is that, as far as little redheads go.