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MC1R Study Says: Redheads Can Tan

We just react badly to the sun at the same time...

Updated: June 22, 2021

Redheads know the pain that comes with a sunburn.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been burned and was blistering red. Usually, it’s when I plan on only spending a small time in the sun and don’t wear enough sunscreen. One time, when I was vacationing in Greece, I got a horrible, itchy, red sunburn. All the while, my olive-skinned companions lay in the glorious sunshine for hours, and it hardly seems to touch them.

I’m always the one searching for shade and complaining about the heat, while everyone else seems free to enjoy it. But why is this? Why do redheads have to suffer in the sun while darker haired and olive skinned people don’t?

A study was released that brings to light some very interesting points.

Scientists have always said redheads are fair and burn because they do not make enough melanin due to the MC1R gene. Melanin blocks the sun. There is a pigment in our skin that protects us from the radiation of the sun, and it’s long been thought that redheads just don’t make enough of it, so we burn.

However, Scientists at the University of Bradford suggest if you’re fair skinned and a redhead, your skin is potentially five times BETTER at tanning than olive-skinned sunbathers.

Wait, WHAT?! 

That was my response, exactly.

Before you stop using sunscreen, be warned. The report says redheads actually make more melanin but unfortunately, redheads also make another chemical at the same time that causes inflammation. This is what leads to painful sunburns, redness and skin damage. Darker skinned individuals don’t make the inflammatory chemical, meaning they are free to bathe in the sun without as much risk of burning.

Study author Professor Desmond Tobin told Daily Mail: “When people with fairer skin sit in the sun they burn and we used to believe it was because people with the pale skin were not producing melanin. Something is stopping the cells from working in people with paler skin. Olive skinned people don’t make inflammatory cells when exposed to UV. Targeting melanocytes with anti-inflammatory interventions could offer a new way of protecting more vulnerable skin types from sunburn.”

The bottom line is, redheads have to be careful when exposed to the sun; even a little too much can be very painful, and potentially very harmful. And if you do catch too much sun, try natural soothing remedies like aloe vera gel or lavender oil. But, from my own experience, there’s no substitute for good old simple cold water or an ice pack — when the sunburn is really bad.

Personally, I will always prefer the shade and you should too.

Rock it like a Redhead! 

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