Melanin is a natural pigment in the skin. The colour of hair, skin, and eyes in humans and animals depends mainly on the type and amount of Melanin they have. Superior cells in the skin called melanocytes make Melanin.
We all have the same number of melanocytes, but some people make more Melanin than others. If these cells produce just a little of it, your hair, skin, and iris can turn very light. If your cells make more, your hair, skin, and eyes will darken.
The amount of Melanin in your body may depend on your genes. If your parents have a lot or a little pigment
in their skin, you are probably like them.
How does Melanin React to the Sun?
When you are in the sun, your body produces more Melanin. It can help protect the body from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.
But this is not enough to protect you from the sun. Your skin is already damaged if you are tanned or your skin has slightly darkened. It is why it is so essential to close your eyes and wear sunscreen permanently.
Research shows that people with dark skin have fewer skin cancers than people with fair skin. Extra research is needed to see if this is related to the amount of Melanin in your skin.
Understand the Benefits of Melanin
Melanin is a pigment responsible for a beautiful variety of shades and tones of skin, eye, and hair colours. However, when it comes to Melanin, this discussion rarely includes its actual biological benefits.
It not only provides pigmentation for human skin, hair, and eyes, it also protects against the harmful effects of ultraviolet (UV) rays.
In the article, we will take a nearer look at what Melanin is, why Melanin is so essential to the skin, and how various factors can affect the amount of it.
Types of Melanin
Melanin is a type of complex pigment that is responsible for the pigmentation of our hair, skin, and eyes.
Although it is frequently broken down as a single pigment, two types of Melanin contribute to the
pigmentation of human and animal hair, skin, and eyes:
This pigment is associated with darker tones such as brown and black.
This pigment is associated with alternating shades such as red and yellow.
The third type of Melanin, called neuromelanin, exists in the human brain and imparts pigment to structures in that area.
Unlike eumelanin and pheomelanin, neuromelanin does not impart pigmentation to human features. Instead,
this type of Melanin is being studied primarily for its association with Parkinson’s disease.
Its production starts in large cells called melanocytes, which are present throughout the body. Melanocytes are responsible for the show of organelles called melanosomes.
These melanosomes synthesize both eumelanin and pheomelanin, distributed to various cells such as keratinocytes (skin cells). The natural level of Melanin is primarily determined by genetics and usually determines the colour of the hair, skin, and eyes.
However, other factors can influence the production of Melanin, for example:
- Exposure to ultraviolet radiation
- Skin pigmentation disorders
Do we all have an Identical Amount of Melanin?
Despite the many differences in the colour of a person’s skin, hair, and eyes, almost everyone has roughly the same number of melanocytes. However, people with darker skin tones have larger, larger, and more pigmented melanosomes than lighter skin tones.
Interestingly, these melanosomes also appear to show different patterns of skin colour distribution. All of these differences contribute to a wide variety of colours and skin tones in humans.
What if you don’t have Sufficient, Melanin?
Genetic generally determine the amount of Melanin in your hair, skin, and eyes, but two conditions can occur when your body is lacking it:
Vitiligo is an auto-immune disease that occurs when the body does not make enough melanocytes. It causes a lack of pigment, which can appear as white spots on the skin or hair. Vitiligo affects 1 to 2 per cent of people worldwide.
Albinism is a rare genetic disorder that occurs when the body does not produce enough Melanin. It may be due to a reduction in melanocytes or a decrease in its production from melanosomes. There are different types of albinism, but most of them cause a moderate to severe lack of pigment in the hair, skin, and eyes.
Are there ways you can Raise the Amount of Melanin you have?
While it is true that tanning can increase the production of Melanin in the skin, it is essential to keep in mind its biological role and why tanning can be dangerous.
During sun exposure, the sun’s harmful UV rays penetrate the skin and damage the DNA of skin cells.
In response to this cell damage, the body tries to produce more Melanin to protect the cells. This increase in its production creates a characteristic “tan” on the skin. However, as soon as the skin begins to tan, it indicates that cell damage has already occurred.
The amount of Melanin produced by sunburn, whether from the sun or any other UV exposure, is not enough to protect skin cells from further damage. Over time, this cell damage can lead to skin cancer. In addition to sunburn, there have been reports that specific vitamins or herbal supplements can increase its levels in the skin. Some of the most generally recommended accessories are antioxidants such as vitamin A and vitamin E.
However, these claims are mainly based on anecdotal evidence, and there is little scientific research to back them up.
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Melanin is a kind of pigment that gives shade to humans and animals’ hair, skin, and eyes. In addition to the pigmentation of cells, it also absorbs harmful UV rays and protects cells from damage caused by UV exposure.
Its levels are usually genetically determined but can be influenced by external sources such as sun exposure, hormones, or even age.
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