It is a pigment that is responsible for the variety of our skin tones and shades, eye colors, and hair colors. Melanin is also responsible for protecting us against the harmful effects of ultraviolet rays. People who have darker skin tones have more melanin than those who have lighter skin tones.
People who have more melanin in their skin are at a lower risk of sunburn and skin cancer. When you get tanned in the sun then it is a way for our skin to protect itself from damage as it releases melanin. Special skin cells called melanocytes make melanin and everyone has the same number of melanocytes.
The amount of melanin your body makes depends on your genes. If your parents have a lot or a little skin pigment, you’ll probably look like them. Melanin can build up in some areas and cause darkening of the skin, which doctors may call hyperpigmentation. Hyperpigmentation is when parts of your skin are darker than others. It is also possible to spot-treat existing melanin deposits, there are risks and limitations. It’s also possible to lower melanin production in the skin.
What are the types of melanin?
There are mainly three types of melanin in people:
Eumelanin: this usually makes dark colors in hair, eyes, and skin. There are generally two types of eumelanin which are brown and black and they usually come from different mixes of black and brown eumelanin. Blonde hair happens when there is a small amount of brown eumelanin and no black eumelanin.
Pheomelanin: it is responsible for the lighter or pinkish parts of our body like our lips, cheeks, and nipples. People who are redheads usually have the same amount of pheomelanin and eumelanin.
Neuromelanin: it controls the colors of neurons but it is not involved with the coloring of things you see.
What are the benefits of melanin?
It protects us from UV light
Melanin helps protect our skin from the sun. It protects the cells of the epidermis, or the outer layer of the skin, from UV light. It protects us from all types of UV light and as well as blue light. It absorbs the UV light before it reaches to damage your DNA.
It is essential to brain, nerve, and organ function
In the brain, tissues with melanin include the medulla and pigment-bearing neurons within areas of the brainstem. Melanin is found in almost every organ of the body and is important to operate the nerves.
Destroys free radicals
Free radicals cause damage to human cells. Melanin works in destroying the free radicals by targeting them.
Promotes younger-looking skin
When our skin is exposed to the sun they are prone to damage their skin and cause premature aging. Dark-toned people show fewer signs of aging. It prevents age spots, deep wrinkles and rough texture. The increased melanin protects those who have it from short-term damage from the sun.
It has antioxidant properties
It scavenges for reactive oxygen species produced via UV light damage. It does not intervene from protective compounds like antioxidants, these ROS contribute to oxidative stress, which causes significant cellular damage.
It is also believed that melanin has some other actions within the body, such as protection of the liver, intestines, and even the immune system.
Does everyone have the same amount of melanin?
The amount of melanin depends upon the number of melanocytes. All human beings have roughly the same number of melanocytes. But people who have darker skin tones have melanosomes higher in number, larger in size, and more pigmented than those with light skin tones.
Can we increase the number of melanin levels?
There are some ways through which you can increase the levels of melanin on your skin and in your hair.
The most common and easiest way of increasing your melanin is tanning but it can be dangerous and can cause harm to your body.
You can also use some supplements and vitamins which can increase melanin levels. Some vitamins like vitamin A and vitamin E can increase melanin levels.
Some foods can also be used to produce more melanin and increase the level in our skin and hair.
Many products have avocado oils which have a soothing action and it goes deep inside our skin and hydrates it. It also reduces wrinkles and spots. It prevents premature aging and rejuvenates the skin. Avocados also carry lutein, which aids in skin elasticity.
It is rich in vitamins and is considered a superfood. It has a lot of health benefits. It blocks the breakdown of collagen. It also has antioxidants property and contains vitamins A, B1, C, D and E which relieves them from dry skin.
Kale has some heavy effect in clearing up your skin. It has anti-inflammatory properties like vitamin K which treats skin conditions. It is also anti-aging and has magnesium to help even out the skin tone. Kale is also filled with copper. It stabilizes skin proteins and revitalizes melanin.
Carrots and beetroots
They both are filled with beta-carotene which is a pro-vitamin which converts into vitamin A. It also supports vision and a healthy immune system. Vitamin A can lead to increase in melanin production.
Vitamin C can reduce tyrosinase activity which prevents the formation of melanin. It has anti-pigmentation effects.
It has a compound which is called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG). It prevents melanin accumulation and it also inhibits an enzyme which is needed to make melanin.
What happens due to lack of melanin?
There are generally two conditions which happen when your body lacks melanin:
Vitiligo: it is an autoimmune disorder which occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough melanocytes. This causes lack of melanin and color which can cause white patches to appear on your skin or hair.
Albinism: this is a very common condition which happens when the body doesn’t produce enough melanin. The number of melanocytes is reduced or due to reduced melanin production from melanosomes.
Melanin is both useful and dangerous for our body. You just need to accept yourself the way you are and avoid using natural methods to increase or decrease melanin levels in your skin as it may cause infections and other skin problems.