Melanin Pigment: How it Benefits Our Skin Tone?
Have you ever wondered what gives us a distinct complexion? Your skin may be light-toned, but your friend or relative may carry darker skin. Someone around you has black hair and others brown or red. These all colours are imparted by one pigment, melanin.
Apart from colouration, melanin's major function is to protect your skin from sun damage. We all know that the skin is vulnerable to the good and bad effects of sun exposure. The sun exposure is shielded by this pigment thus it serves as a physical barrier. Melanin acts by scattering ultraviolet radiations (UVR) and as an absorbent filter that minimizes the penetration of ultraviolet through your epidermis.
When all is well, your skin gets an even tone. However, too much sun exposure and various other factors can trigger abnormal melanin production in your body, which leads to the skin pigmentation. Then you have to look for the treatments or home remedies for skin pigmentation.
Melanin thus plays a dual role, it protects as well as alteration in its levels can cause harm in certain ways.
Let's discuss about melanin pigment in following points:
- What is Melanin?
- Benefits of melanin pigments
- What causes increased melanin production?
- Is melanin bad for your skin?
- Association between melanin and skin cancer
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What is Melanin?
Melanin is a pigment produced by skin pigment cells called melanocytes, responsible for a variety of beautiful skin tones and shades. It also provides pigmentation to your eyes and hair. Based on the melanin levels in your skin, the skin complexions are broadly classified as light, medium, and dark.
You may wonder, does more melanin pigment mean darker human skin? The answer is Yes!
The research says that the size of the skin melanin units is similar independently of the human race, but varies between body areas. But, some people make more melanin compared to others.
Benefits of melanin pigments
Apart from providing pigmentation to your skin, hair, and eyes, this fantastic pigment carries other additional benefits for you. Let's dive in to know the melanin benefits for your skin:
(a) Melanin Protects against ultraviolet radiation
The sun rays affect your skin and health in many ways which can be problematic for you. Your ability to withstand such troublesome effects depends on the extent of melanin pigments produced in your skin. This, in turn, is determined by the number of melanocytes that are active beneath the surface of your skin.
UV radiation can cause damage to the DNA of your skin cells but melanin aids to safeguard the epidermis, the outer layer of the skin, from such harmful effects. It absorbs these dangerous UV rays before it impairs the genetic material of skin cells which prevents them from becoming cancerous.
However, there is a limit to the degree of protection that this pigment can yield, and it's remarkably higher in the dark-skinned people.
You will be surprised to know that melanin, like sunscreen, has an SPF (sun protection factor) between 1.5 to 4. Which is a good thing but as the degree of UVR is increasing by every passing year you must go for a superior sun protection i.e., upto SPF 50.
You should wear a broad spectrum sunscreen gel with SPF 50 to stay protected from the deleterious effects of UVR. Where melanin SPF will offer you lesser sun protection, the SPF50 can block 98% of the UV rays, so you should be aware about - What SPF Sunscreen Should You Choose For Your Skin?
(b) Reactive oxygen species (ROS) scavenger
Free radicals are the biggest foe of healthy skin. They have been implicated as the cause of oxidative stress and cellular damage in your body. Right amount of melanin in your skin displays antioxidant activity by targeting/destroying these harmful free radicals produced from sunlight, pollution, and smoking. We all know that smoking can damage the lungs but do you know smoking can impair your looks too.
(c) Melanin makes skin look hydrated
Melanin has a limited role in retaining moisture in skin. Thanks to its role as a free-radical scavenger! It can prevent the negative effect of free radicals from drying out your skin. But for maintaining good health of dry skin you need adequate moisturization so you should provide adequate moisturization by using hydrating moisturizer and by avoiding a few steps to avoid dry skin.
What causes increased melanin production?
One of the most common causes is exposure to sunlight. Sunrays have been observed to elevate melanin production in your skin. When you are in the sun, your body makes more melanin.
Ultraviolet-A (UVA) rays from the sunlight penetrate the lower layers of the epidermis and stimulate your melanocytes. Melanin is generated as a defence mechanism to shield you from ultraviolet-induced sun damage.
On the other hand pollution adversely affects your skin. When your skin is exposed to pollutants in the air, it produces melanin and free radicals are generated. These ultimately lead to those ugly dark spots on your skin that manage to peek even through your makeup.
Do you know popping pimples and scratching an existing one may trigger excess melanin in the surrounding region? This is the leading cause of acne scars, which look even worse. You need to use Vitamin C serum to get rid of acne scars. Still in doubt, then read - Does Vitamin C serum reduce acne scars?
So, never touch an active pimple, as the bacteria on your fingers may also aggravate it.
Other factors that raise levels of this pigment include:
(a) Hormonal imbalances
Is melanin bad for your skin?
Now that you are fully aware of melanin's impressive qualities, it's time to explore downsides of disturbed melanin production in your skin. The first one is hyperpigmentation. Pigmentary problems are one of the most common issues of the skin. These make your skin tone uneven and leave you wondering how to get rid of uneven skin tone.
A disadvantage of having more melanin production is that it makes more reactive species in your skin. That means almost any stimulus-a scratch, rash, acne, or inflammation may induce the generation of excess pigment, resulting in dark spots or patches on your skin.
Association between melanin and skin cancer
Research says excessive UVR exposure makes melanin react with DNA, leading to skin cancer by generation of ROS. So one should limit the UVR exposure to stay away from the risk of skin cancer. But if you think that the risk of sun damage and skin cancer is over after you come indoors, then you need to think again!
Because UVA rays can pass through glass which alters the DNA of our skin, resulting in ageing, wrinkles, sunspots and sun damage. So you need to wear sunscreen indoors.
It turns out you're still susceptible to the risk of skin cancer or you may have been affected by a sunburn and it is excruciating. If confused about which product to use to treat sunburn then always go for home remedies to treat sunburn, they are effective and have the least side-effects. But don’t forget to use broad spectrum sunscreen gel to prevent further damage.
Wondering - Why to use broad spectrum sunscreen gel?
Once your beautiful skin begins to tan, this is an indication that superficial cellular damage has already occurred. Over time, cellular damage due to UVA rays may potentially lead to malignant melanoma.
You should protect your skin to prevent skin cancer and check your skin regularly for suspicious growths or other skin alterations.
Apart from high melanin production the other bad effect of sun exposure is photoaging and its effects on your face, like visible wrinkles and rough skin. These all signs can make you look older than you are which is popularly known as premature aging.
Staying protected from UVR and avoiding photoaging are inevitable reasons why gel-based sunscreen is your bff. So always wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen to guard you against the harmful effects of sunlight.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Q. Does melanin make skin dark?
Ans. Excessive melanin makes skin get darker.
Q. What are the three types of melanin?
Ans. These are eumelanin, pheomelanin, and neuromelanin.
Q. Is melanin good or bad?
Ans. Melanin is a protective pigment in the skin. It blocks ultraviolet radiation from damaging DNA and causing skin cancer. This pigment does protect us, but alterations in the melanin forming cells known as melanocytes may also trigger skin cancer.
Q. How to reduce melanin?
Ans. More melanin means darker skin. So, you can use turmeric, aloe vera gel, tomato, soy milk, lemon juice, and green tea along with melanin reduction cream to decrease production of melanin in your body.
Reducing melanin levels in your skin will helps to lower hyperpigmentation and thus offers you a glowing skin.
Q. How to increase melanin?
Ans. Increasing melanin aids to minimize the risk of skin cancer. Antioxidants display the strongest potential for increasing melanin levels in your skin.
Eat more antioxidant-rich foods like colorful and leafy vegetables, dark berries, and dark chocolates. Consuming vitamin-rich foods can also boost melanin production.
Know about vitamin c rich food to get beautiful skin.
MDS - Orthodontics, BDS
Orthodontist and Skin Care Expert
Being in the medical field, guidance and counselling people about medical secrets is her passion. She is also a skin enthusiast and loves to study and share awareness about it.