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Melanin, what is it and what is it for?

Curiosity has always arisen in me and surely you too! Since I was little I have been very white skinned. So much so, that every year, with the arrival of summer, I had to put up with comments from people regarding my skin tone... For this reason, I recently began to investigate why there are people with a darker skin tone and others like me, on the other hand, with so little pigment in my skin...

What is skin melanin?

Melanin is a naturally occurring dark pigmented substance that can be found in some cells of the mammalian body and causes the coloration of the skin , hair , and eyes . Therefore, it is the reason why I am always so white... This substance is created by melanocytes ( skin cells located in the basal layer of the epidermis and in the matrix of the hair follicle that when combined with Vitamin D are activated ).

In addition, melanin also has a protective function against UV rays . In this way, when we sunbathe ( in my case, very little because I burn immediately...) the melanocytes are activated to prevent the skin from burning with exposure to the sun , in turn preventing the cell nuclei of the skin from burning. epidermis . It achieves this by absorbing solar radiation and converting it into heat . Therefore, tanning more or less always depends on our genetics and the melanin in our skin .

What types of melanin are in our skin?

The melanin in the skin can be of two types :

  • Eumelanin (dark color: black-brown): it is in charge of protecting us from ultraviolet radiation so that our epidermis does not have cellular damage .
  • Feomelanin (light color: yellow-pink): this type of melanin is responsible for giving color to certain areas of our body , as well as the lips , for example.

Thus, each person has a certain percentage of each type of melanin and that is why there are so many types of skin tone . While in the lighter breeds , for example, the presence of pheomelanin is greater than that of eumelanin, in dark breeds the opposite happens.

Do we produce melanin all our lives?

Over the years , and as happens with collagen or elastin, for example, our skin produces less melanin . In this way, when we get older it is more difficult for us to get tanned and we are more unprotected from solar radiation .

Did you know that , due to the lack of melanin in our body , we get gray hair ? By not producing so much pigmentation , the color of our hair turns gray (or whitish).

Melanin and UV rays

It is important that, if we want to tan our body , it is progressive . This is because, when the sun 's UV rays come into contact with our skin , they oxidize the melanin in our skin cells and we get an instant , but short-lasting tan .

In addition to tanning, solar radiation can also cause burns or premature aging of the skin (and even skin cancer in extreme cases) as a result of overexposure to the sun . In these cases, the melanin in our body does not absorb all the radiation , causing redness and certain burns on our skin .


After all this information, it is essential that you keep in mind that you must protect your skin from the sun , always with good sun protection ... Although you should already do that throughout the year!

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