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How Melanin Production in Skin is Related to Skin Color?

Editor's Note: This article has been recently updated with latest information and research studies.

Different people have different skin colors. These colors are as a result of melanin. The only exceptions are albinos who are considered to be ‘without color’.

What is Melanin?

Melanin is the component in our body that brings about pigmentation. It determines the color of the skin, hair and eyes. Melanin is produced in the skin in cells known as melanocytes and through a process called melanogenesis. There exist different subtypes of melanin which are found in different people and different parts of the body.

What Is The Function of Melanin?

The main function of melanin is to provide pigmentation mainly to the skin, hair and iris of the eye. In addition melanin is important in protecting the skin from ultra violet rays of the sun which can be damaging. This is why albinos are highly susceptible to skin problems such as sun burns* caused by UV rays. If you go out into the sun you will notice a considerable darkening of the exposed skin. This is simply a response of melanin to the sun exposure.

Which Foods Encourage* Melanin Production In Skin?

Some people suffer from low levels of melanin in their bodies. This is referred to as hypopigmentation and usually results in pale-looking skin which is very sensitive to the sun. To increase* the amount of melanin in your body naturally, there are certain foods that you can eat. These foods include chicken, fish, turkey, milk and cheese. Another very good food in increasing* melanin production is soy. Soy-based foods contain tyrosine which as an amino acid boosts* melanin production. Other foods that have tyrosine are sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds and lima beans. Other foods include avocados, chocolate, whole grain meals, nuts, dried beans and leafy vegetables. All these foods will not only boost* melanin production in the skin, but they will also leave your body healthier than ever.

Why Melanin Is Produced More In Skin?

As mentioned before melanin is not only found in the skin but also in the hair and eyes. Furthermore some parts of the brain and inner ear contain melanin. However, the skin has the biggest amount of this pigment. The reason for this has to do with UV rays. Since the skin is the largest organ in the body, it is also the one that is most exposed to harmful UV rays. This is why it has to contain a lot of melanin to protect* skin cells from damage. If it did not have adequate melanin we would be highly susceptible to skin cancer among other skin conditions. The skin would also age very quickly.

How Can We Reduce* The Production of Melanin?

The opposite of hypopigmentation is hyperpigmentation. This is where melanin production goes above the safe level. Hyperpigmentation is in most cases combined with uneven melanin distribution. Thus the skin appears darker in patches. This can be unsightly. Melanin reduction* can be achieved by avoiding prolonged sun exposure and always protecting your skin when you are outside.

Melanin production can also be achieved by what is called skin whitening. Skin whitening creams work by interfering with tyrosinase production. Tyrosinase is an enzyme crucial to melanogenesis. Once tyrosinase is reduced* or stopped in production, melanogenesis also stops*. This way the skin becomes lighter. Simple products such as lemons and papaya can also be used to reduce* melanin in the skin.

Is There Any Medical Treatment to Reduce* Melanin In Skin?

Yes, there are various medical procedures that can help to cut down on the amount of melanin in the skin. Skin bleaching, laser resurfacing and chemical peels all can lead to a lighter skin color with reduced* pigmentation. These procedures should only be carried out by qualified doctors so as to lower health risks.

How Can The Skin Change Color Without A Change In Melanin Production?

It may sound impossible but the skin can change color without any change in the amount of melanin produced. Most of the circumstances under which skin color changes without a change in melanin production are negative and can pose various health risks. Vitiligo, keratosis pilaris, jaundice, erythema multiforme and stucco keratosis are all conditions that can discolor the skin.

Best Solution to Counter Melanin Disorders

Modern cosmetics have come up with numerous ways to correct skin pigmentation disorders. Most of these techniques are not as safe and can carry several long term and short term side effects. Some of them may also be very expensive to undergo. The best and safest way to keep your melanin production in line is to do it naturally. Adopt a healthy lifestyle that promotes* skin nourishment and health. Most importantly avoid UV exposure as this is the biggest enemy for your skin. Invest in a good sunscreen lotion and wear protective clothing when you are outside.