Wondering what is melanin and what are the benefits of melanin? Go through this article to understand better. Melanin is a skin pigment of complex nature, which occurs naturally, and it holds the responsibility of giving the color to hair, skin, and eyes in humans.
We all know this melanin as a single pigment, but it is divided into two types of melanin, Eumelanin and Pheomelanin, which contribute to pigmentation in humans and animals:
- The Eumelanin pigment has an association with darker tones, such as brown and black.
- The Pheomelanin pigment is responsible for alternate hues, such as red and yellow.
- There also exists a third type of melanin within the human brain and gives pigment to the structures in this area known as Neuromelanin. However, it doesn’t provide pigmentation for human features like the other two melanin types. This melanin has its primary connection to Parkinson’s disease.
How Is Melanin Produced?
The melanin is produced by special skin cells called melanocytes, found all over the body. Melanocytes are responsible for producing organelles called melanosomes, which is the site of synthesis for both eumelanin and pheomelanin. Then distribution takes place for cells like keratinocytes (skin cells) and others.
The natural melanocytes levels are the same in all humans, but its production is different as few make more and others less. That’s why when your body produces less melanin, then you will have light coloured eyes, hair and skin. However, if you have darker skin, hair, and eyes, your cells make more melanin. This level of melanin is determined by the genes of your parents, which you inherit. Few factors are also responsible for the production of melanin:
- UV light exposure
- Skin pigment disorders
Benefits of Melanin
This pigment segment is critical as it gives us our beautiful skin tones, eyes and hair colours. But this also provides our skin protection against UV rays, so when the skin is “Tan”, it means the skin is releasing melanin and protecting itself from the damage. The melanin protects the outer layer of skin from UV light (UVC, UVA, UVB) and harmful blue light. It protects by absorbing the UV rays before it reaches to damage sensitive DNA of the skin cells.
The melanin also serves as an antioxidant and free radical scavenger which helps in getting rid of cells that are abnormal and are also responsible for few skin diseases. Moreover, the benefits of melanin for human is protecting pigmentation and photoprotection. In addition, it is believed to protect the liver, intestines and even immune system.
Read related– How to Prevent Vitiligo?
As we all know, our genetics are responsible for the amount of melanin in our hair, skin, and eyes. However, if you have a deficiency of melanin in your body, then you will have few medical conditions such as:
There is a lack of pigment in this disease that can appear as white patches on the skin or hair. It occurs when the body doesn’t produce enough melanocytes
It’s a genetic condition of various types which can cause a moderate to severe lack of pigment in the skin, hair and eyes.
In this condition, brown patches are seen on the face, either caused by hormones, birth control pills and sun exposure.
How To Increase Melanin Production?
Yes, the melanin production in the skin can be increased; one of the ways is tanning, but dangerous and disturbs the biological function. When our body gets exposed to harmful UV rays from the sun, it penetrates through the skin and starts damaging the DNA in the skin cells.
Then to counterpart the cellular damage, the body attempts more melanin production. This increased production is “Tan” on the skin. However, the amount of melanin during tanning – does not protect the skin cells completely from further damage. And after time, it can potentially lead to skin cancer.
We can increase the melanin production in the body with melanin-rich foods. Foods rich in antioxidants, vitamins A, C, and E prevent and delay skin cell damage. So you should eat a nutritious and balanced diet which includes fish, leafy vegetables, broccoli, carrots, tomato, orange, peppers, kiwis, strawberries, lemon, nuts, seeds, sesame oil, vegetable oils and more foods with Vitamin A, C and E. You can also try a melanin supplement rich in antioxidants like vitamin A, C and E. There are many benefits of melanin supplements but always consult your doctor first.