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What Is Melanin?

What Is Melanin?

Melanin is a natural skin pigment. Hair, skin, and eye color in people and animals mostly depends on the type and amount of melanin they have. Special skin cells called melanocytes make melanin.

Everyone has the same number of melanocytes, but some people make more melanin than others. If those cells make just a little bit of melanin, your hair, skin and the iris of your eyes can be very light. If your cells make more, then your hair, skin, and eyes will be darker.

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.

How Melanin Reacts to the Sun.

When you’re in the sun, your body makes more melanin. It may help protect the body from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.

But it isn’t enough to keep you safe from the sun. Your skin is already damaged if you’re sunburned or your skin has turned slightly darker. That’s why it’s important to always cover up and wear sunscreen.

Studies show people with darker skin get fewer cases of skin cancer than people with lighter skin. More research is needed to know if this is because of the amount of melanin in their skin.

Types of Melanin.

People have three types:

▪️ Eumelanin makes mostly dark colors in hair, eyes, and skin. There are two types of eumelanin: brown and black. Black and brown hair come from different mixes of black and brown eumelanin. Blonde hair happens when there’s a small amount of brown eumelanin and no black eumelanin.

▪️ Pheomelanin colors the pinkish parts of your body like the lips and nipples. You get red hair when you have the same amount of pheomelanin and eumelanin. Strawberry blonde hair happens when you have brown eumelanin and pheomelanin.

▪️ Neuromelanin Controls the colors of neurons. It isn’t involved with the coloring of things you see.

Melanocytes make eumelanin and pheomelanin. Neuromelanin is found in the brain.

Disorders Related to Melanin.

Issues with melanin are linked to several skin pigment disorders.

1. Albinism.

This rare disorder results from very little melanin. People with albinism have white hair, blue eyes, and pale skin, and may have vision problems. They should wear sun protection to avoid sun damage. There is no treatment.

2. Melasma.

People with melasma have brownish patches on their face. Researchers think it’s caused by hormones, birth control pills, and exposure to the sun. Prescription creams can lighten melasma, and sunscreens can keep it from getting worse. Laser treatment and chemical peels might also help.

3. Vitiligo.

When you lose melanocytes, you get smooth, white patches on your skin. There’s no cure, but treatment includes dyes, UV light therapy, light-sensitive medicines, corticosteroid creams, and surgery.

4. Pigment loss after skin damage.

Sometimes after your skin is burned, blistered, or infected, your body can’t replace melanin in the area that is damaged. You won’t need treatment. You can cover the area with makeup if it bothers you.

5. Parkinson’s disease.

In Parkinson’s disease, neuromelanin in your brain drops as brain cells in an area called the substantia nigra die. Normally, the amount of neuromelanin in the brain increases as we get older.

6. Hearing loss.

Melanin seems to play a role in hearing. Early studies show a link between too little melanin and hearing loss or deafness.

Benefits.

Melanin has a variety of beneficial properties, including:

▪️ Protection from UV light.

Melanin is a UV-absorbing agent and is able to protect the skin against the effects of UV light on the skin’s surface. It also offers protection against UVB and blue light.

Eumelanin protects the skin from UV light, whereas pheomelanin does not.

As a result, people with more pheomelanin, such as those with blond or red hair and light skin, are more likely to experience sun damage.

▪️ Protection against reactive oxygen species. Melanin also has protective effects against reactive oxygen species (ROS). These are byproducts of cellular processes within the body.

A 2012 review notes that when there is an accumulation of ROS in the cells, they can cause cellular damage and stress. ROS has links to aging, cancer, and diabetes.

Melanin is able to pick up ROS that form when UV light stimulates oxidative stress on the skin.

▪️ Other benefits.

Some research on animals has also indicated other potential benefits of melanin.

For example, a 2016 study on rats found that herbal melanin may be able to prevent the formation of stomach ulcers. This suggests that melanin could play a role in the protection of the gut.

Additionally, previous research also showed that melanin may contribute to the reduction of inflammation in the body, preventing injuries to the liver. It may also play a role in the immune system.

Can we increase the melanin pigment in the body?

The answer is yes, it is possible to eat some foods and nutrients to raise the proportion of melanin in the body and improve its production, as the following items:

1. Vitamin A.

Vitamin A is  generally associated with the health and freshness of the skin, and here it may help to raise the proportion of melanin in the body.

Its benefits can be obtained by taking vitamin A supplements or by eating foods rich in vitamin A, such as: carrots, sweet potatoes , spinach, fish, and meat.

2. Vitamin E.

The vitamin E  is very important vitamins for the skin and has many therapeutic uses and aesthetic in this area, has already helps to raise the levels of melanin pigment in the body.

It is possible to get the dose you need from vitamin E either by taking supplements, or eating foods rich in vitamin E, such as: grains, nuts , and seeds.

3. Vitamin C.

The body needs a specific dose of vitamin C  daily, and vitamin C may help increase the levels of melanin pigment in the body, either by taking vitamin C supplements or foods rich in it, such as: citrus fruits, berries, and green leafy vegetables.

4. Some herbs and plants.

It is possible for some of the natural ingredients and plants around us to help when consumed in increasing the levels of melanin pigment in the body, such as: turmeric and green tea.

Reference :

“What Is Melanin?” / webmd

“What to know about melanin” / medicalnewstoday

“صبغة الميلانين: تمنح جلدك لونه وأكثر” / webteb

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