Melanin is essential for the natural protection of our skin, but it is not its only function. Find out what it is and what it consists of, and above all what it is for.
Melanin is an important pigment that is present in most animals, in the case of humans we can find it in the skin, hair and eyes and it is what gives color to each of these elements in our body. Body.
But melanin, in addition to giving us a certain degree of coloration, also acts by protecting our skin from the incidence of powerful ultraviolet solar rays, preventing the Sun from burning our skin.
What are the functions of melanin in our skin?
In general, the main function of melanin in our skin is to provide it with color. But not only to the skin, did you know that it also does the same with both the hair and the eyes?
However, the excess or lack of melanin in the body could have serious dermatological consequences since it also functions as a protective layer. That is, in addition to providing tone or color, it also acts as a wonderful protective layer.
Melanin is an important component that, in addition to determining the color of the skin, hair and eyes, if not present, can cause great sensitivity in the skin, since it acts as a protective layer against radiation.
The darker your skin, the lower the level of damage that solar radiation can cause. For this reason, there are different recommendations when applying sunscreen or sunscreen, depending on our skin type. Thus, for example, if our skin is rather white and burns easily, we should pay more attention to its application, applying it every so often and avoiding the sun during the hours of the day with the greatest risk (between 12 and 4 p.m.). hours).
How is melanin produced in the skin?
In the outer layer of the skin, the epidermis, there is a certain amount of a type of cell known as melanocytes, which are responsible for the amount of melatonin that this organ may have, which in turn directly influences the tone of the skin.
The greater the number of melanocytes found in the skin, the greater amount of melatonin there will be in it, so its color will be even more intense.
Depending on the number of these cells, there are individuals with albino to black skin tones, all due to the production of molecules, which mostly varies according to a genetic process.
The different types of melanin
Although most people do not know it, there are different types of melanin acting at the same time in the skin, such as pheomelanin or eumelanin.
In case you are wondering, eumelanin has the main function of determining whether a person will be albino or not, since it is the most common in the skin and is found in great abundance in dark skin while it is practically non-existent in extremely white tones.
In addition, this type of melanin is the same that can be found in the hair and therefore it will be key in its color, placing it from a platinum blonde to an intense black.
The other type of melanin that exists in our body is pheomelin, a very common pigment in our skin, but which we can find especially in people with fair complexions or who are redheads.
Pheomeline is an extremely delicate pigment since prolonged exposure to the sun could cause its cells to become cancerous, for this reason very white or red-haired people should constantly use sun protection.
Sunlight modifies melanin
Have you ever wondered why your skin color changes when exposed to sunlight? Well, it turns out that this important pigment reacts to exposure to ultraviolet light, so when it receives solar radiation it absorbs UV rays to minimize damage to the skin, which modifies its original color and makes it much more intense and darker.
However, this process has its positive aspect and is that it protects the skin and the body in general from suffering deep burns, although prolonged exposure to the sun can cause an adverse reaction in the cells, turning them into carcinogens.
The lack of melanin and its consequences
When we have little melanin in the body the consequences are visible, an extreme lack of melanin is presented in the form of albinism, however a considerable deficiency of it can also manifest as vitiligo, a condition that can reduce the existing pigment in certain areas of the body.
In addition, a considerable lack of melanin in the epidermis can cause the early appearance of gray hair, while its excess can trigger the appearance of age spots.