Melanin: The secret pigment that protects our skin

Melanin is a pigment present in the skin that causes its colour and protects it from the sun's harmful rays. This pigment is not just a cosmetic concern, but also plays an important role in protecting the skin against UV rays and the damage caused through it. In this article, we take a closer look at melanin as a key element of our skin and how it affects our health.

Definition of melanin

Melanin is a pigment found in the skin, hair and eyes that gives them their colour. This pigment is produced by melanocytes that are present in the skin. Melanin serves as a protection against dangerous UV rays from the sun. Its production increases when exposed to the sun, which can lead to tanning of the skin. High levels of melanin can also reduce the risk of skin cancer by absorbing harmful UV rays and preventing them from penetrating the skin.

The structure of melanin

Melanin is a pigment found in skin cells called melanocytes. The structure of melanin includes a complex network of polymers that are made up of amino acids such as tyrosine. Tyrosine is first converted to dopaquinone and then to eumelanins or pheomelanins, the two main types of melanin.

Eumelanins are darker in color and are formed by predominantly black and white poles, while pheomelanins are lighter in hue and are formed by yellow and white poles. Other factors affecting melanin structure include the pH of the environment and the amount of oxygen used in pigment formation.

The main purpose of melanin is to protect the skin from UV radiation from the sun. Therefore, people with higher melanin content have greater protection against sunlight. The amount of melanin produced also affects the colour of a person's skin, hair and iris.

Functions of melanin in the skin

Melanin is a pigment found in the skin of humans, animals and plants. Its main function is to protect cells from the harmful effects of ultraviolet radiation from the sun. Melanocytes produce melanin and, by placing the pigment in the upper layer of the skin, create a protective barrier against UV rays. In addition, melanin helps regulate body temperature and promotes wound healing, for example after burns or abrasions. A lack of melanin can lead to skin problems or even skin cancer. For this reason, it is very important that we take care to protect our skin from the sun and check it regularly with a doctor.

Melanin production in the body

Melanin is a dark pigment found in the skin, hair and eyes. In the body, melanin is made in melanosomes, specialized cells in a layer of the skin called basal keratinocytes. Melanosomes contain an enzyme called tyrosinase, which catalyzes the oxidation and polymerization of the amino acid tyrosine to dopachrome and then to melanin. Tyrosinase is also a key component of the pigmentation process in animals.

When basal keratinocytes are stimulated by ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun, they activate proteins and signaling molecules that control the migration of melanosomes from the cell to surrounding keratinocytes. This increases the amount of melanin in the skin, which protects the cells from further UV damage.

Recently, a number of studies have been carried out to investigate the possibility of influencing melanin production in the body using various chemicals or through gene therapy. These discoveries have the potential to treat skin diseases associated with melanin deficiency, such as albinism.

Different types of melanin

Melanin is a pigment found in the skin, hair and eyes. There are different types of melanin, which can vary in structure and colour.

Eumelanin is a dark brownish-black melanin that provides UV protection to the skin. This type of melanin may be produced in greater amounts in people with darker skin.

Phaeomelanin is lighter and has a reddish-brown color. This type of melanin plays a role in the production of golden and reddish shades of hair.

Neuromelanin is found in the brain and serves as an antioxidant for neuronal cells. Its presence may also affect the risk of neurodegenerative diseases.

All of these types of melanin are important for protecting our skin and shaping our perception of beauty. It is important to protect your skin from excessive sun exposure so that it is able to produce enough melanin to function properly.

The effect of melanin on skin colour

Melanin is a pigment in the skin that has a key influence on skin color. This pigment is produced by special cells called melanocytes, which are found in the epidermis - the top layer of the skin. The amount and type of melanin produced by melanocytes varies according to the genetic predisposition of individuals. They can also be affected by external factors such as UV radiation, stress or hormones.

Melanin consists of two types of pigment - eumelanin and pheomelanin. Eumelanin is darker and absorbs more UV rays than pheomelanin, which means that people with a higher proportion of eumelanin have darker skin and are better protected from UV rays. Conversely, people with a higher proportion of pheomelanin have lighter skin and are more susceptible to sunburn.

Interestingly, all human races have the same number of melanocytes. The difference in skin colour is therefore related to the amount of melanin produced by these cells. Problems with melanin production can lead to diseases such as vitiligo or albinism. These conditions can cause a loss of pigment in certain areas of the skin, leading to changes in appearance.

Overall, melanin plays an important role in protecting the skin from the harmful effects of UV rays. It also influences skin colour, which is one of the defining features of human appearance.

Melanin and sun protection

Melanin is a pigment present in the skin that plays a key role in sun protection. This pigment is formed in melanocytes that are located in the skin. Melanin absorbs sunlight and reduces its penetration into the skin, thereby protecting skin cells from damage and subsequent skin cancer. People with darker skin have more melanin than people with paler skin and therefore have better protection against sunlight. However, everyone should be aware of the risks associated with sun exposure and should protect themselves by wearing sunscreen with UV filters or by wearing protective clothing and hats.

Melanin is a pigment found in the skin that has a major effect on its colour. Melanin-related disorders can have different causes and manifestations. The most common is excessive melanin production, which manifests itself in dark patches on the skin called pigment spots. These can appear, for example, after excessive sun exposure or as a result of hormonal changes in the body.

Insufficient melanin production, on the other hand, can lead to albinism, a genetic disorder in which melanin production is reduced and there is a lack of pigmentation in the eyes, skin and hair.

Melanin-related disorders are also associated with certain diseases, such as Vitiligo, a chronic disease with an autoimmune cause that manifests as skin and hair pallor. This disease is caused by the destruction of melanocytes, the cells that produce melanin.

Along with the effects of UV radiation, melanin is a key factor in protecting the skin from the sun's dangerous rays. Therefore, it is important to protect against the effects of UV rays and to supply the body with substances that promote proper melanin production to ensure optimal functioning.

Melanin prevention and care

Melanin prevention and care are important steps in maintaining healthy skin. Above all, it is necessary to protect the skin from excessive sun exposure, which can lead to a reduction in the amount of melanin or even cell damage. It is advisable to use protective creams with UV filters and avoid sunbathing during the hottest hours of the day.

In addition to prevention, it is also important to take care of the melanin already present in the skin. One option is regular exfoliation, which removes dead skin cells and allows the treatment to penetrate better into the deeper layers of the skin.

To promote melanin production, it is recommended to consume foods rich in antioxidants, such as blueberries or spinach. Vitamins E and C are also important to help protect the skin from free radical damage.

Overall, prevention and care of melanin are key factors in maintaining healthy and beautiful skin.

In conclusion, melanin is an important pigment in human skin that provides protection against the sun's harmful rays. Its production is influenced not only by genetic factors, but also by external influences such as UV radiation or stress. Different types of melanin have different levels of protection and effects on skin colour. With knowledge about melanin, more effective and safe cosmetic products can be developed to protect the skin from sunlight and related risks.

Published: 07. 10. 2023 / Updated: 08. 10. 2023

Category: Health

Author: Eliška Křivánková

Tags: melanin | pigment in the skin