What Is Melanin?

What Is Melanin?

What Is Melanin?

Melanin has become a popular term within the black community.  The term is used to describe one’s complexion such as how light or dark their skin maybe.  But, what is melanin?  In layman’s terms it is a natural skin pigmentation.  In fact, melanin does not only affect the color of your skin.  In addition, it also determines your hair and eye color which makes us all unique and easily identified to of a particular race.  The amount of melanin a person has or produces is all based on genetics.  There are different types of melanin.  Melanocytes are special types of skin cells that make melanin.


All races carry the same number of melanocytes.  What sets us apart from one another is the amount of melanin that is made from the melanocytes.  Some people will make more melanin than others based on this factor.  For example, if the melanocytes in your body make a small amount of melanin your skin, the iris of your eyes and hair will be light (more common in Caucasians).  If your cells make more melanin than it is understood that your eyes, hair and skin will be darker(most common in African Americans).  Again, this is all based on genes.  

Genes From Your Parents

If your parents have a darker skin complexion you will most likely be dark.  If they are lighter you will probably be light.  What is so awesome about melanocytes is that the special skin cell has the ability to produce protective skin darkening pigmentation.


An increase of melanin is another reason why we have what is known as birthmarks.  Birthmarks are a sign of a high level of melanin production.  An overgrowth of cells will create a pigment in the skin which is known as pigmented birthmarks.  Birthmarks can be seen shortly after birth or a few weeks post birth.

Different Types Of Melanin

There are three different types.  First, there is eumelanin.  Eumelanin is a type of melanin that is most abundant in humans.  It is found in people who have black, brown skin and hair.  Second, we have pheomelanin which is most common in people who have red hair and freckles.  These individuals will have a very high sensitivity to sun exposure(caucasians).  Lastly, there is neuromelanin.  This type of melanin is found in the brain.  It allows you to be able to walk, talk, think and see.  Basically, it helps to process information.  When neuromelanin has been compromised, Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases may begin to form.

Melanin And The Sun

Everyone is affected by the sun differently.  Some groups of people are more likely to get diseases such as skin cancer and skin damage from the sun.  Those who are prone to skin conditions and diseases must take extra precautionary measures to protect themselves from the sun’s uv rays.  Spending too much time in the sun can cause adverse affects.  These precautionary measures should be taken by those who have pheomelanin.  People with lighter skin pigments are much more likely to be diagnosed with skin cancer.  Melanin is able to block the suns damaging uv rays.  Which explains why those who have eumelanin(darker skin) are less likely to get sunburn. The sun is damaging if your genetics do not allow for your body to make eumelanin.

Do You Need Suncreen?

It is wise to wear sunscreen if you are of a lighter complexion.  So, even if you are of african descent but you are of a very light complexion, then yes.  For darker skinned people it is not necessary.  This stands to be true because blacks(those with eumelanin) do not lead in skin cancer.  The numbers are extremely low.  The rate of cancer among caucasians is about 22 out of 100,000 people.  When compared to blacks there is one case every 100,000 people, which says a lot.  With that being said it is always recommended that caucasians always use sunscreen.  It should be used if you will be exposed to the sun for long periods of time.  Whipped Shea Butter is a great option for sunscreen.  It is natural and as an spf of 6.

Melanin And Your Senses

Futhermore, melanin also plays a role in how you are able to see and hear.  Have you ever seen an albino?  Someone who suffers from albinism has a lack of pigmentation in their hair, eyes and skin.  Commonly, albinos have a hard time seeing because their vision is naturally impaired.  They are also very sensitive to the sun.  If both parents have a defective gene that does not produce enough melanin, the child will be born an albino.  Additionally, a lack of skin pigmentation can also cause hearing loss.  Remember earlier we spoke about neuromelanin? This type of melanin sends signals to your brain in order for you to hear.  If melanin is not present in the brain, hearing will be nearly impossible to being difficult.

Why We Need Melanin

Finally, melanin is what allows us to live our day to day lives without any restrictions.  Take care of it by eating more foods that are rich in antioxidants.  This includes dark leafy greens, dark chocolate (without the sugar), dark berries and vegetables.  Taking supplements, vitamins, and using natural skin care products such as whipped shea butter and cocoa butter, which is packed with some of the most important vitamins the skin needs to stay healthy.