Skin health is dependent on innate functions in the body such as the production of melanin, which is done by melanocytes. This process protects the skin from damage that occurs with sun exposure and free radical accumulation.
What are Melanocytes?
Melanocytes are a type of cell found in the skin, hair, and eyes that produce the color pigment known as melanin. Melanin is what causes different skin tones, as well as skin tanning with sun exposure.
Why is it important to understand Melanin and Melanocytes?
Melanin and Melanocytes are a key protective function of the skin, and they play a role in preventing the onset of skin cancers caused by UV damage. Melanin also plays a role in protecting the skin against reactive oxygen species (ROS).
This oxidative stress can lead to premature aging and health concerns such as skin cancer. Melanin works to boost antioxidant levels in the skin that eliminate free radicals.
Skin cancer and Melanin response
When we spend more time in the sun, our bodies generate more melanin. This shows up as a tan on our skin, but its function is much more important than the appearance it gives our skin. Melanin absorbs UV radiation from the sun and redistributes it to the upper layers of our skin, moving it away from the DNA material deeper in the skin that can be damaged by the sun.
What are the different types of Melanin?
There are three main types of melanin, each with a different function in the skin, hair, and eyes.
This type of melanin is responsible for black and brown pigment and contributes to darker skin, hair and eyes. For example, someone with brunette hair will have more brown eumelanin and less black.
This type of melanin pigments pinkish parts of skin, such as the lips, some people’s palms, and nipples. This also contributes to red hair, which occurs when equal parts of pheomelanin and eumelanin are present.
Unlike the other two visible kinds of melanin, neuromelanin is responsible for coloring the neurons.
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