What is melanin and how it affects skin pigmentation

What is Melanin?

Why does your skin get tanned when exposed to direct sunlight? Why do some people have freckles while others don’t? And why do some of us get dark patches in certain areas of our face? The answer to all of these is melanin.

Melanin is a pigment in the human body, produced in large cells called melanocytes, and its concentration determines the color of our hair, skin, and eyes.The more melanin a person has, the darker their skin color. And while our melanin levels are primarily determined by genetics, certain lifestyle and health factors can impact its production.

What is the significance of melanin? What is the significance of melanin?

Apart from defining the skin, hair and eye colour in humans and animals, melanin also plays an important biological role in protecting the skin against sun damage and oxidative stress. It does this by absorbing the sun’s UV rays before they’re able to damage the sensitive DNA of the skin cells. Melanin production in the skin increases with exposure to sunlight and causes a common condition known as tanning (temporary darkening of the skin), which in turn helps us lessen the risk of skin cancer due to extended UV exposure.

Why is melanin important

According to leading studies, it has been found that people with lighter skin tones produce less melanin than those with darker complexions and are therefore at a higher risk of sun-induced skin damage including sunburns. Less melanin production is also linked to conditions like Vitiligo and Albinism.

So while we understand that an optimum level of melanin production is necessary for healthy skin, what happens when it is overproduced?

What are the problems of melanin over production ?

While darker skin tones generally have higher levels of melanin, lifestyle and hormonal factors can lead to excess melanin buildup in certain areas of the skin, resulting in unusual darkening of the area. Dermatologists refer to this as hyperpigmentation.

This can result in the appearance of dark patches around the mouth and under the eyes, development of sunspots, melasma — which is brown pigmentation in certain areas, and post inflammatory hyperpigmentation — which is darkening of areas that have been injured or have had acne.

What are the problems of melanin overproduction

Is it possible to treat hyperpigmentation resulting from excessive melanin production?

While prevention is the best cure, it is possible to treat hyperpigmentation caused by an overproduction of melanin through a mix of lifestyle changes and using the right products. 

When it comes to preventative and lifestyle measures, ensure that you always wear sun protection and avoid prolonged sun exposure. In addition to this lifestyle habits such as smoking, drinking, using the wrong products and not eating a nutritious diet can also contribute to hyperpigmentation and should be kept in check.

However, once you’ve developed hyperpigmentation, using dermatologically tested and clinically proven products and ingredients can go a long way in reducing their appearance. For instance, the HNR-3 technology of hexylresorcinol (HR), niacinamide (VB3), retinyl propionate (RPC) and a retinol booster has been clinically proven to reduce hyperpigmentation in 4 weeks and give you an even skin tone within 8 weeks of application.

Hexylresorcinol reduces excess melanin production while niacinamide inhibits transfer of melanin to the skin surface and retinyl propionate accelerates skin cell renewal.

Prevent Hyperpigmentation

While melanin production is crucial for maintaining your skin’s health, its overproduction can cause several problems including hyperpigmentation which is notoriously hard to treat. Visiting a dermatologist should be your first course of action if you’re dealing with hyperpigmentation. Meanwhile it is advisable to stick to using clinically proven products to mitigate any damage that has already been done to the skin.

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