You may have heard of the phrase, ‘melanin poppin’, a number of times and especially captioned with a beautifully dark skinned human taking a pose here and there (think Lupita N’yongo). I am glad that the rate at which people with dark skin are accepting their skin color, is increasing. Once, there was a trend of ‘bleaching’ the skin white because some people with dark skin perceived themselves dirty or unattractive because of their skin color.
It did not even help that we knew a little about the slave trade that our forefathers went through so don’t ask too many questions when you see me get super excited when I see dark skin everywhere, there is just something about melanin magic.
Still wondering how our skin gets dark?
It is because we secrete in large amount, a natural pigment called…Melanin.
What exactly is Melanin?
Melanin is the pigment secreted in the melanocytes that is responsible for hair and skin colour amongst other things i.e. it is responsible for skin pigmentation. The melanocytes can be found beneath the skin. It is found in almost every organ of the body and is really important if many parts of the body including cells, must function. It is an effective absorber of light which means it protects the skin from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun; I see melanin as the super hero who fights off the negative effects of sunlight exposure, leaving the skin looking young even in old age.
Research work is still ongoing as to its exact effects on the sun’s UV rays.
Quoting a research by Doctors Vincent and Michaela,
The efficacy of melanin as a sunscreen was assumed to be about 1.5-2.0 sun protective factors (SPF); possibly as high as 4 SFP, implying that melanin absorbs 50% to 75% of UVR. An SPF of 2 means the doubling of protection of the skin against sunburn. Dark skin, which contains more eumelanin than fair skin is better protected against UV-induced damage, and eumelanin is thought to be superior to pheomelanin in its photoprotective properties.
DOES THIS MEAN MELANIN IS ONLY FOUND IN DARK-SKINNED PEOPLE?
By all means, No!
Melanin can be found in people of all races, some however produce it more than others. Have you heard of the word ‘Tan’? Yeah, that’s correct. Light-skinned people get tanned when their skin is exposed to sunlight. You find that their skin tone turns a shade or two darker. This is really the job of melanin. It is responsible for that darker skin tone.
STILL DO NOT UNDERSTAND!
The sun shares a dose of harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays and free radicals to us and we are exposed to these rays daily as we take part in activities. The UV rays eventually contribute to skin cancer and quick aging. Melanin however helps tone down the effect of this frequent exposure to the sun’s UV rays with its superhero effect of absorbing light. How cool is that?
Can Melanin be extracted from the skin?
Yes, production is very possible through chemical laboratory processes that involve extraction using alkali. Melanin is also commercially available and as at 2015, its River Road Research received a patent for its production.
How much does melanin cost?
As at January 2018, melanin pigment was priced at approximately $400 to $500 per gram. This makes it way more valuable than gold and then makes one hope that the synthetic (laboratory) production of this pigment continues as we really do not want to have desperate folks going into the business of pigment harvesting from dead or alive humans (Whatever that means)!
Knowing all these and seeing the trend of many dark skinned people (who produce more melanin pigment) investing in bleaching creams and bleaching their skin white, one can safely predict that skin darkening creams will soon be the big thing so why not pamper your skin so that it produces more melanin and keep you safe from avoidable skin conditions?
Even light-skinned people produce melanin.
Melanin is produced more in people with naturally dark skin.
It has anti-aging effects.
It also has many other uses asides giving making the skin color pop!
The commercial value of synthetic melanin is worth more than gold.
Brenner, M., & Hearing, V. J. (2008). The Protective Role of Melanin Against UV Damage in Human Skin. Photochemistry and Photobiology, 84(3), 539–549. http://doi.org/10.1111/j.1751-1097.2007.00226.x