As most of us know when we expose ourselves to the Sun or Solarium Beds our skin darkens or burns!
The reaction of darkening skin is due to the production of Melanin.
The skin uses sunlight to help manufacture vitamin D, which is important for normal bone formation. But there’s a downside. The sun’s ultraviolet light can cause major damage to the skin.
People tan because sunlight causes the skin to produce more melanin and darken. The tan fades when new cells move to the surface and the tanned cells are sloughed off. Some sunlight can be good as long as you have proper protection from overexposure. But too much ultraviolet, or UV, exposure can cause sunburn. The UV rays penetrate the outer skin layers and hit the deeper layers of the skin, where they can damage or kill skin cells.
What is melanin?
Melanin is a substance in your body that produces hair, eye and skin pigmentation. The more melanin you produce, the darker your eyes, hair and skin will be. The amount of melanin in your body depends on a few different factors, including genetics and how much sun exposure your ancestral population had.
What does melanin do?
Melanin provides pigmentation to your skin, eyes and hair. The substance also absorbs harmful UV (ultraviolet) rays and protects your cells from sun damage.
Melanin protects skin from the sun’s ultraviolet rays. UV Rays can burn the skin and reduce its elasticity, leading to premature aging.
Where is melanin produced?
Melanin is produced in melanocytes. These cells are located in different areas of your body, including:
- Your hair
- The epidermis of the skin
- Your pupils and irises
- The substantia nigra and locus coeruleus (areas of your brain)
- The medulla and zona reticularis (areas of your adrenal gland)
- The stria vascularis of your cochlear duct (part of your inner ear)
How does melanin affect skin color?
Your unique combination of eumelanin and pheomelanin is responsible for your skin, hair and eye color. Typically, all humans have the same number of melanocytes. However, the amount of melanin produced by these melanocytes varies. People with more melanin generally have darker skin, eyes and hair compared to those with little melanin. Additionally, people who’re born with clusters of melanocytes have freckles.
How does melanin protect the skin?
When you spend time out in the sun, your body produces more melanin. The substance absorbs light from UV rays and redistributes it toward the upper layers of skin. It also protects the genetic material stored in your cells by keeping out harmful UV rays.
But keep in mind that melanin alone isn’t enough to protect your skin from sun damage. That’s why it’s so important to wear sunscreen and appropriate clothing whenever you’re outside.
There is no such thing as a safe tan. The increase in melanin, which causes the tan color change in your skin is a sign of damage.