Melanin is a natural pigment in the skin. Melanin causes the skin to tan. Melanin has two forms: Eumelanin is black and brown and Phoemelanin is red or yellow.
The higher the amounts of Eumelanin and the lower the amounts of Phoemelanin you have will be responsible for how dark your skin, hair and iris of your eyes will be. The higher the amounts of Phoemelanin and the lower the amounts of Eumelanin you have will be responsible for how light your skin, hair and iris of your eyes will be. None existent or very small amounts of both Eumelanin and Phoemelanin results in Albinism.
Freckles are small concentrated areas of increased melanin production and can be seen on all people of all races. There are an estimated 35 different skin shades in people of colour. Melanin is produced by cells called melanocytes.
Everyone has the same number of melanocytes but darker skins are melanin rich (especially Eumelanin) because they have super charged melanocytes that make larger amounts of melanin. Melanocytes increase their production of melanin in response to sun exposure and provide some natural protection against sun damage. Deeper dark skin tones have a natural protection SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of approx 13.4 and paler lighter skins an SPF of approx 3.4. Every other skin tone’s natural SPF falls in-between
It is important that ALL skin tones apply liberal amounts of a broad spectrum sunscreen with UVA (Ultraviolet A responsible for ageing) and UVB (Ultraviolet B responsible for burning) protection for 365 days of the year on all exposed areas of skin and not just when sunbathing. Sunscreen helps to prevent unwanted pigmentation. Always reapply sunscreen every 2 hours. Sunscreen must always be reapplied after swimming or sweating. Sunscreen can also be purchased in mineral powder form for the face and neck.
Darker skin tones absorb 30 to 40% more UV (UltraViolet) light better than lighter skins making darker skins less likely to get sunburn. Darker skin tones need to spend much longer in the sun in order to produce the same amount of Vitamin D as lighter skins. Vitamin D is necessary to strengthen the immune system. Having more melanin makes the skin more reactive and the reason darker skins need to treated gently
Blemishes, scratches, pimples, acne, inflammation and picking the skin can trigger the production of excess melanin, leaving dark marks and patches on the skin called Post Inflammatory HYPERpigmentation (PIH). Some darker skins may develop a loss in melanin called Post Inflammatory HYPOpigmentation due to injury or burns. In either situation it can take many months or years to fade.
Vitiligo is the loss of melanin, it has no known cure. Vitiligo is considered to be an autoimmune disorder and can be hereditary. It is characterised by white patches of skin with sharp margins and can appear on any part of the body or face. It is much more noticeable on darker skins. The Canadian Winnie Harlow is a public spokesperson for the condition and just one of the many now sought after and successful fashion models with vitiligo.
Melasma can be triggered by sun exposure, pregnancy, the contraceptive pill and hormones. It it a common skin condition caused by the melanocytes producing too much colour and appears as brown patches above the upper lip, bridge of the nose, cheeks and forehead. It has the nickname of “The Pregnancy Mask”. It can also be found on other parts of the body that are exposed to lots of sun. Darker skins are more prone to Melasma because of their super charged melanocytes. Melasma can fade when any of the triggers cease. Treatment by a dermatologist can be sought if it causes anxiety.