So, what is melanin? Emily L. Cristobal talks us through what melanin actually is, and what it does for us. From more youthful looking skin to greater protection from skin cancer, melanin has a whole host of health benefits attached to it.
Due to societal norms, there is a common misconception that having white or fairer skin is more beautiful. This idea couldn’t be farther from the truth; all skin complexions are beautiful. There is power in being brown and not many people know about the benefits of producing melanin.
Melanin is the “natural substance that gives colour or pigment to the skin, hair and iris of the eye” and can be found in many internal organs, such as our brain and inner ear.
People of colour enjoy the benefits of melanin production without even knowing it. Melanin’s primary function is to protect the skin from sun damage. When out in the sun, our cells are actively protecting us from both the heat and harmful ultraviolet rays that can destroy DNA and other cell parts. The production of melanin creates a protective layer that absorbs ultraviolet rays, which in turn protects the skin against sunburn and skin cancer.
Melanin has been shown to repel 99.9% of the radiation that is emitted by ultraviolet rays. Furthermore, the production of melanin results in a nice tan, achieving the perfect sun-kissed look. On a side note, just because melanin works as a natural form of protection against the sun, you should still use sunscreen! People who have darker skin complexions just don’t burn as easily as those who have fairer complexions.
Melanin has also been shown to protect against free radicals, which can “cause direct damage to DNA, proteins and membranes.” The production of melanin creates a line of defence against oxidative stress that comes from UV-exposure.
Besides sun protection, melanin generally makes skin look younger. Maybe you’ve heard of the phrases: “Black don’t crack” or “Asian doesn’t raisin.” These statements are partly to thank from the youthful properties of melanin production. Dermatologist Susan C. Taylor, author of “Brown Skin,” explains that “increased melanin protects short-term damage from the sun as well as the long-term signs of aging, such as age spots, deep wrinkles and rough texture,” resulting in younger looking skin.
Of course, increased melanin production can have some negative effects, such as darker scarring in people of color, but nevertheless our bodies are uniquely amazing and should be celebrated no matter the color of our skin. There are so many layers behind the workings of our bodies and how they are avidly protecting and supporting us. And with that being said, we should support and protect one another just as much as our bodies do for us.