what makes melanin rich skin different?
Melanin is the major determinant of skin colour and is also responsible for absorbing harmful ultraviolet radiation to protect the skin’s cells from sun damage.
Although all skin tones have the same amount of melanocytes (melanin producing cells) the amount and the type of melanin produced by the melanosomes (organelles that store the melanin pigment), plus the size and the distribution of these melanosomes differs from skin to skin.
ultraviolet radiation and melanin rich skin
South Africa receives high solar ultraviolet radiation due to its latitude and cloudless skies. Areas that receive higher amounts of ultraviolet radiation tend to have more diverse groups of melanin rich skinned people with varying responses to sun exposure. Depending on the amount and form of the ultraviolet radiation, as well as the type of skin exposed, ultraviolet radiation can cause erythema, sunburn, premature skin ageing and skin cancer.
the different types of melanin
There are two types of melanin namely: eumelanin, a brown-black pigment found to be higher in melanin rich skin and shown to be more effective in protecting the skin against the damaging effects of UV radiation and is also a great scavenger against free radicals that can cause premature skin ageing. The other type is pheomelanin, a yellow-red pigment that we see in fair skins with red and blonde hair. This type of melanin offers no UV protection.
why do we need melanin?
Excessive UV radiation can be very harmful to the skin, resulting in cell mutation, increased risks of cancer, and destroy essential vitamins in the body. Conveniently enough, melanin functions as a shield against ultraviolet radiation, thus protecting the cells from the many dangers of excess exposure.
We are all born with a genetic skin colour. But over time uneven skin tone and dark marks can develop due to triggers such as ageing, sun exposure, environmental pollutants, irritating products, stress, certain medications, hormonal influences like pregnancy, contraceptive pills, and inflammation such as skin trauma or breakouts.
does melanin rich skin produce more oil?
Melanin rich skin typically has more sebum, some of that contains natural moisturising factors. The oil glands and hair follicles also tend to be larger, which ultimately results in skin being oilier. One of the benefits of an oilier skin is that the early signs of skin ageing such as fine lines and wrinkles typically appear much later than in drier skin types. The higher lipid content however does make melanin rich skin more prone to breakouts and acne, which can result in additional post-inflammation hyperpigmentation.
myths about melanin rich skin
myth 1: my skin does not burn easily
Melanin will help to block out UV radiation up to a point, however all skins that are exposed to excessive UV radiation can burn.
myth 2: i do not need to wear sunscreen
Wearing sunscreen is one of the easiest ways to protect your skin. Used regularly sunscreen helps prevent sunburn, skin cancer and premature skin ageing.
myth 3: my skin doesn’t show early signs of ageing
Melanin rich skin can show early signs of skin ageing through a more mottled appearance, dullness and irregular pigmentation.