The Magic of Melanin: What is Melanin and How Can it Protect Us from Damage?

What is Melanin, Anyway? 

From the fairest skin tones to darker hues, our world is coloured by melanin. The colour of your hair, eyes, and your natural skin tone all stem from your genetic makeup—which gives your body and skin specialised instructions to produce your unique pigment range.1  

Melanin is the natural, brownish pigment found in the skin of most animals on the planet, including humans. It’s produced in the top (epidermal) layer of your skin by melanocyte cells. We all have the same number of these cells, but their size, based on your genetics, determines the amount of melanin naturally present in your skin. Those with darker complexions have larger melanocytes—they produce more melanin—and smaller melanocyte cells produce less, resulting in lighter skin.

Common types of melanin: 

  1. Eumelanin—the most common type of melanin responsible for a brownish colour.
  2. Pheomelanin—creates a reddish-brown colour found in freckles and red hair.
  3. Neuromelanin—found in the brain, it is believed to protect neurons from oxidative stress. 

Too Much of a Good Thing 

It’s not uncommon to notice the appearance of discolouration, dark spots, or dullness as you age. Discolouration may seem like an unsightly consequence of ageing or catching too much sun, but a few dark spots might not seem so bad when we consider the role of our skin’s natural pigment and its amazing properties.  

One of melanin’s primary roles is to absorb light and dissipate harmful UV radiation from sun exposure. This natural, chemical process is thought to provide powerful photoprotection. And external factors, such as age, trauma, and other environmental stressors, can affect your skin and appear as dark spots or uneven skin tone.

While melanin production is a natural process, too much sun exposure, skin injuries, or changes in hormones—like the common discolouration that can occur during pregnancy2—can all cause the over production of melanin.  To combat harmful sun exposure—or as a way to repair the skin after a scrap or heal a blemish—stimulated melanocytes release excess melanin to the site of damage, forming visible dark spots on the top layer of skin (epidermis).  

Brighten Up Your Look 

The good news is you can fight the appearance of naturally occurring discolouration. Advanced skincare products combine ingredients to visibly address the various stages of hyperpigmentation1 and reveal a radiant, youthful-looking complexion.

Do your skin a favour. A daily skincare routine targets the signs of premature ageing to help your complexion look and feel radiant. Beyond cleansing and moisturising, add brightening products with specialised ingredients to proactively combat the appearance of spots—freckles, sun damage, age spots, uneven or blotchy skin tone, or other hyperpigmentation.

Consistent use of brightening products can also help to reduce the appearance of dark spots from acne, melasma, and too much sun. And combining them with preventative sun protection will supercharge your radiant complexion.  

Sun Care is Self-Care

Practice sun-safe behavior to maintain your glow. As a general rule, and especially while you’re using brightening products, avoiding sun overexposure is paramount to seeing visible improvements in your skin. 

Because exposure to sunlight causes an uptick in melanin production, make sun protection4 a way of life. Always wear sunscreen and cover up seasonally to maintain your skin’s bright, youthful appearance. It may not be fun to tote around SPF for reapplications or sport a wide-brimmed hat to cross the street at lunchtime, but these habits pay off and help you look younger, longer. And sun protection is not just for the fair-skinned and freckled—while this skin type can be more susceptible to sun damage, darker complexions5 are also at risk for DNA damage from excess exposure. 

Melanin is magic, and it goes a long way to protect you. We each share the same genetic makeup to produce our natural skin pigmentation. These colour-producing cells declare our heritage and allow us to celebrate our differences as individuals in a beautifully diverse way. Take care of your skin to help it take care of you.