Seems like a pretty simple question. However, it is a question that is not particularly simple to answer. Particularly because there are a lot of small points that must be covered for a complete picture to be painted.
In the most basic terms, melanin is a pigment that is found in nearly every living organism, from turtles to birds to lions to people. Its function is to protect organisms from dangerous levels of ultraviolet radiation from sunlight and other UV sources. Its properties make it an excellent photoprotectant, and through the process of ultrafast internal conversion it is able to dissipate more than 99.9% of otherwise damaging radiation as heat.
Melanin is produced by cells called melanocytes, which are found in the layer of skin just below that of melanin, the stratum basale of the epidermis. Two subtypes of melanin determine skin tone, eumelanin and pheomelanin. Eumelanin is more common and consists of a brown-black polymer, while the genes required for pheomelanin are rarer and are responsible for a dark red color.
Causes of Different Skin Tones
While the skin tones of an individual at birth is determined by genetics, over the course of a typical lifetime the levels of the different types of melanin will fluctuate resulting in a distinctly different skin color than that with which one was born. For example, children born with light hair often end up several shades darker in their first few years, as ultraviolet light absorbed from the sun causes more melanin to be produced, which in turn causes higher levels of dark pigment to be built up in the hair cells.
Those who spend a fair amount of time in the sun are at risk of actually causing mild damage to the structure of their DNA. Over exposure to the suns harmful UV rays stimulates a process called melanogenesis, in which the body produces more melanin in order to protect itself from further damage. This results in the “tanning”, or darkening, of one’s skin.
Melanogenesis is believed to be connected to the darker skin of equatorial races and the lighter skin of more northerly tribes.
Melanin is created by cells with the help of the amino acid tyrosine, which is found most commonly in high protein foods. Tyrosine enzyme is also responsible for photosynthesis in plants, which is interesting considering the photosensitive cells it is responsible for in animals. While it has been found in all vertebrate species, it has not been found in spiders, and its existence in the bacterial families is still being debated.
Eumelanin and Pheomelanin
Melanin is an aggregate of smaller component molecules. More specifically, it consists of two types of melanin: eumelanin and pheomelanin. The two types are generally found together, although not in the same concentrations.
Eumelanin is more pervasive and consists of black and brown variations. Darker skinned races have more black eumelanin while lighter skinned races have more brown eumelanin. It is responsible for brown, black, blonde, and grey hair, and is found in all hair, skin, and areola cells. Gray hair results when this is the only pigment found in the hair cells, and is linked to the melanin producing cells melanocytes shutting down as we age.
Pheomelanin is pink, red, or reddish yellow in color and is much rarer than eumelanin, generally collecting in the lips, nipples, and genitals, those fun parts everyone likes. Pheomelanin in large quantities is responsible for red hair and freckles, but unfortunately can become carcinogenic if exposed to too much ultraviolet radiation.
Because this type of melanin is most common in lighter skin, these organisms are more susceptible to sunburn and its many possible complications such as skin cancer, especially as they age.
A Brief History of Skin Color Variations
Skin tone colors and their wide variety are thought to be caused by a combination of migratory patterns and the adoption of agriculture around six to ten thousand years ago. The theory suggests that, because melanin protects human skin from ultraviolet radiation, as people moved north and were exposed to less sunlight, their skin began to lighten as there was less melanin need to protect their skin.
At the same time, while transitioning from the hunter gatherer lifestyle to the non-migratory agricultural system, some foods that were particularly high in vitamin D were removed from certain human diets. Since humans also obtain Vitamin D from sun exposure, the human body adapted by reducing melanin production in order to increase the absorption of sunlight to offset the change in our diets.
Because this transition generally took place at higher latitudes after an extended period of migration, today we see darker skinned people near the equator and lighter skinned people further away.
Melanin’s Role in Skin Discoloration
So, when it comes to skin discoloration, it is pretty obvious that melanin plays a very big role. Discolored skin, uneven skin tone, darker areas of skin on the body, and dark skin spots are all the result of an increase in melanin in those specific areas.
Most of the time, skin discoloration is natural. Certain parts of the human body, like the genitals and underarms, can sometimes be a darker skin tone than the rest of the body. These areas that are darker have higher levels of melanin. Similarly, as mentioned earlier, areas with higher levels of pheomelanin, like the head of the penis or the vulva, can be a more red or pink color than surrounding skin for people with lighter skin tones.
Other times, skin discoloration is not, shall we say, “natural”. Skin disorders, like melasma, vitiligo, hyper-pigmentation and hypo-pigmentation, and even skin cancer, cause the skin to be uneven, either in large patches, or concentrated spots. Even with these disorders, most of the time melanin play a role in the color of the affected area.
And because melanin plays a role in skin discoloration, the way to offset or reduce the appearance of skin discoloration is by controlling the amount of melanin being produced in those areas that are discolored. This of course is limited. Serious skin diseases, like melanoma (skin cancer) and vitiligo, are very different than your typical dark patch of skin or dark underarms and need to be treated in very different ways, which is not a subject we cover here at Skin Discoloration Solutions.
For more common dark spots, dark patches, and areas of uneven skin tone, even in the intimate areas, there are very effective topical creams that have been shown to reduce melanin in treated areas resulting in more even skin tones.
Our Top Recommended Cream for Reducing Melanin
Amaira (My #1 Recommendation) – Amaira is a US based company that specializes in a variety of natural topical application products for the following uses: lightening dark areas the skin, reducing scars, reducing dark eye circles, and restoring vaginal strength and tightness. Their Natural Lightening Serum is designed for lightening dark areas and spots of skin and is sensitive enough to be used for intimate lightening.
Amaira Natural Lightening Serum contains 4 different skin lightening ingredients: Kojic Acid, Licorice Extract, Mulberry Extract, and Bearberry Extract.
The product comes in an “airless” bottle and is manufactured in the United States in an FDA registered facility in Newport Beach, California.
Currently, single bottles are $41.99 (normally $66.95) and three bottles cost $71.99 (normally $196.85). These are great prices for a superior product.
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It is recommended to take advantage of the multi-bottle discount, especially since you essentially get a free bottle if you order the 3 bottle deal. If this product works for you, which is more than likely, you will be purchasing more than one bottle. Might as well save a bit of money.
The price and product is backed by a 60 day refund policy. This duration is plenty of time to test the product for effectiveness on your skin type.
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