Melanin 101: Everything You Need to Know about Skin Pigmentation

Maybe you’ve heard that deeper skin tones are created by more melanin — maybe you’ve even heard people refer to themselves as “melanin goddesses.” But what exactly is melanin, and how should your skincare change because of it?

What is melanin?

Melanin is the pigment that creates our skin tone. Everyone’s body produces melanin — the various concentrations of it determine our skin and hair color. Melanin also adds color to your hair, your eyes, and even areas of your brain and adrenal glands. There are two different types: eumelanin and pheomelanin. Eumelanin creates browner hues, while Pheomelanin is responsible for reddish colors. People with darker skin tones and hair colors may have more Eumelanin, and redheads might have some extra Pheomelanin. When excess melanin is produced, tans, skin conditions like melasma, dark spots, and hyperpigmentation arise. 

What causes the production of excess melanin?

Melanin is a natural function — but too much of it can be produced by melanocytes in response to UV rays (seen in a tan or sunburn) and trauma, like a scrape or acne (seen in post-inflammatory-hyperpigmentation). To combat sun exposure or skin damage, in an effort to repair the skin and heal it, melanocytes (which sit in the dermis layer of our skin) are stimulated to release excess melanin deposits that form dark spots on the top layer (Epidermis) of our skin.

Is there a way to lighten up signs of excess melanin production?

Yes — there are ingredients that can help reduce the appearance of dark spots resulting from acne, melasma, and sun exposure. According to dermatologists, the gold standard for dark spot correcting is the ingredient, Hydroquinone. Hydroquinone improves the appearance of dark spots by decreasing the amount of melanin your skin produces — both by reducing the amount of melanin produced by each melanocyte and by getting rid of some melanocytes altogether.

When it comes to the effectiveness of Hydroquinone, consistency is key! Daily application of products with Hydroquinone will help to gradually improve the appearance of dark marks and brighten your overall complexion. Our favorite dark spot corrector? SLMD’s Dark Spot Fix.

Moral of the story?

Sun exposure can intensify the color of any dark marks you already have on your skin. To supplement dark spot correcting products, sunscreen is key! SPF both prevents physical signs of melanin-production (hyperpigmentation) and cell mutation that can potentially cause skin cancer. You should be applying a broad-spectrum sunscreen every morning before you leave the house and reapply throughout the day. It can be a moisturizer that contains SPF, like SLMD's Daily Moisturizer with SPF 15, or even a powdered sunscreen, which provides a dose of SPF without messing up your makeup! Don’t be afraid of the sun, but be smart and take the precautions you need to, to keep your skin healthy and protected!


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