The one substance that produces your hair, skin and eye pigmentation is known as melanin. The more melanin your body produces, the darker your hair, skin, and eyes will be. And quite a few factors contribute to the amount of melanin produced in your body, including genetics and how much sun exposure your ancestral population had.
Melanin is a complex polymer that originated from the amino acid tyrosine. Humans and animals both have melanin though the amount of melanin present varies. And that is the reason many people are born with unique hair, eye, and skin color. But sometimes melanin can build up in certain areas and cause skin darkening, which doctors call hyperpigmentation. Hyperpigmentation is when a part of your skin seems darker than others. And many people suffering from such conditions want to know how to reduce melanin production and remove melanin deposits from their skin surface.
In this article, we will educate you about melanin, and we’ll also talk about the proper ways to remove existing melanin deposits.
Where Is Melanin Produced?
Melanin is produced in melanocytes. Melanocytes are the cells that are located in different areas of the human body, including:
- The innermost layer of the skin
- Pupils and irises
- Substantia nigra and locus coeruleus
- Stria vascularis of the cochlear duct
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What Are Different Types Of Melanin?
There are majorly three different types of melanin, including:
Eumelanin: Eumelanin also has two subcategories: black and brown. People with dark skin color, eyes, and hair have varying amounts of black and brown eumelanin in their bodies. If some people don’t have black eumelanin and a minimal amount of brown eumelanin, it results in blonde hair.
Pheomelanin: Pheomelanin is responsible for the pigment of the nipples, lips, and other pinkish parts of the body. People with an equal amount of eumelanin and pheomelanin accumulate red hair.
Neuromelanin: Eumelanin and Pheomelanin contribute to the colors of things we see. But neuromelanin is responsible for the color of our neurons.
Why Does Melanin Affect Our Skin Color?
The unique combination of eumelanin and pheomelanin decides our skin, hair, and eye color. Typically, every human is born with the same number of melanocytes. But the amount of melanin produced by these melanocytes varies. People who produce more melanin have darker skin color, hair, and eyes than those with little melanin. Additionally, people who are born with clusters of melanocytes have freckles.
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How Melanin Protects Our Skin?
The more time you spend in the sun, the more melanin your body produces. The substance quickly absorbs the light from the UV rays and redistributes it toward the upper layers of the skin. It protects the genetic material stored in our cells by avoiding harmful UV rays. But remember that melanin is not enough to protect our skin from sun damage. Therefore, it is essential to wear sunscreen and appropriate clothing whenever you go out in the sun.
The Benefits Of Melanin
Undoubtedly melanin is responsible for darker skin, eyes, and hair color. But there are certain benefits of melanin, and we should talk about those benefits too.
Protection From Harmful UV Rays: Melanin protects our skin from harmful UV rays by absorbing UVA, UVB, UVC, and blue light.
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Protection Against Reactive Oxygen Species: Our body cell processes give birth to some byproducts called reactive oxygen species. Since melanin boosts antioxidants and eliminates free radicals, it also rummages for ROS. When cells accumulate ROS, the body can suffer from particular health concerns, including cancer, diabetes, and premature aging.
Studies have also found that melanin can aid our immune system and help reduce inflammation in our body. More research is necessary to advocate the fact and determine the full extent of these benefits.
What Are The Most Common Disorders Related To Melanin?
Melanin deficiency is linked to several skin disorders and a few health conditions. Some of those include:
Vitiligo: Vitiligo is a condition in which our skin loses color resulting in white patches occurring at some parts of our body. It happens when the melanocytes are destroyed by our immune system. Vitiligo can affect all races, which is more noticeable in people with darker skin color.
Albinism: People with very little melanin can result from this rare disorder. They generally have pale skin, blue eyes, and white hair. They might also have an increased risk for vision loss and can damage.
Melasma: People with melasma can notice brown and blue-gray patches on their arms or faces. Some prescription creams, chemical peels, and laser skin resurfacing can somewhat lighten the dark patches. This condition can also be caused by sun exposure, birth control pills, and hormones.
Pigment Loss: If you are feeling like your skin is being infected, blistered, or burned, your body is probably not able to replace melanin in the damaged area.
Hearing Loss: Since melanin is also found in the stria vascularis of the inner ear, it can also be linked with hearing loss. People with too little melanin can have a higher risk of hearing problems.
Parkinson’s Disease: The neuromelanin in our brain increases as we age. In people with Parkinson’s disease, the brain cells in their substantia nigra die.
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How To Reduce Melanin Deposits From Your Body?
Undoubtedly melanin is essential since it gives pigment to your skin, eyes, and hair. But suppose your body is accumulating melanin deposits and leading to darkened skin. In that case, there are several ways to lower the existing melanin deposits in the skin. It is always best to consult a doctor to get proper suggestions and guidance on these methods.
Laser therapy is a boon for people with darker skin when they want to decrease melanin in those treated areas. In laser therapy, a beam of light is used to remove the top layers of the skin. There are several types of laser treatments available in the market, including:
- Ablative lasers: Ablative lasers usually remove the outer skin layers, and ablative lasers are recommended if your skin has severe discoloration.
- Non-ablative lasers: Non-ablative lasers are milder than ablative lasers. They stimulate collagen growth letting your new skin to form. In non-ablative lasers, Intense Pulse Light targets the dark spots by heating and destroying the melanin and removing the discolored spots.
- Q-switched Ruby laser: In a Q-switched Ruby laser, a light pulse is used to heat and dissolve the skin.
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Just like any other medical procedure, laser therapy is not for everyone. If anything goes wrong, you might encounter certain conditions such as discoloration, infection, and scarring. Therefore, it is always better to know about the cause and the effects of laser therapy before you opt for it to deal with certain skin conditions. It is always better to check with your dermatologist to see if you are a good candidate for laser treatment.
Skin bleaching products like hydroquinone can decrease the number of melanocytes in your skin and result in a lighter skin tone, in fact, a more even skin tone.
There are thousands of topical creams and ointments available in the market to lighten skin. Those skin-lightening ointments can decrease the existing melanin in the areas in which they are used. While some skin-lightening products are available over the counter, you might need a prescription for some. Typically, the topical ointments for melanin reduction will include one or more of the following ingredients:
- Vitamin C
- Kojic acid
- Hyaluronic Acid
- Tranexamic acid
The primary purpose of all the above ingredients is to destroy tyrosinase, which is responsible for melanin production. That way, you can slow down the melanin production in your body and result in lighter skin. However, some skin-lightening products might have specific side effects, including:
Therefore, if you discuss it with your dermatologist before using any ingredients, there is nothing like it.
How To Slow Down The Melanin Production In Your Skin?
You don’t need any medical treatment to lower melanin production in your body. But you really need to take care of your sun care habits and depend on some natural remedy options.
Melanin’s purpose is to protect your skin from possible sun damage. The more you are exposed to the sun, your skin creates melanin. Therefore, wearing a good SPF sunscreen is a must-do to limit this process. Sunscreen will protect your skin from harmful UV rays and slow down melanin production.
According to the American Academy of dermatology, your sunscreen must be:
- More than SPF 30
But it’s not suitable if you think that sunscreen will block 100% of the sun’s UV rays. You need to take further precautions to limit how much melanin your skin makes. Therefore, you should also:
- Limit your sun exposure
- Stay indoor between 10:00 AM to 2:00 PM
- Wear clothes that keep you protected against sun rays, such as long sleeves, hats, and sunglasses
- Avoid tanning beds
People who believe in natural remedies also claimed that they got benefited from some of the natural remedies. Though it’s not clear how long those remedies take to work, if you religiously follow and be patient, you can get better results. Additionally, the results you achieve from natural remedies are temporary. Therefore, you need to continue using them routinely.
Wild Turmeric: According to the studies, the active compound present in wild turmeric reduces melanin. This compound is called curcumin, and it can inhibit tyrosinase. Wild turmeric has the power to suppress the power of melanocytes to create more melanin.
Aloe Vera Gel: Aloe Vera gel is a beautiful component to decrease melanin production in your body after sun exposure. The Aloe Vera plant contains aloesin, a compound found to stifle tyrosinase. But some studies claim that aloe vera does not have this effect. Therefore, the research is contradictory. But according to Ayurveda and other natural modalities aloe vera gel say helps in lightening skin.
Lemon Juice: Lemon juice has a high concentration of vitamin C content, and people use lemon juice to lessen skin pigmentation from age. According to many articles and research, vitamin C can reduce tyrosinase and prevent the formation of melanin. Lemon juice also has an anti-pigmentation effect, but it can also be harsh on your skin. Therefore, using the diluted form of lemon juice is necessary, and one must avoid sun exposure after using it.
Green Tea: The compound in green tea called epigallocatechin gallate can prevent melanin accumulation. It can inhibit that enzyme needed to make melanin.
Some Precautions You Must Take While Trying To Reduce Melanin In Your Skin
If you are trying to lighten your skin color, several risks are associated with the process. If you try to lower melanin, you may have:
Higher Chance Of Sun Damage: We already mentioned earlier that less melanin means less protection from the sun. When you have visibly lighter skin, you will also increase the risk of wrinkles, uneven surface, and even discoloration.
Increased Risk Of Skin Cancer: The more prone your skin will be to send damage, the higher the risk of skin cancer. Therefore, when you reduce melanin production in your body, you are increasing your chances of developing skin cancer.
Sensitivity And Irritation: Mostly, all the processes for skin lightening are harsh on the skin. And those treatments can cause side effects like itchiness, redness, and contact dermatitis.
Many skin-lightening injections are available on the market, but the Food and Drug Administration does not recommend them. Additionally, there are not enough studies to advocate that they work. Therefore, they might cause certain health risks.
Your body will continually create melanin, which is determined by genetics. Though you can lighten your skin by removing the existing hyperpigmentation, it may return. Therefore, if you had the question in mind whether or not it is possible to reduce melanin permanently, it is not possible. Any skin lightening treatment can temporarily reduce the melanin production on your skin since most of them will work by suppressing the enzyme needed to form melanin.
However, along with wearing sunscreen and limiting your sun exposure, there are not enough things you can do to lower your body’s overall melanin production. If you have hyperpigmentation issues, you must talk to your doctor and know the proper ways to reduce melanin in the affected areas. Your doctor will suggest you the appropriate treatment or remedies for your needs.