Understanding Pigments (Melanin)

Melanocytes are the cells in our skin that form pigments, or melanin, which is the natural substance in our bodies, that gives our eyes, hair and skin its natural colour. Our skin colour varies because of the levels of pigment, or melanin in our skin; those with darker skin have higher amounts of melanin. By contrast, those with less pigment or melanin, have lighter or fairer skin, while certain medical conditions, such as albinism, are associated with the lack of melanin in the skin.

Our skin is constantly exposed to harmful UV radiation from the sun, and sunlight triggers melanin production to protect the deeper layers of the skin from UV radiation damage, since melanin functions as a broadband UV absorbent, and has both antioxidant and radical scavenging properties. However, excessive sun exposure can disrupt this process, leading to hyperpigmentation; severe cases may even affect the function and survival of many cell types, as UV radiation is also regarded as the main causative factor in the induction of skin cancer.

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