Human beings have different skin color, shade and tone. With all the different colors, it is amazing to consider that this is attributed to a single type of pigments known as melanin.
Melanin is composed of a type of compounds that function predominantly as pigments. The pigment is a derivative of tyrosine, which is an amino acid. There are three types of naturally occurring melanin – pheomelanin, neuromelanin and eumelanin.
The chemical composition as well as the physical properties of the different types of melanin differs. That being said, the chemical as well as biological responses of the different types will behave differently whenever they are exposed to light.
Our understanding of the chemistry of melanin is rather limited, as they are very complex in terms of structure. Once they are separated from the living tissue, the pigment will form an amorphous mass which makes it rather difficult to analyze.
How Melanin Works
Melanin works by reducing the UV or ultraviolet induced damages on the skin through absorbing the UV radiation. This prevents the development of melanoma, which is a deadly form of skin cancer, and other health problems associated with exposure to solar radiation.
The amount of the UV radiation that is absorbed by melanin will depend on several factors like the shape, size, wavelength of the UV rays, and the distribution of the melanosomes.
Likewise, skin color will also depend on the size, shape, number and distribution of melanosomes. Moreover, the chemical nature of the melanin content of the skin will also matter in the determination of a person’s skin color.
The Different Types of Skin and Their Characteristics
There are six types of skin that dermatologists have identified. The first type is the type of skin that always burns and never tans. This type is very fair with blond or red hair and freckles.
The second type burns easily and tans minimally. This is considered the fair skin type.
The third skin type sometimes burns but gradually tans while the fourth one experiences minimum burning and always tan.
The fourth type is white skin color with medium pigmentation. The fifth type seldom burns and always tans with heavy to medium pigmentation.
The last type never burns. However, this skin type tans very darkly, as heavy pigmentation is involved.
The darkest skin tones are often found in tropical areas with open grasslands while lighter skin toned individuals often live in areas that are further away from the equator. There is a correlation between the geographical conditions, exposure to the sunlight and the skin tone.
These differences actually evolved over the years to balance the benefits as well as the dangers associated with UV radiation that we absorb from the sun.
Darkening the Light Skin – The Tanning Process
Light skin when exposed to UV radiation becomes darker. This process is known as tanning. The popularity of tanning is considered cyclical as this is often perceived as a healthy and vibrant look and a worrying reminder of the dangers of sunburns and sun-induced skin damages.
While the sun is the primary source of UV radiation and is often used to darken light skin, artificial and sunless tanning treatments produce similar effects. When melanin is destroyed by UV radiation the skin will react to this change by producing melanin, restoring what has been lost and increasing melanin in the skin.
Melanin works in two ways. It protects the skin from further damage and darkens the natural color of the skin. Sunless tanning treatments like tanning beds cause the same effect. However, health concerns have risen with the use of tanning beds.
That being said, new ways to darken the skin have surfaced in the form of tanning injections, lotions and other skin care products.
Tanning Lotions and Pills – Which Options Should I Use?
This is an alternative method of darkening the skin color. This type of sunless tanning solution is formulated with different active ingredients. However, tanning lotions have caused streaking and produced an orange skin tone.
Tanning lotions are formulated with dihydroxyacetone or DHA which reacts with the dead cells on the surface of the skin. Once this reaction occurs, a color change will appear. The change in color lasts for about five to seven days after the initial application of the lotion.
Tanning sprays are also available and they produce the same effects tanning lotions do.
Aside from tanning lotions, tanning pills are also used to change the shade of the skin tone. The pills contain canthaxanthin which is a color additive in some foods.
When the pills are taken, the active ingredient will be deposited all over your body producing an orange brown color change in the skin. There are side effects associated with taking tanning pills. Thus, health authorities have advised against taking tanning pills to change the color of your skin.
Most sunless tanning products contain the amino acid tyrosine. Tyrosine is said to stimulate as well as increase the formation of melanin in the skin. Thus, this accelerates the natural tanning process of the skin.
Melanin Injections – The New Fad in Sunless Tanning
A newer innovation in the tanning industry is the melanin injection. This sunless tanning treatment involves injecting synthetically created peptide under the skin to stimulate the production of melanin. As a result, the natural tanning process is activated.
This sunless tanning treatment is sold in powdered form that needs to be mixed with sterile water. Once thoroughly mixed, the mixture is then injected under the skin for easy absorption and distribution throughout the body. Depending on the tan shade that you want to achieve, you can taper the doses accordingly.
Aside from producing that rich tan color on the skin, melanin injections have other benefits like appetite suppression and weight loss. Moreover, this sunless tanning product is also used by men with erectile dysfunction as this can increase the frequency of erection among men. This can also increase libido and sex drive among men and women.