How to Produce Melanin in Your Body
Melanin is a natural substance which occurs in the body to create the pigment in our skin, hair and the iris of our eyes. Moreover, it protects the skin from UV rays and, when levels rise, our dermis darkens to give us that desirable suntan. If you want to treat a skin condition or darken your skin tone for cosmetic purposes, please note that no artificial method creates melanin. The only factors that affect melanin production are genetics, the adequate intake of vitamin D and your exposure to ultraviolet rays. If you want to know how to produce melanin in your body then keep reading oneHOWTO to find out how to do it effectively and, more importantly, safely.
What is melanin
Before we can know how to produce more melanin safely, we must understand what it is. Melanin determines our pigment and skin color. People with darker skin have more melanin and those with lighter skin have less. It is also present in our hair and the irises in our eyes, determining color here also. People with albinism have little to no pigment at all. This is why they have very light skin, white hair and little pigmentation in the eyes. This in itself does not increase mortality, but it does mean that people with albinism are more at risk of getting skin conditions. Unfortunately, some of which can be cancerous.
If you look at the diagram below, you will see how melanocytes at the bottom of the epidermis produce melanin to create this darker skin pigmentation. The process by which melanin is made is called melanogenesis and the reason it exists is to protect the dermis (the lower level of skin) from harmful UV rays. UV rays come from the sun and although sunlight in small doses is good for us, especially in vitamin D production, it can also cause us harm. One of the worst possibilities is melanoma which is a cancer of the melanocytes.
Melanin is produced to fight these UV rays. As melanin is produced, the skin pigmentation darkens, but if not enough is produced or you are overexposed to the sun, then problems can arise. Producing more melanin, therefore, must be done in a healthy way. Although the physiological reason why we produce melanin, is insufficient and dangerous.
Wear sunscreen outside
As you now know, melanin production can be activated externally through solar exposure. So, going out in the sun to produce melanin will be effective. To do so safely, there are certain precautions you must take. Depending on the color or darkness of your skin pigmentation and the intensity of the sun, you will need to choose an appropriate sunblock. The appropriate sunblock is measured in SPF (Sun Protection Factor) and there are different types for different purposes; including oils, creams and sprays. To produce melanin safely, avoid the sun between 1pm and 3pm when the sun is most intense. This might seem the best time to produce melanin. But if the sunlight is too intense, you won't be able to produce enough melanin to fight it and your skin will be in danger.
It is not just melanoma or skin cancer which you should be worried about in the sun. Overexposure can also lead to unsightly skin blemishes and premature ageing of the skin. It is also not just hot countries or warm days when the skin can be dangerous. The sun can be harmful whatever the temperature, so it is possible to produce melanin in the winter. You'll still need to be careful with exposure to direct sunlight, though. UV rays can also get through clouds on overcast days. It can also be even worse in snow as the white snow reflects UV rays up as well as down.
Take beta-barotene (ß-carotene)
While it is not scientifically clear whether vitamin A helps to produce melanin in the skin, it is known to help with skin cells by enabling them to mature and function properly. In this way it can aid melanin production and also make the skin stronger, thereby potentially reducing the harmful impact of the sun. Beta-carotene is a precursor to vitamin A and it also helps the pigmentation of the skin. Again, it won't exactly produce melanin, but it will help make the skin pigmentation healthier and warmer.
Studies have shown that eating vegetables makes skin condition visibly improved and overall health will help the skin fight against the UV rays. If the whole is unhealthy, then the individual parts will be weaker and the skin is no exception. Rather than working to produce melanin, the body will be busy elsewhere. Taking beta-carotene, either through supplements or beta-carotene rich foods such as carrots, pumpkins, spinach, papayas, tomatoes, red peppers and melons will help keep your skin healthy. Which, in turn, will make it easier to get a sun-tan and to sustain it.
Eat antioxidant-rich food
It's not just vitamin A that will be useful in this task, as all foods rich in vitamin E also either stimulate or aid the production of melanin. Moreover, these are full of antioxidants and are incredible to get rid of free radicals in your dermis. Thus, preventing ageing and keeping it healthier and beautiful. Free radicals are a normal part of many cellular processes in the body. However, over-production can cause detrimental effects, including cancer. This is why antioxidants are so important and eating foods rich in antioxidants will help stop free radicals and therefore help melanin production. Foods high in antioxidants include vegetable oils (wheat oil, sunflower oil, soy, olive ...), green leaf vegetables, nuts (almonds, pine nuts, cashew nuts...), egg yolk and fruits like kiwi, mango, avocado, plums and grapes. Using vitamin E directly on the skin can also be very beneficial in melanin production or skin protection.
Eat vitamin-rich food
Other essential vitamins to help stabilize melanin production in your body are vitamins B and D, both will give your skin the protection you need against UV rays. Vitamin B can be found in dairy products, green vegetables, pulses, eggs, chicken and Brewer's yeast. On the other hand, blue fish are a good source of vitamin D. Healthy fatty acids like omega-3 will also be helpful, so if you are deficient in this area, you should eat more fish and nuts high in omega-3.
If you want to know more, read our article on which foods increase melanin production.
You can also resort to adding the aforementioned vitamins in the form of supplements or melanin pills. As well as L-Tyrosine and gingko biloba, they're good options to keep the levels of melanin in your body stable. Before starting any treatment it's very important to consult your doctor so they can advise you on the best option for your case and tell you if it's harmful for your health. Although we have discussed taking beta-carotene, there are some studies which show if you are or have been a smoker, then it can potentially increase the risk of lung cancer.
Use commercial creams
The cosmetic industry has created many creams and lotions that help activate melanin and get a bronzed tone quicker. These creams often have supplements of vitamins to help with melanin production. They also can help maintain moisture (many will be moisturizers with a skin darkening element) which keeps the skin healthy and more ready to produce melanin. Not all of them work, so you should check consumer guides before investing money on the often expensive creams which may not even affect how you produce melanin. They're available in different formats, but our recommendation is that before using them you consult with your dermatologist to make sure these are good for your type of skin.
Producing melanin will make your skin darker, but you need to be careful of not only how you do it, but what to do once you have it. People with darker skin are likely to develop vitamin D deficiencies if they are in areas with a lack of sunlight for too long. People with lighter skin will only be able to produce so much melanin, so pushing yourself beyond your natural capabilities can be damaging. As always, if you are unsure of what course of action to take or are concern about skin condition, seek advice from a physician.
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- Use a sunless tanner that contains dihydroxyacetone (DHA) to help you achieve a darker skin tone without sun exposure. These products only temporarily affects the outermost layer of the skin and do not change the content of melanin in skin cells.