What is melanin?

Melanin is a pigment that can be found in most living organisms. In humans, melanin is the main determinant of skin color. Although it is also found in hair and determines the color of the iris of the eye, among others.

The lack of melanin produces the condition known as albinism. Albinism is a genetic disorder characterized by the inability to produce melanin. Considering the photoprotective function of cutaneous melanin, it is evident that these patients are very sensitive to sunlight, as their skin, hair and eyes lack the protective pigment.

Types of melanin

There are five types of melanin: eumelanin, pheomelanin, neuromelanin, allomelanin and pyomelanin.

  • Eumelanin: found in hair, skin and iris. It is the cause of gray, black, blond and brown hair. This type of melanin is more abundant in people with darker skin.
  • Feomelanin: found particularly in the labia, nipples, glans penis and vagina. It creates a pinkish or reddish color and is found in large quantities in red hair.
  • Neuromelanin: found in neurons lining four nuclei of the brain.

Properties and functions of melanin

Skin color is mainly determined by the mixture of carotenoids, oxy/deoxyhemoglobin and, most importantly, different types of melanin. In addition, the way in which melanin is grouped and distributed in melanosomes also plays a role.

Since melanin is found in many animal tissues and in virtually all living organisms, it is not surprising that it has many different functions. Most of these functions are related to protection against external aggressions.

Melanin is of high biomedical interest mainly due to its physiological photoprotective properties. For example, eumelanin shows a very broad UV-visible absorption spectrum and is able to dissipate up to 90% of the energy absorbed from solar radiation, such as heat.

Commitment to quality

This text on melanin has been prepared by professional writers. In addition, we have relied on experts in medicine, engineering and aesthetics as a source of information, as well as specific studies to maintain the quality of what we publish.

At Sisneo Bioscience we are committed to publish truthful and contrasted information. And to update or correct it as soon as new knowledge becomes available.

Among others, we have used the following references:

  • Cao, Wei; Zhou, Xuhao; McCallum, Naneki C.; Hu, Ziying; Ni, Qing Zhe; Kapoor, Utkarsh; Heil, Christian M.; Cay, Kristine S. et al. (24 de febrero de 2021). «Unraveling the Structure and Function of Melanin through Synthesis»
  • Solano, F. (2014). “Melanins: Skin Pigments and Much More—Types, Structural Models, Biological Functions, and Formation Routes”
  • Brenner M, Hearing VJ (2008). “The protective role of melanin against UV damage in human skin”