In humans, melanin is the primary determinant of skin and hair color. However, few people know that melanin is found in almost every organ of the body. Melanin is necessary for the brain and nerves to operate, the eyes to see, and the cells to reproduce. It is also found in the stria vascularis of the inner ear. In the brain, tissues with melanin include the medulla and pigment-bearing neurons within areas of the brainstem, such as the locus coeruleus and the substantia nigra. It also occurs in the zona reticularis of the adrenal gland.
Melanin Targets Free Radicals
Free radicals have been implicated as the cause of widespread damage to human cells. In an article written for The Sun and Your Skin, Diana Clarke, the website’s founder, writes about Melanin’s role in scavenging free radicals, preventing the skin damage they can cause.
Melanin Aids In Human Reproduction
The dark pigmentation protects from DNA damage and absorbs the right amounts of UV radiation needed by the body, as well as protects against folate depletion. Folate is water soluble vitamin B complex which naturally occurs in green, leafy vegetables, whole grains, and citrus fruits. Women need folate to maintain healthy eggs, for proper implantation of eggs, and for the normal development of placenta after fertilization. Folate is needed for normal sperm production in men. Furthermore, folate is essential for fetal growth, organ development, and neural tube development. Folate breaks down in high intense UVR. Dark-skinned women suffer the lowest level of neural tube defect.
Melanin: The Organizing Molecule
Dr. Frank Barr, the pioneering discoverer of Melanin’s organizing ability and other properties, theorizes in his technical work, Melanin: The Organizing Molecule. “The hypothesis is advanced that (neuro)melanin (in conjunction with other pigment molecules such as the isopentenoids) functions as the major organizational molecule in living systems. Melanin is depicted as an organizational “trigger” capable of using established properties such as photon-(electron)-photon conversions, free radical-redox mechanism, ion exchange mechanisms, ion exchange mechanisms, and semiconductive switching capabilities to direct energy to strategic molecular systems and sensitive hierarchies of protein enzyme cascades. Melanin is held capable of regulating a wide range of molecular interactions and metabolic processes.”
Melanin Younger-Looking Skin
Exposure to the sun has the potential to cause premature aging of the skin. Darkly pigmented people tend to exhibit fewer signs of aging. Dermatologist Susan C. Taylor, author of “Brown Skin,” points out that Blacks and other people of color generally look younger than their lighter-skinned peers because of the higher levels of Melanin in their skin. The increased Melanin protects those who have it from short-term damage from the sun, as well as the long-term signs of aging, such as age spots, deep wrinkles, and rough texture, according to Taylor.
Melanin Neutralizes Harmful Effects of Other Dangerous Radiation, Other Than Ultraviolet
Melanin can absorb a great amount of energy and yet not produce a tremendous amount of heat when it absorbs this energy, because it can transform harmful energy into useful energy. According to dermatologist and dermatopathologist Dr. Leon Edelstein, director of the National American West Skin Pathology Consultation Service, melanin can absorb tremendous quantities of energy of all kinds, including energy from sunlight, x-ray machines, and energy that is formed within cells during the metabolism of cells. His theory is that Melanin has the ability to neutralize the potentially harmful effects of these energies.
Superior Protection Against The Effects of Ultraviolet Radiation
Exposure to the sun has the potential to cause premature aging of the skin, as well as various skin cancers. Your ability to withstand the potentially damaging effects of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation depends on the amount of melanin in your skin, which is determined by the number of melanocytes that are active beneath the surface of your skin. Melanin is an effective absorber of light; the pigment is able to dissipate more than 99.9% of absorbed UV radiation. In even the most light-skinned people, the body’s melanocytes respond to sun exposure by producing more melanin, which creates the effect known as tanning. However, there is a limit to the degree of protection that melanin can provide, and it”s significantly higher in people with naturally darker skin.