If you’re in the skincare and beauty space, you’ve probably heard of melanin or seen an influencer or two refer to themselves as melanin goddesses. From the lightest to the darkest shades, Black people have gorgeous skin exquisitely enriched with melanin pigment. But what exactly is melanin? In honor of Black History Month, we are going to dive into melanin, why it’s so important at a biological level, along with how to care for melanin-rich skin.
About Black History Month
Black History Month began as Negro History Week, which was created in February 1926 by Carter G. Woodson who is known as the "Father of Black History." Due to US President Abraham Lincoln and social reformer Frederick Douglass’ help to end slavery, Woodson chose February as it coincides with both men’s birthdays.
By the end of the 1960s, Negro History Week was celebrated all around the US, while slowly evolving into Black History Month. In 1976, President Gerald Ford mentioned Black History Month in a speech where he said, “Seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history”.
Since his administration, every US president has recognized Black History Month, but it wasn't until Congress passed "National Black History Month" into law in 1986 that it was observed nationally. The month-long celebration is an opportunity for people to learn about Black history while highlighting Black leaders and their accomplishments.
Skin color is determined by melanin, but it’s present in different forms and ratios. Two types of melanin contribute to pigmentation in the eyes, hair, and skin, which are eumelanin and pheomelanin. While eumelanin produces brown and black skin tones, pheomelanin creates reddish-brown tones that are usually seen in individuals with red hair.
Melanocytes, large cells that can be found all over the body, are where melanin production begins. They’re also responsible for producing organelles that are called melanosomes, which generate eumelanin and pheomelanin that are then distributed to cells throughout the body, including keratinocytes (AKA skin cells).
What Does Melanin Do?
As we mentioned previously, melanin is the pigment that we can thank for our beautifully unique variety of skin tones, eye colors, and hair colors. When melanin is discussed, though, the amazing biological benefits behind the pigment are rarely mentioned. Here are the deets on what melanin does for the skin:
Melanin Provides Protection
We’ve all heard about the horrors of what the sun can do to your skin (think premature aging and skin cancer). But did you know that the ability to withstand the damaging effects of the sun’s ultraviolet radiation depends on the amount of melanin in the skin? Melanocytes respond to sun exposure by producing more melanin, creating somewhat of a shield between your skin and the sun’s harmful rays. Keep in mind that there’s a limit to the degree of protection that melanin can provide, though!
Melanin Possesses Antioxidant Properties
Antioxidants are fabulous for the skin, and luckily, melanin works as an antioxidant by neutralizing free radicals. If you’re new to the whole free radical thing, well – they’re essentially the cause of damage to human cells. According to Sergio Nacht, a principal in the skincare consulting firm of Riley-Nacht, melanin is able to fight free radicals by “affecting the delicately designed lipids that hold moisture in the stratum corneum, which is the outermost layer of the epidermis. If the skin loses its moisture, it becomes rigid and cracks.”
Conditions of Melanin-Rich Skin
Certain skin conditions are more common among darker skin tones than lighter skin tones, like hyperpigmentation, acne, keloids, and vitiligo. Let’s take a closer look:
Hyperpigmentation and dark spots tend to appear when the skin produces melanin unevenly. Those with melanin-rich skin have a tendency to show hyperpigmentation more often than those with lighter skin tones. One of the most common types of pigment occurrences in those with darker skin tones is post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), which can result from skin injuries or in conjunction with eczema or acne.
Pictured: Hyperpigmentation Source: Getty Images
While acne can occur alongside any skin tone and type, its link with hyperpigmentation and pore size enhances the likelihood of acne among people with melanin-rich skin. Larger pores can often lead to follicle oil mixing with bacteria, causing blocked pores and inflammation just under the skin. This inflammation is what creates acne, which can show itself as small discreet bumps or large cysts.
Pictured: Acne Source: Byrdie
Keloids, which are scars that spread beyond the original injury and develop into a growth, usually emerge from cuts, burns, or other wounds. Keloids are often located on the earlobes, chest, back, or arms. While it’s not certain why keloids grow, many believe they are linked to a defect in collagen production.
Pictured: Keloids Source: Daily Mail
You may have heard of vitiligo as model Winnie Harlow has brought an abundance of awareness to the condition. Essentially, vitiligo is the skin showing noticeable depigmented areas, which causes white patches to appear. Vitiligo occurs in 2% of the population, but it’s most notable in those with melanin-rich skin. Scientists believe that vitiligo occurs when immune cells destroy melanocytes.
Pictured: Model Winnie Harlow Source: Teen Vogue
Tips To Care For Melanin-Rich Skin
There are many ways to care for melanin-rich skin to keep it looking fresh, flawless, and super healthy:
The LIV + GRACE Brightening Anti-Oxidant Serum Has Everyone Covered, Especially the Melanin Queens
The LIV + GRACE Brightening Anti-Oxidant Serum is formulated to give the appearance of firmer, tighter, even skin, helping to minimize dark spots and hyperpigmentation without hydroquinone. The stable, double vitamin C within the serum’s formulation works to reduce the look of fine lines, wrinkles, and large pores while defending against UV and environmental damage.
Since the Brightening Anti-Oxidant Serum consists of a fat-soluble vitamin C and is made for ALL skin types and tones, you can safely add a few drops to the LIV + GRACE Rescue Hydrate or the LIV + GRACE Super Seed Oil without altering its efficacy. Plus, it’ll give your skincare routine an even more powerful and moisturizing punch, leaving you with younger, smoother, and healthier skin.
Cheers to good, clean ingredients and inclusive skincare!
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