Skin colour – 4 things you won’t believe affects your skin colour
Humans have a very unique type of skin as compared to animals; it is tougher and has the ability to withstand varying types of pressure and stress.
Some people can do some things very comfortably, while others cannot; because of the variance in skin colour. We move around and notice that while some people are dark, others are fair, some are extremely fair in complexion, and others, extremely dark.
Skin colour is the most visible colour one skin has; most visible because some parts are naturally fairer than others for various reasons.
What gives skin its colour?
Melanin is a natural pigment that does not just determine the colour of one’s skin, but also the colour of hair, and the eyes. It is produced by cells known as melanocytes. In the presence of UV rays; the most common source being the sun, the body makes more melanin to protect the skin from damage.
Why are there different complexions?
Skin colour is a continuous trait; implying that there will be a gradient of colours when we compare the complexions of the general populace. Unlike discontinuous traits, continuous traits have a range of values; for example, height and weight.
If you take a sample of ten people, the probability that you will have up to three individuals with the same weight is very low; this is the pattern continuous traits follow, skin colour inclusive.
What can affect my skin colour?
A large percentage of phenotypic factors are genetically determined. It is more common to find a child taking the complexion of either of the parents; although there may be exceptions. However, this does not ignore the fact that skin colour is a continuous trait.
- We have stated earlier that the more UV rays available, the more melanin is produced. This affects how dark or fair a person will be or become over time.
In areas with more exposure to sunlight, people are expected to be darker in complexion and vice versa; although slight variations may exist.
Activities have not been proven to have much effect on skin colour, especially if other factors are eliminated. However, frequent exercises help to maintain one’s tone of the skin.
- Drugs and chemicals
Some drugs can cause hyperpigmentation, leading to darker skin colour. Similarly, some chemicals usually contained in body lotions and creams can reduce the rate at which melanin is formed, making a person lighter in complexion.
Types of Melanin
Some people believe that blacks have a very high amount of melanin, and whites have little or no melanin. This is a misconception; as both whites and blacks have melanocytes that produce melanin in adequate amounts. The difference however is in the type of melanin produced, and the abundance of each type.
- Pheomelanin: It is responsible for yellow and reddish colouration, being more concentrated in the lips, nipples, etc.
- Eumelanin: It is of two types; black or brown, both being responsible for the dark pigments seen. As one age, less black, and more brown eumelanin is being produced.
- Neuromelanin: This type of pigment is seen in neurons and majorly in the brain, hence is not a very common type of melanin.
Diseases associated with melanin
In some cases, hyperpigmentation of a certain region of skin may be normal as in birthmarks. However, some diseases may be associated with excessive production or a deficiency of melanin
- Hyperpigmentation: This is the increase in the amount of melanin produced by the body. It may be caused by exposure to sun rays, acne (pimples), etc. and is associated with some ailments such as Addison’s disease, Cushing’s disease, Grave’s disease, porphyria, mercury poisoning, etc.
Sometimes when inflammations of acne commonly called pimples heal, it leaves a dark spot behind caused by hyperpigmentation of that area.
- Albinism: Contrary to hyperpigmentation; in albinism, there is very little or no production of melanin and it is usually genetic primarily caused by a mutation in the gene responsible for the production of melanin.
Melanin functions to prevent the skin from UV rays as well as gives pigmentation to the eyes and the hair. Therefore, albinos (people with albinism) lack pigment in their hair, eyes, and even skin implying that they will be affected by sunlight, and will usually have sight difficulties.
It is also important to note that some agents that inhibit the formation of melanin; most of which are found in bleaching creams are cancerous in nature and should be avoided.