The Science of Human Skin Color

“The color of the skin is in no way connected with strength of the mind or INTELLECTUAL powers —— Benjamin Banneker


Human skin color varies from the darkest brown to the lightest hues and is dependent on genetics. There are three important pigments that affect our skin color; melanin, carotene and hemoglobin. The most important factor is melanin. It also has a big role of how our skins react to sun exposure. Fair skin is susceptible to sun damage and is more likely to burn in the sun as there is little melanin present. In contrast, people with dark skin have certain advantage in the sun. Their melanin prevents skin from developing sunburn or skin cancer.

The evolutionary process of our skin tone started some 5,000 years ago when our ancestors migrated north from Africa and into Europe and Asia. They lived in a sun’s UV-carrying rays environment.

“Being exposed to UV light for long periods of time can damage the DNA within our cells.”

So how did these ancient beings cope with the severe damage the sun could make? It’s melanin.

Melanin is produced by cells called melanocytes in a process called melanogenesis. It is made within small membrane–bound packages called melanosomes. As they become full of melanin, they move into the slender arms of melanocytes, from where they are transferred to the keratinocytes. Under normal conditions, melanosomes cover the upper part of the keratinocytes and protect them from genetic damage. One melanocyte supplies melanin to thirty-six keratinocytes according to signals from the keratinocytes. They also regulate melanin production and replication of melanocytes. People have different skin colors mainly because their melanocytes produce different amount and kinds of melanin.

Under normal conditions, melanosomes cover the upper part of the keratinocytes and protect them from genetic damage.


A summary of today’s lesson

Read More: What exactly does the sun do to your skin?

  • Melanin is the pigment that gives skin and hair it’s color.
  • Melanin has two forms; eumelanin and pheomelanin.
  • Melanoma is a deadly cancer that forms in the skin’s melanocytes and is led by cells mutations.

Don’t Miss: How many sunburns can cause you skin cancer?

  • The type and amount of melanin in your skin determines whether you’ll be more or less protected from the sun.
  • although UV light can damage skin, it also has an important benefit, it helps our bodies produce vitamin D.
  • Vitamin D strengthens bones and lets us absorb vital minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphate, and zinc.

Check Out: Why do we have to wear sunscreen?



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