Melanocytes are cells contained in the basal or outer layer of the skin, called the epidermis. These cells create melanin, which pigments the skin. People with more melanin have darker skin tones. The more melanin you have, the more protection your skin has against the damaging effects of the sun. Sun-damaged skin increases your risk of skin cancer. Certain vitamins can help increase and maintain the number of melanocytes in the skin. Always talk to your doctor before changing your diet or taking dietary supplements, especially if you are pregnant or nursing.
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Eat animal and plant-based foods that contain vitamin A, an important nutrient responsible for restoring and maintaining melanin in the skin. According to "The Healing Power of Vitamins, Minerals, and Herbs" by the Reader’s Digest Association, vitamin A increases melanin production and inhibits the formation of melanoma, a form of skin cancer. Animal-based foods that contain vitamin A include whole or skim milk, cheese, eggs and beef or chicken liver. Carrots, tomatoes, red peppers, apricot, papaya and mango are some of the plant-based foods that are rich in vitamin A.
Take a daily supplement of vitamin A if your diet does not provide enough of this vitamin. The Dietary Reference Intake, or DRI, for vitamin A is 900 mcg a day for adult men and 700 mcg for adult women. Eat a meal that contains some fatty acids to help your body absorb the nutrient.
Include vitamin C foods such as citrus in your diet. This essential vitamin plays a significant role in protecting cells of the skin and blood. Some fruits rich in vitamin C include oranges, mangos, grapefruit, kiwi and strawberries.
Take a dietary supplement that contains 65 mg a day of vitamin C each day. If you are a smoker or frequently exposed to the harsh effects of the sun, you may need to take a vitamin C supplement. The DRI established for vitamin C is 90 mg for adult men and 70 mg for adult women. The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends an additional 35 mg of vitamin C per day for smokers. Take vitamin C with vitamin E to help this vitamin work more efficiently.
Include fatty acid foods in your diet regularly or take a dietary supplement. Vitamin E neutralizes free-radicals and protects damage to melanocytes in the skin. Vegetable oils, sunflower seeds, nuts and whole grains are food sources that contain this vitamin. Unfortunately, the content of fat is high in these foods, and those on a low-fat diet may want to take a dietary supplement. The Institute of Medicine recommends 15 mg of vitamin E daily for men and women.
- "The Healing Foods: The Ultimate Authority on the Curative Power of Nutrition"; Patricia Hausman and Judith Benn Hurley; 1989
- The Linus Pauling Institute; Vitamin A; Jane Higdon, Ph.D.; December 2003
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin C
- Institute of Medicine: Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs): Recommended Dietary Allowances and Adequate Intakes, Vitamins