When it comes to protecting ourselves from the sun, do melanin pills or foods said to increase the production of melanin really work? Though there's some evidence on the effectiveness of antioxidants in helping protect from sun damage, the best course of action is to protect your skin from the sun.
Antioxidants found in leafy greens, fruits, nuts and more, can help protect from sun damage.
A Melanin Definition
It's responsible for tanned skin, hair pigment and for the color of your irises. Most importantly of all, melanin helps protect skin from the sun's harmful rays. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, melanin is produced by cells called melanocytes. To further dissect the definition of melanin, an article in StatPearls explains that melanin exists in three forms: eumelanin, pheomelanin and neuromelanin.
Pheomelanin and eumelanin are produced in melanocytes, which exist in the basal layer of the skin says StatPearls. Once melanin is produced in melanocytes, it gets packaged as melanosomes, small membrane-bound organelles. Melanosomes are then transported and positioned in such a way that they can help protect the skin from incoming UV radiation.
Melanin has a variety of functions, the most primary being its pigmentation of skin and hair, and sun protection of the skin and eyes. It can be found in the iris, as well as the choroid, and often those with lighter eyes or albinos will experience more sun-related issues. Hair color is determined by variations of black and brown eumelanin.
Read more: Coconut Oil's Effects on Pigmentation
Foods to Increase Melanin
The idea of increasing melanin may be appealing to many for reasons that are both superficial and health-related. Or rather, you might be interested in finding out how to induce a tan, or better protect yourself from the sun. According to some studies, there are some vitamins and substances related to melanin production and sun damage.
In one March 2014 review article in Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity, it was found that antioxidants can help protect from sun damage. UV radiation can cause oxidative stress, a catalyst for sun damage and premature aging. The reduction of oxidative stress can be attained with an antioxidant defense. Foods, such as green leafy vegetables, seafood, certain fruits, nuts and lean meats contain antioxidants.
One type of antioxidant, flavonoids, found in green tea, citrus fruits, red wine, onions and apples, have been found to exhibit an anti-melanoma effect, according to one February 2016 study by Molecular Nutrition & Food Research.
Micronutrients, such as vitamins E and C, found in foods such as oranges, mangoes, strawberries, avocados, nuts and seeds, can also offer an antioxidant defense and contribute to protection from sun damage, according to a 2014 article from Food & Function. Overall, when trying to alleviate sun damage and induce the production of melanin, foods high in antioxidants may be effective.
Read more: What Are the Benefits of Buffered Vitamin C?
How to Protect Your Skin
Although the skin uses sunlight to help produce vitamin D, too much exposure to UV rays can ultimately be detrimental. The less melanin you have, the more likely you are to burn. But there are preventative measures you can take.
You can shield yourself from the sun with skin-covering clothing. Darker colors are more protective than lighter colors, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and tightly woven fabrics offer the best protection. When it comes to sun protection and melanin, apparel matters.
Hats are a must when exposing yourself to the sun. CDC recommends a hat that has a brim all the way around and shades and protects your face, ears and neck. Sunglasses are also important, as they protect your eyes from UV rays, lowering the risk of cataracts.
And of course, you should be wearing sunscreen. The higher the SPF, the more protection. Remember to reapply every two hours if you're out in the sun, and check the expiration date. While certain foods may slightly minimize sun damage, the best thing you can do for yourself is protect your skin.
- U.S. National Library of Medicine: "Melanin"
- StatPearls: "Biochemistry, Melanin"
- Food & Function: "Skin Protection Against UV Light by Dietary Antioxidants"
- Molecular Nutrition Food Research: "Molecular Mechanisms of Flavonoids in Melanin Synthesis and the Potential for the Prevention and Treatment of Melanoma"
- Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity: "The Role of Antioxidants in Skin Cancer Prevention and Treatment"
- CDC: "Sun Safety"