Melanin is the body’s own natural pigment. It is a substance that is responsible for giving the skin and hair its color. Melanin is also responsible for the colors that we see in the iris of the eye – and in animals, the feathers and scales. Generally, people with dark skin possess higher levels of melanin. And alternatively, people with less pigment in their body have a lighter colored skin or fairer complexion.
Melanin is formed through the process of metabolization of tyrosine, which is an amino acid. In the skin, melanin is produced by cells called melanocytes. There are certain conditions in the body that involve melanin. For example, albinism is a condition where the body lacks melanin. In albinism, the normal amounts of pigment in the body are not there. It is not only humans that suffer from albinism. Animals and plants also suffer from this disorder.
Melanin actually gives the body many benefits. One of its best benefits involves its ability to protect the body from harmful ultraviolet rays. The melanin provides a natural shield against very harmful rays that cause not just premature aging of the skin but also skin cancer. But it should be noted that melanin does not give the body a complete protection against ultraviolet rays and the harmful effects of the sun. Even people who are dark skinned, and thus have higher levels of melanin in their skin, are still at risk of getting negatively affected by the sun’s harmful rays.