What gives skin its color?

What gives skin its color?

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Skin color can be everything from very pale to very dark, and many shades in between. That's because of something called melanin, which is made in the epidermis. Some people call it pigment.

Here are some facts about melanin:

  • Some people make more melanin than others. Everyone has about the same number of cells that make melanin, but not everybody makes the same amount of melanin.
  • The more melanin your skin makes, the darker your skin. How much melanin your body makes depends on your genes, which you get from your parents.
  • Melanin is why you get a tan or burn. When you go out in the sun, your body makes more melanin. That's because it's trying to protect you from the sun's damaging rays by deflecting or absorbing them. But melanin isn't strong enough to completely protect you, especially if you have pale skin. By the time you see your skin turn darker or get burned, it's already damaged, so trying to get a tan is a bad idea. You should always protect your skin from the sun by covering up and using sunscreen.

Because people with darker skin have more melanin, they usually don't get as wrinkly when they get older. They're also less likely to get skin cancer. But even dark-skinned people can get wrinkles and skin cancer, so everyone needs to protect their skin when they go outside. 

Want to know more about protecting yourself from the sun? Visit SPOT Skin Cancer™.

Next: Taking care of your skin