There are times when we take our skin tone and color for granted. Our skin develops color due to the presence of melanin, a brown pigment, in it. More is the melanin content present in our skin, darker is the skin color. While the abundance of melanin can darken the skin tone, its absence can cause the skin to lose its coloring and become lighter in appearance or even almost white. Light or white spots and patches develop causing social embarrassment and sun sensitivity. A few treatment options are available for treating melanin deficiency in the skin.
What Is Melanin Deficiency?
Melanin is responsible for providing the skin, hair and eyes with their color and its production is primarily controlled by our genetic makeup. However, there are other factors that can also influence melanogenesis. These include UV exposure, hormonal differences, aging and inflammation. Any of these factors can cause underproduction of melanin leading to melanin deficiency. This shortage or lack of melanin is visible to the naked eye in the form of white spots and patches that can cover small areas, or at times, even larger areas of the body. Vitiligo, post-inflammatory hypopigmentation and albinism are the most common skin conditions caused due to melanin pigment deficiency.
Difference Between Melanin And Melatonin
The skin, eyes, hair, central nervous system, and some other parts of the body contain a specific type of cells called melanocytes. These cells are responsible for melanin production (melanogenesis) that imparts these body areas/ parts with their unique colour. Another vital skin function of melanin pigment is protecting the skin from UV damage and thus preventing skin cancer. Melanin aids to regulate the body temperature as well. It is further categorized into two types – eumelanin (dark brown pigment) and pheomelanin (yellow/red and light brown pigment).
Melatonin, on the other hand, is a hormone that is produced by a small endocrine gland present in the brain known as the pineal gland. Melatonin controls the sleep cycle and also seasonal functions of the body. Its scarcity in the body can disrupt the sleep/wake cycle and cause irregular sleeping pattern.
Also Read: Skin Pigmentation Treatment
How To Help Your Body To Produce More Melanin?
To increase melanin in the skin, it is important to firstly analyze if any key vitamins are lacking in your diet. Vitamins such as B12 and folic acid contribute to the melanogenesis process and should be included in the diet in one way or another. If you are eating a wholesome diet, then ensure that your skin is exposed to enough sunlight so that the required amounts of vitamin D is available to the skin cells.
Sun exposure promotes melanin production naturally and helps the body to generate more amounts of melanin to cause re-pigmentation of the light spots or patches. Although sun exposure is recommended, it is very important to use a sunscreen or sunblock to protect your skin from UVA and UVB damage.
Treatment For Melanin Deficiency
Melanin pigment deficiency can be treated with the help of professional treatments that promote the melanogenesis process. By stimulating this process, melanin pigment production is increased and the natural colour is restored in the white patches or skin areas.
Treatment with ultraviolet radiation (PUVA therapy) in a controlled environment is often performed on the skin of the people who wish to get melanin back in the skin and improve the discoloration. UV light increases melanin production. With repeated sessions under the supervision of a dermatologist, the improvement in melanin levels is evident as the white patches start to become pigmented. In many cases, they become almost unnoticeable as well.
The use of fractionated CO2 lasers is still in the research stages. In the clinical setting reported in Indian Journal of Dermatology in August 2015 using a topical latanoprost in conjunction with the laser, the results observed were substantial as hypopigmentation from lack of melanin was reduced efficaciously.
Medicines To Increase Melanin For Treating Vitiligo
Vitiligo is a skin condition caused due to melanin deficiency and is characterized by the formation of white patches or macules. These can form anywhere on the body and respond well to early treatment. To increase melanin for vitiligo, often topical and oral medications are prescribed. These can include steroids, topical calcineurin inhibitors, and other melanin-promoting components.
Melanin tablets are commonly prescribed to vitiligo patients as it helps to absorb long wavelength UV radiation. This radiation in turn improves melanin in the skin and causes re-pigmentation of the white macules. The dosage of these tablets is decided by the dermatologist after careful evaluation of the skin and medical history.
Foods That Increase Melanin Production
The mechanism that the melanocytes follow to produce melanin is governed by the presence of key nutrients such as carotene, vitamin A, folic acid, vitamin B12, vitamin E, etc. In order for this pathway to proceed without any hindrances and affect melanin production negatively, these nutrients need to be present in the required amounts in the body. Hence, an easy way to increase melanin in the body is to consume food items that contain these nutrients.
Wondering where is melanin produced and how is it produced in our body? Well it is important to understand this here, so that the correct measures can be taken to improve its production and beat melanin pigment deficiency. As many factors take part in the melanogenesis process, the use of different methods like dietary changes, supplements and PUVA therapy is required at the same time to see noticeable results in the skin’s appearance. It is best to not self-treat when it comes to melanin deficiency but to speak to a specialist to create a treatment plan that suits your requirements the best.