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Published Articles - The Back of the Bottle #1

The Back of the Bottle (column #1)

Cathy in Vancouver recently asked me to give her some information about melanin. Her clientele is increasingly concerned with hyperpigmentation, and while she did know that melanin was responsible for the skin's pigmentation, she was unsure of the exact mechanisms involved.

Produced in melanocytes by a chemical reaction of tyrosinase, most natural melanins are a mixture of the two main types of melanin: eumelanin, which is more common and produces a brown/black color, and phaelomelanin that is less common and produces a yellow or red color. Skin coloration or pigmentation may take two different forms:

  • 'Constitutive' skin color is pigmentation generated without exposure to ultraviolet radiation (sunrays or tanning beds) or hormone interaction – it is determined genetically.
  • 'Facultative' pigmentation is inducible pigmentation that occurs with exposure to ultraviolet radiation, hormones, or inflammation. This hyperpigmentation is reversible when the stimulus is removed or blocked. The controlling step in the synthesis of melanin is the conversion of tyrosine to 'dopa' to melanin by the enzyme tyrosinase.

One of the major differences between the races relates to the predetermined distribution of baseline melanosomes (melanin molecules within the melanocytes) throughout the skin. Melanin absorbs very strongly throughout the ultraviolet and visible wavelengths of light. 'Constitutive' skin color is a protective baseline mechanism, as constitutive melanin contains and absorbs free radicals as well as all the damage incurred from all the ultraviolet wavelengths of light (I do not think this is true). We do not want to interfere with this baseline 'constitutive' pigmentation on a prolonged basis, as we would be defeating the purpose of topical anti-aging treatments. The function of melanin in the long term affords protection against skin cancer.

Please submit your questions by email to Ms. Zaborski at carell@advancedesthetic.com or by fax to (780) 421-4434.


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