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Whether we can trace our roots to Africa, Mexico, Southeast Asia, South America, the Caribbean or the Middle East, there is one trait that all people with black skin and brown skin have in common: high levels of melanin. Melanin in skin is produced by melanocytes, the cells that produce the pigment that gives skin its rich black or brown color.
Among people of color, the levels of melanin in the skin ranges dramatically from person to person. This is why people of color have such a variety of skin tones – from rich dark chocolate to café au lait to cinnamon. In general, the more melanin, the darker skin will be. Conversely, with lower levels of melanin, skin tone tends to be paler in appearance.
The levels of melanin in the skin can fluctuate in response to various stimuli. Exposure to the sun increases the production of melanin, which makes the skin darker. Certain medications and certain health conditions can also trigger the production of skin melanin.
In addition to creating a variety of rich skin tones, abundant melanin in the skin provides some very unique advantages that people with less skin melanin don't have.
Because of elevated melanin skin cells, people of color:
There are also some drawbacks to having high levels of skin melanin:
Melanocytes are very reactive. With high levels of melanin, skin may be very reactive to a variety of factors, including sunlight, skin care products and cosmetics, topical medications, oral medications and certain health conditions. Consequently, acne, rashes and inflammation are common problems found in black skin and brown skin.
Some medications can trigger hyperpigmentation, including birth control, antibiotics, blood pressure medication, diabetes medication, acne medication, antiseizure medication and certain cancer drugs. Using a gentle Hyperpigmentation System can help dramatically reduce discoloration and dark marks.
Keloids, razor bumps and other disfiguring bumps are much more likely to appear on skin with high levels of melanin. Keloids are large, raised scars that develop after a cut or injury. Bumps on the back of the scalp, known as Acne Keloidalis Nuchae, are also common among people with abundant skin melanin, especially black men. This condition can become quite severe, so one should go see a dermatologist if noticing bumps similar to razor bumps just above the nape of the neck.
Now that you know more about the ways in which high levels of melanin in skin distinguish it from Caucasian skin, you've probably noticed other traits that can be traced back to melanin. Some are normal and others may require a visit to the dermatologist.
A line on your upper arms that separates the lighter skin on the inside of the arm from the darker skin on the outer side is a normal sign of abundant melanin.
Lighter skin in the middle of your chest is known as mid-line hypopigmentation and is another normal sign of abundant melanin in skin.
Dark creases in the palms of your hands are known as palmar crease hyperpigmentation and is a normal sign of abundant melanin in the skin.
Dark brown streaks running from the cuticle to the end of your nails is known as pigmented nail streaks. This is another normal sign of high melanin skin. However, if there is only one streak, it could be a sign of cancer. See your dermatologist right away for an evaluation.