Melanocyte – your pigment factory in the skin

Melanocytes also called pigment-producing cells. These cells are located in the lower layer of your epidermis, hairs and also in the iris of your eyes. Per square millimeter, between 1000 and 2000 melanocytes are found in the skin. That is about 5% to 10% of the cells in the basal layer of the epidermis. Although their size varies, melanocytes are typically 7 ɥm long and, like squid tentacles, interact with keratinocytes (skin cells). A melanocyte is roughly ‘connected’ to 40 keratinocytes.

Origin of pigment, from melanocyte to skin cells

It is important to know that you have a basic genetic pigment predisposition, namely your skin color. Dark-skinned people have pigment production on all the time. And you have pigment stimulation, there has been a reason for this, for example: sunlight, tanning bed, skin damage, skin diseases (eczema, psoriasis, acne). In both cases, the origin of pigment (melanin) is the same.

Melanin is made by pigment cells (melanocytes) using the amino acid tyrosine. The pigment cells are located in the lower basal layer of the epidermis.

1. PRODUCTION: Tyrosine is cleaved by an enzyme tyrosinase and depending on your skin type, eumelanin and pheomelanin are formed. Still in the melanocytes, melanin is then packaged and transported in melanosomes. Cosmetic ingredients that inhibit this phase: Arbutin, Vitamin C, Hydroquinone, Emblica, Resveratrol, Retinol, Kojic Acid, Azelaic Acid, Aloesin (Aloe Vera).

2. TRANSPORT/AFIT: Through bulges in a melanocyte, the packed melanosomes leave with melanin to keratinocytes (skin cells). Cosmetic ingredients that inhibit this phase: Vitamin B3 (Niacinamide).

3. TINT: The movement of melanin-filled keratinocytes from the lower part of the epidermis to the surface, leads to a dark tint. Cosmetic ingredients that help reduce unwanted blemishes: Fruit acids, exfoliators.

Pigment Production In The Skin Iconic Elements
Pigment Production In The Skin

Iconic Elements Targeted Pigment serum

The serum, specially designed to improve your skin tone with a triple effect

Melanocyte, Tranexamic Acid Pigment Spots Targeted Pigment Serum, Decollete Pigment Spots Eye Bags Circles Asian Skin Age Spots Scar Arbutin Malic Acid Malic Acid Pigment Reduction Arbutin Niacinamide
  1. Against Pigmentation: Arbutin, resveratrol and Emblica help to reduce dark spots.
  2. Melanin transport: Niacinamide reduces the transfer of pigment within your skin.
  3. Skin Renewal: Malic Acid helps remove dead skin cells for healthier skin.

Pigment differences of dermatological skin types (Fitzpatrick)

Eumelanin is brown-black and it protects us against ultraviolet light (photo-protective). Pheomelanin is yellow-red, photo-reactive and does not protect against ultraviolet radiation. Light-skinned people with skin type 1 (people with red hair) & 2 (blonde hair and blue eyes) produce more pheomelanin and burn faster in the sun. Dark skin types 3-6 have mainly eumelanin and are resistant to the sun.

Other differences, people with dark skin have larger melanosomes and are evenly distributed in the epidermis. The melanosomes contain twice as much melanin compared to people with fair skin. A skin cell contains 200 melanosomes in people with dark skin and < 20 melanosomes in lighter skin types.

In people with a fair complexion, the melanosomes are more clustered, smaller and are not located in the top layer of the epidermis. Ultraviolet light activates pigment production and makes your skin tan. Asians are in between and also have larger melanosomes.

Natural sun protection based on your skin color

People with a dark skin type have a natural SPF12 value of their own and a tanned skin type 2 (light skin and blond hair) has only SPF 4 protection. In other words, SPF12 means it offers about 91% protection only against UV-B rays and not against UVA rays. SPF4 protects about 78% against UV-B rays.

People with dark skin can also burn and to a lesser extent also develop skin cancer! One study showed an average melanoma 5-year survival rate of only 67 percent in black people versus 92 percent in white people.

Natural tan without sun

Recently, a protein called “OPSIN3” has been discovered in melanocytes . This protein reacts to high-energy visible blue light. People from skin type III (brown eyes and brown hair), can develop melasma or tan without having come into contact with UV sunlight. Should you be afraid of blue light from your mobile phone, laptop or tablets? No, the blue light is too weak to darken your skin.

Sun Protection

Mineral sunscreen with iron oxide or antioxidants have the broadest UV protection for your skin. The combination of mineral filters such as titanium dioxide, zinc oxide and iron oxide or antioxidants cover UV-B, UV-A and blue light.

Did you know: Titanium dioxide mainly protects your skin against UV-B and Zinc oxide works better against UV-A rays.

While you are here

Pigment spots after a skin disorder are often referred to by skin specialists as PIH, also known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. PIH is a dark discoloration of the skin where the skin has been damaged. The PIH is usually similar in shape, size and number to the disease or lesion. Think, for example, of the spots that remain after acne that can be a bit raised, but also flat. The structure of the skin does not always have to change either. PIH is harmless, but can be experienced as cosmetically disturbing. Read more about pigment spots after a skin condition

Picture of Dr. Francis Wu

Dr. Francis Wu

Dr. Francis Wu, een vooraanstaande dermatoloog, is de drijvende kracht achter Iconic Elements. Hij heeft sinds 2004 zijn expertise ingezet om een veilige en effectieve huidverzorgingslijn te creëren, geschikt voor zowel gezonde huid als huidproblemen. Iconic Elements, opgericht in 2016, is de eerste brede skincare lijn in Nederland ontwikkeld door een dermatoloog. Als medisch specialist streeft Dr. Wu naar het bevorderen van het welzijn van mensen door hoogwaardige en effectieve huidverzorgingsproducten te bieden. De proefdiervrije en vegan producten vermijden schadelijke chemicaliën en bevatten natuurlijke ingrediënten.
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