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The Science Behind Our Skin Color

By Amber 

I’ll never forget the day one of my Asian friends told me that "my skin was the color of poop." I considered her idea with more seriousness than I would like to admit. To make matters worse, her words kept replaying in my head like a record on repeat. I had to get a grip! Then, it clicked that we were about the same skin tone even though our race was different. So, why would she refer to my skin tone in a negative manner? I embraced the color of my skin—but why didn’t she embrace her own? As a science junkie, I’ve read tons of scientific papers about the power of melanin in brown/tan skin. Then, it dawned on me that she had no clue about the advantages brown skin offers. My guess is that no one ever told her. And that is why I am going to tell you.

Melanin is the natural pigment that gives our brown/tanned skin its beautiful color. It is also found in hair, the iris of the eye, and the inner ear. But that’s not even the coolest part:

  • It is a naturally built-in sunscreen that helps to shield our skin from radiation and the harsh UV rays from the sun, which can cause cancer.
  • Melanin is so powerful, scientists have reproduced it in the lab and used it to coat and protect space shuttles from the damaging sun’s rays.
  • One gram of that stuff is worth about $382. That’s significantly more than the cost of a gram of silver or gold. So, imagine the worth of the melanin that your skin produces naturally.
  • Brown skin shows fewer visible signs of aging.

So the next time you look at your skin, remember its beauty and power. And don’t forget to spread the word. Of course, loving your own skin doesn’t mean you have to put down the diverse tones out there. It just means that you are one step closer to becoming an expert on yourself. 


Sources: Modern Human Diversity—Skin Color, Smithsonian Institution. Modern Human Diversity - Skin Color

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