Is Melanin A Natural Sunscreen?

Does Melanin Work Like A Natural Sunscreen During Tanning?

Melanin is what many dark-skinned people want to have less of, while many white-skinned people wish to have more.

Melanin is the pigment that gives our hair, skin and eyes their color. It is produced, not only in the skin, but also in many internal organs. In fact, Melanin plays many more roles in the human body than coloring.


Melanin whitening ad

In many Asian countries, there is an abundance of cosmetic products with the promise to make the skin lighter and in countries with a majority of fair-skinned population, cosmetics that gives a darker skin-color, are often very popular.


Melanin darkening ad

This article, however, is focused on how Melanin supports the process of tanning.

In short, tanning (if done correctly) increases the production of Melanin for the protection of cells towards over-exposure from Ultra-Violet (UV) light.

This is how the tanning process stimulates the production of Melanin and makes it darker:

  1. The UVB-component in sunlight (or from the lamps in a tanning bed) stimulates the Melanocytes-cells in the outer skin-layer (epidermis) to produce more Melanin.
  2. The UVA-component in Sunlight (or from the lamps in a tanning bed) oxidizes the new and also the already existing Melanin to a darker color.
  3. The now darkened Melanin forms a barrier around the cells in the body and uses its black or dark brown color to diffuse additional UVB-rays that could be harmful. The brown Melanin molecules also move towards the very surface of the skin in order to form an additional barrier towards over-exposure from UV-light.

And, voila, you have created your body’s natural sun-protection as well as got a nice and healthy tan.

Now that you know the basic role of Melanin in the tanning process, let’s have a look at what might interfere with the natural manner of Melanin creation and protection.

The most common interference is caused by chemicals in sun-screen cosmetics. The purpose of such chemicals is to block the UV-rays from reaching your body. They do this by forming either a diffusive or reflexive barrier on your skin.

It is a good idea to use sun-block chemicals if you suddenly find yourself having to spend long periods of time in strong sunlight. The problem with most sun-protection lotions is, however, that they very often block only the UVB-component in sunlight. Thus they let through the UVA which will still oxidize your existing Melanin and give you a surface tan. The UVA will also add to the photo-aging of your skin. However, because the UVB-rays are blocked, your body will not create any additional Melanin and your natural UV-protection will not increase.

In general, I don’t believe it is a very good idea to destroy, by unnecessary usage of sun-screen cosmetics, the delicate balance between UVB, UVA and Melanin that has evolved in the human body for millions of years.

Another reason for not using sun-screen is because by blocking the UVB, your body will be denied all its possibilities to create Vitamin D.

Another cause of interference is to try to enhance the body’s natural production of Melanin. The two most common chemicals for this are Psoralen and Tyrosine. They are both supposed to increase the creation of Melanin but they do it in quite different ways.

Psoralen increases the photosensitivity of the skin by making it more receptive to UV-light. Even if this can be useful in medically supervised treatments of skin-conditions such as psoriasis, it is not recommended as a method to build more Melanin for a darker tan.

Tyrosine, on the other hand, is the main amino-acid that the melanosomes within the melanocytes uses to create Melanin. The verdict is still out on if topically applied tyrosine (which is a common ingredient in tanning lotions) really does increase the production of Melanin in the skin.  In any case, tyrosine seems to be the best bet if you want to assist the job of the melanosomes to make more Melanin.

Lately, another substance has emerged claiming to add to the body’s Melanin storage. The unapproved and untested Melanotan is attributed both to give a chemical tan that could help to prevent skin-cancer, as well as to prevent erectile dysfunction. My view on Melanotan is that this is just another attempt from the pharmaceutical industry to cash in on the sun-scare hysteria created by themselves and their peers in the chemical sunscreen industry.   Additionally, with the added attractiveness as an alternative to Viagra, it will probably be a big-seller.

My personal preferred sun-protection method is to assist my body’s natural production of Melanin by regular and moderate tanning. When the natural sun is too low in the sky for UVB to reach the earth (or when the weather is bad), I use tanning beds with tubes emitting a fair amount of UVB.

My experience is that not only does this method keep my level of Vitamin D at a consistent healthy level, but it also provides me with a natural sun-protection, corresponding to at least SPF 15, when I travel for a vacation to a sunny place.

I do use tanning lotions based on Aloe Vera or coconut-milk with a lot of added natural antioxidants and other skin-caring ingredients. Tyrosine is often included in those tanning lotions. These lotions definitely help me to keep my skin moisturized, young and smooth and ready to absorb sunlight in the most efficient way.

In closing, maybe you are thinking that I have forgotten DHA (Dihydroxcyacetone) in the list of Melanin-stimulators? Then you should know that the only function of DHA (and its cousin, Erythrulose) in tanning-lotions is to oxidize the already existing and dead Melanin on the outer skin-layer into a darker color. Thus DHA does not influence your body’s production of Melanin.


This post is also available in: German, Russian

24 Responses to Is Melanin A Natural Sunscreen?

  1. Shar March 29, 2012 at 00:34 #

    I do sunbathe, but in the last several years, I have noticed white spots developing on my body.
    My dermatologist told me it was called idiopathic hypomelanosis. It’s common in middle aged, fair skin women.
    I am very concerned if I should keep sunbathing or just stop it completely. I like the idea of getting my Vit D soley from the sun, but if I’m in danger, I just may have to take it orally only.

    My dermie told me not to worry about exposing the spots to the sun but I would think they would burn as they have NO melanin to protect them.
    Any thoughts?

  2. admin April 1, 2012 at 07:10 #

    Hi Shar, and thanks for your comment!

    I think that you should trust your dermatologist and be happy that you are in the hands of one that recommends tanning as the best way to get vitamin D.

    And considering that the time needed for vitamin D is about half the time needed for burning, you can easily adjust your time in the sun in order to eliminate the risk of burning the white spots.

    On the positive side, I suppose that the white spots will help your skin to create melanin faster.

    I also suggest you use a tanning-lotion (non-SPF) with Tyrosine that helps to stimulate the melanin production (and probably also the vitamin D production). A good all-round lotion with a fair amount of Tyrosine complex, is “Limited Couture” from Devoted Creations. It is based on Aloe Vera for optimal hydration and does not contain paraben or added fragrances.


  3. Debra E August 13, 2012 at 15:23 #

    What about freckles? Are they normal or a sign of not getting the proper UVA/UVB ratio? My 5 & 3 yo are getting them under their eyes and across the bridge of their nose. I only use Loving Natural’s clear body sunscreen ( from EWG guide) on us when we go in the pool. Are freckles OK?

  4. Surya Tejaswini April 10, 2014 at 08:29 #

    Hi it was a amazing post. I have just known very few aspects regarding the melanin. I just knew from my childhood lessons. Here the info was quote good. You have presented a lot of aspects i am unaware of. I have not known that melanin works like a natural sunscreen it was nice to read this. Thank you for making me know good no of facts.

  5. Surya Tejaswini April 10, 2014 at 08:30 #

    Thanks for the post.:)

  6. Adil December 9, 2014 at 14:05 #

    Make sure you drink ample amounts of water each day, in order to attain and keep healthy skin. Beauty comes from both the inside and outside, which is why being hydrated is important for healthy skin. You should be drinking a minimum of eight glasses filled with water every day to achieve soft and supple skin.

  7. Owen March 13, 2015 at 11:27 #

    Thanks for that great article and information a great read

  8. the beauty tonic April 30, 2015 at 11:47 #

    Very nice post but I believe the use of a good sunscreen is essential, whether you have dark skin or not. Sun is dangerous nowadays, especially if you live in hot countries.

  9. suzan May 6, 2015 at 08:33 #

    If you want to see the mind blowing blog with real facts and figures, this is a really great blog for melanin a natural sunscreen.

  10. mishalkhan February 22, 2016 at 12:56 #

    Very nice post but I believe the use of a good sunscreen is essential, whether you have dark skin or not. Sun is dangerous nowadays, especially if you live in hot countries. i like your post. thanks for shearing us.

  11. Dan Bitter September 14, 2016 at 21:40 #

    Okay, FWIW, I’ve heard that lutein and astaxanthin taken in the proper doses could help with skin tone. You could also try to up your beta-carotene by drinking carrot juice, but I wouldn’t overdo it.

  12. Luce whiter September 16, 2016 at 05:05 #

    It’s crazy. I started a blog how to get lighter skin after traveling through Thailand. I was looking for tanning lotion but every single product they sold was whitening. Also the Thai people have to cover up head to toe because their efforts to reduce melanin are working, and their becoming less resistant to sunshine

  13. Melanotan 2 Bestellen Deutschland October 5, 2016 at 09:48 #

    I am glad I found this, our college doesn’t even guide us with this, need to search all on the net am glad your blog is so helping, that I can learn step by step and now write one of my own as well.

  14. Shashikant October 24, 2016 at 10:42 #

    Very nice post but I believe the use of a good sunscreen is essential, whether you have dark skin or not. Sun is dangerous nowadays, especially if you live in hot countries. I really enjoyed. Thanks.

  15. jose December 9, 2016 at 09:44 #

    thank God, I dont need a tanning. been tanned naturally

  16. Mukesh Joshi December 19, 2016 at 00:33 #

    Sunscreen is one of the essential thing you should always have with you. There may be some places where your body get direct contact with UV rays.
    BTW Great post.

  17. sandeep April 22, 2017 at 07:24 #

    Nice one. Sunscreen is helpful in summer to protect our skin from uv rays. Thanks for information.

  18. Kenya Safari May 15, 2017 at 12:40 #

    WOw great article, i am an African and i understand and appreciate the different skins

  19. Sandeep Shinde June 16, 2017 at 11:21 #


    Nice Sharing . Sunscreen is helpful in summer to protect our skin.

    Thanks for information…..!


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