Melanin renders colour to our skin. However, excess of it may lead to hyperpigmentation. Know how to reduce melanin production.

Melanin is a pigment that gives colour to your skin, hair, and eyes. Melanin is produced by cells called melanocytes that are present in the outer layers of the skin. Every person has approximately an equal number of melanocytes. However, the cells of some people create more melanin, as well as some specific kinds of melanin, than others. More melanin translates to having darker skin. At times, melanin can accumulate in certain areas, causing darkening of the skin, which is called hyperpigmentation. The question is can you reduce melanin production in the skin?

How to reduce melanin?

Melanin is the compound that gives colour to the skin, hair and eyes. Excess of melanin is not harmful to the skin or the body, except that it can cause hyperpigmentation of the skin leading to dark colorectal patches, says dermatologist Dr Sachith Abraham.

how to reduce melanin
Here are some ways that can help reduce melanin production. Image courtesy: Shutterstock

Excess of melanin production can occur due to sun exposure, age-related changes, hormone imbalances, and injuries to the skin. However, the amount of excess melanin that can be produced is determined by genetics. Excessive melanin may also lead to skin diseases like melasma, Lichen planus pigmentosus or diffuse hyperpigmentation of the skin. Some natural ways to reduce melanin production include:

1. Limit sun exposure

Melanin serves the purpose of protecting your skin from sun damage. Overexposure to the sun increases the production of melanin in the skin. Excess pigmentation can be avoided by regularly applying sunscreen with at least 50 SPF, and wearing wide-brimmed hats for sun protection, says the expert.

As per the American Academy of Dermatology, the best sunscreen has a broad spectrum, has a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or above, and is water resistant. Keep in mind that wearing a sunblock does not guarantee 100 percent protection from the sun’s UV rays. To cover the risk of excess melanin production due to sun exposure, you can consider restricting your sun exposure, especially during the peak hours. If you do need to step out, cover your body using protective clothing like sunglasses, long sleeves, and a hat.

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How to reduce melanin
Melanin renders pigment to our skin, hair, and eyes. However, excess of it can result in hyperpigmentation. Learn some natural ways to reduce it! Image courtesy: Freepik

2. Natural remedies

Some people find good results when it comes to skin lightening with some natural remedies. The time duration within which natural remedies work is still not clear, but you need to stay patient while trying them out. Alongside, these remedies work for a short duration, so you need to be consistent with your routine. Some of those natural remedies include:

Turmeric: As per a 2012 study in Phytotherapy Research, the active compound present in turmeric may curb melanin synthesis. The compound, called curcumin, functions by hindering tyrosinase. This curbs the ability of melanocytes to create more melanin.

Aloe vera gel: Aloe vera gel decreases the production of melanin post-sun exposure. The plant contains a substance called aloesin that is known to suppress tyrosinase as per a 2021 study.

Lemon juice: Some people apply lemon juice to curb skin pigmentation. This could be due to the high vitamin C content in it. As per the Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, vitamin C can hinder tyrosinase activity, preventing melanin formation. But a word of caution – lemon juice can feel harsh when applied to the skin. So, dilute it well before applying it to your skin.

Skin bleaching: When you bleach your skin using a bleaching product like hydroquinone, it reduces the number of melanocytes in your skin and inhibits tyrosinase. This can lead to lighter skin and an even skin tone.

3. Topical creams and other treatments

Various topical creams like kojic acid, arbutin, liquorice extract and topical vitamin C and retinol can remove pigmentation on the skin. Other treatments like chemical peels and lasers can also be done to remove it. Often a combination of therapy with topicals and procedure-based treatments can give additive results, says the expert.

Is it possible to reduce melanin production permanently?

Melanin is continuously created by every person’s body. However, genetics determine its amount. You can use various remedies to lighten or even remove existing pigmentation, but it can return anytime.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a warning letter in 2022 saying that over-the-counter products that contain hydroquinone can be potentially unsafe, citing reports of skin rashes, swelling on the face, and discolouration. The FDA says that usage of these products is usually neither safe nor effective.

Precautions while trying skin lightening

While trying to lighten your skin, you might face certain risks as well. Some of those could be:

1. Higher risk of sun damage

Less melanin also means a lesser shield from the sun’s rays. This increases the risk of wrinkles, uneven texture, and discolouration.

2. Higher chances of skin cancer

More sun damage to the skin can increase the risk of developing skin cancer.

3. Sensitivity and irritation

Skin-lightening procedures can be harsh on the skin. Some of the side effects include itchiness, redness, and contact dermatitis.

An important thing to remember while reducing the pigmentation is to be patient as it takes time. Aggressive treatments may worsen pigmentation. Always follow medical advice before and after cosmetic procedures. Also, multiple sitting may be required to reduce hyperpigmentation.

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