Skin

19 November 2007

Why your skin is the colour it is

We’re all the same under the skin. But why is it that people from Europe, Asia and Africa all have skins of different colours?

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We’re all the same under the skin. But why is it that people from Europe, Asia and Africa all have skins of different colours?

Melanocytes, which produce the skin pigment melanin, make up 10 percent of the cells in the basal layer of the epidermis, the primary layer of the skin.

The cells pass the melanin to the other cells of the epidermis, through tendril-like branches. They look like veins in a leaf.

Melanin collects in granules under the skin and protects it from harmful ultraviolet light. It’s the amount of melanin in your skin that determines your skin colour. Ebony-skinned women of Negroid origin have the greatest amount of melanin, while the skin of redheaded, pink-skinned women of Celtic origin has the least.

The pinkish colour is simply the haemoglobin – in red blood cells – showing through the skin.

Carotene is a yellow pigment that accumulates in the skin. In mongoloids or southern caucasoids (to you and me, that’s people of Mediterranean, Arabian, Indian and South American origin) it gives the skin a yellowish tinge.

 

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