Melanin is a pigment that gives color to hair and skin in humans. It is produced by the melanocytes that lie in the lowermost layer of the epidermis.
Melanin and Hair
The hair color is determined by the type and amount of melanin. A decrease in the production of this pigment leads to grey or white hair.
Melanin is of two types:
- Eumelanin: Give dark color to hair
- Pheomelanin: Give light color to hair
Different proportions of these two melanin types determine hair color as follows.
Black Hair Color: A large amount of eumelanin
Brown Hair Color: Moderate amount of eumelanin
Blond Hair Color: Less amount of eumelanin
Strawberry Blond Hair Color: A mixture of brown eumelanin and pheomelanin
Red Hair Color: Pheomelanin and small amounts of eumelanin
What Is The Purpose Of Melanin For The Hair?
- Melanin Protects Hair From The Sun:
Melanin is known to protect hair from sun rays and ultraviolet radiations.This property depends on the type of melanin and its concentration. Dark hair is more resistant to UV rays and decay than light hair. This is because eumelanin is more photostable than pheomelanin(3).
- Melanin Affects Hair Color As You Age:
Melanin production in the body goes through changes through a person’s life. This brings about changes in hair color.
The color is also affected by external factors such as toxins, pollutants, and climate.
Melanin production slows down with age. Most people begin developing white hair by the hair of 50(1).
- Melanin Affects Hair Vitality:
Low melanin does not only affect hair color but also the vitality of hair. This brings about drying out of hair and brittleness.
Foods That Boost The Melanin Growth In Hair
Many foods are loaded with vitamins that have hair-boosting properties.
Such foods are rich in antioxidants that are known to increase melanin production. They also defend the cells from the damaging effects of free radicals.
Foods rich in antioxidants are dark chocolate, blueberries, beans, artichokes, leafy green, and pecans.
Copper Containing Food
Copper plays a role in melanin production and can be consumed from foods such as peanuts, beef liver, lentils, almonds, and white mushrooms.
Foods Rich In Vitamin A, C, and E
Vitamin A, C, and E show promising results in improving hair and skin health.
Research shows these vitamins protect the skin from UV damage from the sun(4).
Vitamin A rich foods are orange vegetables, fish, and meat.
Vitamin C rich foods are leafy greens, citrus fruits, and berries.
Vitamin E rich foods are vegetables, nuts and seeds, and healthy grains.
Effects of Vitamin B6 and B12 in Melanin Production
Vitamin B6 or pyridoxine triggers the production of enzymes and chemical reactions that boost the metabolism of hair protein (keratin and melanin) in the hair follicles.
Vitamin B12 or cobalamin also promotes healthy hair growth by increasing the production of red blood cells. A study has found that deficiency of vitamin B 12 can lead to premature grey hair(2).
Foods rich in vitamin B12 include meat, poultry, dairy, fish, and eggs.
Grey or white hair occurs when the melanocytes stop the production of melanin.
Oral and topical melanin supplements are also available, but their effectiveness is not yet proven.
Best is to consume foods that are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, protein, and copper. They can boost the production of melanin and help prevent the premature greying of hair.
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