“Pigmented” Types: Mela-What?
Dr. Leslie Baumann
As a “Pigmented” type, odds are you use (or are looking for) a skin-lightening product. The selection process can be overwhelming since there are so many ingredients that can effectively even out skin tone, and it can be hard to cut through all the scientific jargon and find what you’re really looking for.
There are a few scientific pigment-related terms you’ll come across when researching or shopping for skin-lightening products. They all start with “mela,” which means “black” in Latin, but they are all distinctly different.
Melanin: Also called pigment, melanin gives the skin and hair its natural color.
Melanocyte: These are the melanin-producing cells that reside in the lower layers of the skin.
Melanosome: Cells contain organelles that serve specific purposes, much like the organs in the human body. Organelles that contain melanin are melanosomes, and cells that contain melanosomes are called melanocytes.
Melanoma: The first four letters may be the same, but melanoma is one of the deadliest forms of skin cancer. It starts with “mela” because this type of cancer starts in the melanocytes.
Now that you know the difference between these terms, you can better understand how skin-lighteners work—especially when you see these words on product packaging. Next time you’re reading labels, look for arbutin, bearberry extract, licorice extract, hydroquinone, kojic acid, mulberry extract and niacinamide since these are the most effective ingredients for targeting melanin—which you now know is pigment!
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