What causes different skin colors?

  As human beings, all of us don't have the same skin color and tune. Some of us have dark skin, while others possess relatively lighter...

 

As human beings, all of us don't have the same skin color and tune. Some of us have dark skin, while others possess relatively lighter skin color. People have varying skin colors due to the amount and kind of melanin produced by their bodies.

Our skin tone is inherited from our forefathers and mothers; hence it is clearly a biological and genetic property. But what is it that causes different human skin colors?

We can find the answer hidden in our body and skin's different requirements. While our skin needs UV protection, the body demands for vitamin D.

Evolution has given us skin colors ranging from dark to white, mostly based on where we live on the planet. People have dark skin color or black skin where the sun is strongest, whereas skin color has lightened where the sun is weaker.

To acquire enough Vitamin D, dark-skinned individuals require six times more sun than white-skinned individuals. They, on the other hand, have a lower risk of acquiring skin cancer.

"We began to consider the probable evolutionary relevance of darker pigmented skin having considerably greater function, including a greater barrier to water loss, greater cohesiveness, and greater antimicrobial defense," said Peter Elias, MD, professor of dermatology.

Many anthropologists believe that our forefathers developed dark pigmentation to protect them from skin cancer or to inhibit the breakdown of folic acid, a vital vitamin found in the skin's blood vessels.

However, when ancient people traveled northwards from Africa into Europe and Asia, their skin got lighter to allow more UV radiation to be absorbed by the skin, which is important for the creation of vitamin D in the skin.

Lower UV exposure may have had a part in the formation of the exceptionally pale skin prevalent in residents of northern Europe and Asia.

Melanin, the dark pigment in the skin, is a natural sunscreen that shields tropical peoples from the sun's harmful effects. UV radiation, for example, can deplete folic acid, a vitamin necessary for optimal fetal development. However, when a certain amount of UV rays passes through the skin, it aids the human body's usage of vitamin D to absorb the calcium required for strong bones.

This careful balancing act explains why people who moved to colder climates with less sunshine had lighter skin tones. Natural selection preferred lighter skin when people moved farther from the equator, where UV levels were lower, allowing UV rays to penetrate and create critical vitamin D. People who lived closer to the equator had darker skin, which was beneficial in reducing folate deficit.

 

External resources:

https://www.mn.uio.no/fysikk/english/research/news-and-events/news/2011/why-skin-colours-differ.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_skin_color

https://www.ucsf.edu/news/2016/06/403401/darker-skin-stronger-skin-says-new-view-human-skin-color

https://humanorigins.si.edu/evidence/genetics/human-skin-color-variation/modern-human-diversity-skin-color


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