Amino acids are responsible for a great variety of functions performed within the human body, including our skin and hair. One non-essential amino acid, tyrosine, plays a vital role in the production of melanin, the pigment that gives skin and hair their unique colors. Read on to learn more about melanin production and how amino acids like tyrosine can influence the health and appearance of our skin on a large scale.
What Is Melanin?
Melanin is responsible for determining the color of your skin and hair. It is naturally produced by the body through a multi-step process. Specialized cells called melanocytes contain smaller organelles called melanosomes, as well as tyrosine. Within melanocytes, tyrosine is converted into melanin pigment through various biological pathways .
There are several different types of melanin – eumelanin, pheomelanin, and neuromelanin – that are present throughout the body. Eumelanin and pheomelanin are found in the hair and skin and determine their colors. Eumelanin can be black or brown, whereas pheomelanin has a reddish hue and can be found in freckles and red hair. Neuromelanin is a combination of eumelanin and pheomelanin and is found in brain tissue .
Although tyrosine deficiencies are rare because it is a non-essential amino acid, insufficient levels of tyrosine or abnormalities in its conversion into melanin can lead to a condition called albinism, which is characterized by a lack of melanin .
Melanin and UV Protection
Not only does melanin determine the color of your skin, but it also serves as a natural defense mechanism against harmful UV radiation. When exposed to UV light, your skin begins to produce extra melanin, which is what causes your skin to tan. Although melanin does have protective qualities, it has also been shown to cause deleterious breaks in single-strand DNA sequences following UV exposure .
Because of this, getting a tan is not adequate protection against UV damage caused by the sun. In fact, any amount of tanning is a sign that skin damage has already occurred. Thus, the best protection against sun damage, which can lead to skin cancer and nearly all signs of premature aging, is to wear daily sun protection and avoid excessive exposure to the sun during peak hours.
Melanin and Skin Discoloration
Although melanin is an important component of your skin, it can also lead to a variety of unwanted pigmentation concerns, including the appearance of age spots and scars. Age spots, also known as liver spots or sun spots, occur when the excess melanin that your skin produces as a result of UV exposure becomes clustered in a single area . Similarly, some types of scars are a result of either too much or too little melanin production during the wound healing process 
If skin discoloration is a concern for you, adding expertly formulated amino acid products to your everyday skin care routine can help to significantly improve your overall skin tone. Not only can amino acids help to brighten the appearance of skin, but they are also involved in the production of collagen, a key protein within the skin. These characteristics make amino acids some of the most effective ingredients in anti-aging skin care. And because they are already naturally present in your skin, amino acids are also some of the gentlest ingredients, making them excellent options for even sensitive skin types.
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 Mayo Clinic