Skin pigment understanding could lead to better sun protection products


- Last updated on GMT

Skin pigment understanding could lead to better sun protection products

Related tags Ultraviolet Melanin Sunlight

Researchers in Sweden, France and Italy have worked out how the pigment of the skin manages to protect the body from the sun's dangerous UV rays, and this could lead to better sun protection products.

Research by Lund University and colleagues in France and Italy looked into two different types of melanin found in skin and hair, called eumelanin and pheomelanin.

Eumelanin makes us develop a sun tan and gives colour to brown and black hair, whereas those with red hair and pale skin instead have high levels of pheomelanin.


"By understanding how the body naturally protects itself against UV light, we can develop better sun protection products based on the same principles. This would provide better protection against skin cancer,"​ says Villy Sundström, Professor of Chemistry at Lund University.

"We found that eumelanin converts harmful UV radiation into heat with almost 100% efficiency. The chemical reaction is incredibly quick, taking less that a thousandth of a billionth of a second.”

Eumelanin is considered to be the pigment that protects against UV radiation while pheomelanin is believed to cause skin cancer in some way.

However, researchers have not previously been aware of what chemical reactions UV light causes in the pigment. There has therefore also been a lack of knowledge of the pigment processes that lead to protection against or development of cancer.


In their research the scientists observed this chemical reaction, in which a proton is ejected from the pigment at the same moment the UV light reaches the pigment molecule.

This projectile in turn gives off energy to the surrounding membrane tissue in the form of heat. It has therefore converted dangerous UV energy into harmless heat.

"In this way, the pigment disarms the energy in the UV light and prevents it causing harmful chemical reactions,"​ adds Sundström.

The next steps for the scientists is to find treatment methods and substances that replace natural pigment for those with defective production of eumelanin.

Eumelanin is composed of two similar building blocks, but only one of them produces the protective effect, meaning the effect is very specific. This insight could prove important in the development of substances for treatment and sun protection products.


Alice Corani, Annemarie Huijser, Thomas Gustavsson, Dimitra Markovitsi, Per-Åke Malmqvist, Alessandro Pezzella, Marco d’Ischia, Villy Sundström. Superior Photoprotective Motifs and Mechanisms in Eumelanins Uncovered​. Journal of the American Chemical Society​, 2014; 136 (33): 11626 DOI: 10.1021/ja501499q

Related topics Formulation & Science Skin Care

Related news

Related products

show more

Innovation Sensations: The New Roaring Twenties

Innovation Sensations: The New Roaring Twenties

Accupac | 01-Mar-2023 | Technical / White Paper

It may be difficult to envision a post-pandemic consumer market, but beauty care is poised to experience a surge of growth and innovation not seen in some...

Breaking Into Darker Skin Cosmetics

Breaking Into Darker Skin Cosmetics

Tagra Biotechnologies | 21-Feb-2023 | Product Brochure

DeeperCaps™ provide increased formula stability for cosmetic manufacturers. The innovative microencapsulation technology prevents pigment mixing and capsules...

Gentle skin exfoliation with Glucono-delta-Lactone

Gentle skin exfoliation with Glucono-delta-Lactone

Jungbunzlauer | 14-Nov-2022 | Clinical Study

Jungbunzlauer’s glucono-delta-lactone (GdL) is a polyhydroxy acid known as a mild, effective exfoliating agent. Its beneficial impact was proven in a four-week...

Related suppliers

Follow us


View more