Cells in our skin called melanocytes produce melanin. Most of us have heard of melanin and know it is related to tanning: when our skin is exposed to sunlight our skin produces melanin to protect it. Melanin causes the pigmentation of our skin and so, it darkens.

Here are a few more facts about melanin that you may not know:

• Melanin is produced to control the amount of UV light that penetrates our skin. Too much UV can accelerate the aging process of the skin and even lead to serious health problems, like cancer.

• It works by absorbing radiation, so the more skin is exposed to the sun, the more melanin will be produced. Similarly, the more melanin in someone’s skin, the more resistant they will be to the sun’s rays.

• When the body produces excess melanin, or if it doesn’t produce enough melanin, irregular pigmentation can occur.

• Most people have some sort of irregular pigmentation, and it can affect anyone. It can take the form of freckles, blotches or patches of varying size and colour.

• Hyperpigmentation is a result of increased melanin production. It may be caused by exposure to the sun, inflammation or injury, or changes in hormones. Lasers can provide effective pigmentation treatment.