Does Black Not Crack?: The Science Behind Melanin

I remember hearing this term when going up EVERYWHERE: Black Don’t Crack! From the beauty salon to family gatherings, “Black Don’t Crack” is a saying praising older Women and Men of Color who kept their youthful appearance. While many see it as a playful phrase, some are looking more into it from a scientific point of view. Does having melanated skin have a benefit in the aging race?


The Definition of Melanin

Melanin simply is a pigment that gives the skin, hair, and eyes their color. Obviously, individuals with darker skin, hair, or eyes have more melanin than individuals with lighter complexions or features.

Melanin is produced when melanocytes are simulated by the Sun’s UV rays. These melanocytes are than put into overdrive to produce more melanin to protect the skin from sun damage. AMAZING, RIGHT?!?!

Now, everyone can produce more melanin (yes, darker-skinned individuals can get darker!), but what makes individuals with tan to deeper complexions are the build-in sun shields we have. Through evolution, the melanin within my skin wouldn’t fade completely. I do get slightly darker in the summer, but once winter comes around it is not a huge difference in shades. So what does melanin have to do with aging?

Melanin and Aging

While the Sun keeps life on Earth going, it does produce two different rays: UVA and UVB. These rays are radiation. For everyone new to that term, it is the not the best for life if exposure to it for a long period of time. Radiation like UVA and UVB, can damage cells at a molecular level. Wrinkles and dark spots are just a few affects long, non-protected Sun exposure can do the skin. This is why melanin is important; it is protection. If individuals have a higher level of melanin, chances of wrinkles and dark spots forming are lower than those who do not have the correct protection.

With that said, I do still wear sunscreen on my exposed body parts for extra protection but the SPF is much lower than what a person with a lighter complexion might need.

Does Black Not Crack?

Depends. If you eat well, exercise, drink plenty of water, practice good mental health, and wear some form of sun protection–you best believe Black will not crack. However, genes, poor diet, stress, and other factors can speed up the aging process. This can happen to anyone! But having melanated skin most definitely does have an advantage. So to all the Brown and Black ladies and gentlemen out there–take care of yourself and you will looking young for a very long time!

Read More

Skin Cancer Foundation UVA and UVB

Definition of Melanin


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