Melanin’s molecular composition includes a mix of carbon (pink), hydrogen (white), oxygen (blue), and nitrogen (green). The chemical formula of melanin is C18H10N2O4. It has a molar mass of 318 g/mole (for every 318 g of melanin, there are 6.02 x 10^23 molecules of melanin). Everyone has about an equal amount of melanocytes (melanin producing skin cells), but the melanin production rates differ from person to person, as instructed by your genes. Other factors that influence skin color include your environment (i.e. excessive sunlight = tan), carotene (orange/red pigment), and hemoglobin (protein that transports oxygen throughout the body). The amount of melanin produced also determines your hair and eye color. Melanin is extremely important since higher skin pigmentation (AKA eumelanin) can help protect against UV radiation, preventing skin cancers like melanoma. Regardless, it’s still important to wear sunscreen!

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