Part 2: Melanin is not the only pigment
This week, I have unearthed a fascinating article on the subject of #Skin Colour. But first, I would like to ask you to bear with me while I set the scene...
One of the marvels of humankind is that fact that we all have so much in common and yet we are each unique in personality and #appearance. I imagine that if aliens were to visit planet Earth, they would probably think we all look pretty much alike. But when we look at each other our differences are very apparent and they are essential to our ability to recognise each other and to the way in which we interact and socialise.
Our differences – and our similarities – are often what attract us to another person (or sometimes they have the opposite effect!). The most important thing about each of us, of course, is who we are on the inside. The rest is just packaging. But, as a species, we are strongly influenced by external appearance – nature dictates that we should be this way during our reproductive years at least – and this preoccupation with how other people look is part and parcel of the process by which our diverse physical characteristics (including skin colour) are either perpetuated or modified from one generation to the next.
When you stop and think about it, this all seems obvious: we tend to choose a partner based partly on their outward appearance. This can be at a conscious level: we might think to ourselves “that person is just my type because he or she has a certain colour hair, skin or eyes or a particular physique”. But a lot of the process of attraction is instinctive. Anthropologists and psychologists would probably be able to analyse what is taking place and describe it in terms of genetics or evolutionary science. But, to most of us, it is just a gut feeling which – alongside our response to the other's personality – can create a strong attraction, or even that thing called love, that is hard to put into words without bursting into song!
Skin colour is one part of this equation but it seems that there is more going on in this respect than meets the eye. Whilst I was collecting interesting links for this #vitiligoBlog I stumbled on a rather quirky piece of research and thought that it was worth sharing, if only because those of us with vitiligo can become so fixated on our defective #melanin that we forget it is not the only skin pigment and - if this research is to be believed – it is not even the most attractive one!
Melanin is the brown pigment responsible for how light or dark an individual's colouring is and is the pigment involved in the tanning process. But there are also carotenoid pigments present in every layer of human skin which determine how much yellow a person's skin tone has. It is this carotenoid pigment that is the subject of the research.
The paper suggests that levels of this pigment in our skin have a powerful impact on how attractive others find us. It suggests that we are attracted to people with high levels of this antioxidant-rich yellow pigment in their skin because, at a subconscious level, we recognise it as an indicator of good health and therefore, presumably, suitability as a potential mate. (I shall never listen to the lyrics of Coldplay's "Yellow" in quite the same way again!) The article then goes on to reason that if this is so, the fact might provide a persuasive argument in encouraging people to eat more carotenoid-rich foods in their diet.
My main reason for mentioning the article in this blog is simply that I find it intriguing. But I also think it is significant in the context of vitiligo because it adds another dimension to the we-should-all-eat-more-fruit-and-veg argument. It suggests that carotenoids, rather than melanin, may be the key skin pigment when it comes to having attractive skin. And this is good news for two reasons. Firstly, all of us can enjoy the cosmetic benefits of increasing carotenoid levels in our skin, whether we have vitiligo or not, since carotenoids are unaffected by vitiligo. (For example, I eat a lot of vegetables anyway but I also take a carotenoid supplement specifically for its natural bronzing effect, something I started doing because it slightly lessened the contrast between my white patches and my natural skin colour and then continued to take it after I repigmented because I find it gives my whole skin a healthier colour.) And secondly, the more antioxidant-rich plant foods we eat the more we are protecting ourselves from the free radical damage that is known to characterise the development of vitiligo. So, the bottom line seems to be that by increasing our consumption of vegetables and fruit we not only give our body the best chance of healing itself but we will also look and feel healthier and more attractive while we are doing it!
Could this explain why most smiley faces are yellow?
My name is Caroline.