Of these choices: carotene, hemoglobin, melanin, what is the most responsible for the skin color of dark-skinned people? What provides a natural sunscreen?

1 Answer
Aug 2, 2016

Melanin is responsible for skin color, carotene can provide some protection against the sun.


Melanin is a pigment that gives the skin color. This melanin is produced by so called melanocytes. Melanocytes are located at the bottom of the top layer of the skin (the epidermis). Melanocytes of people with dark skin produce more melanin.

Melanin is the bodies own way to protect the skin against sunlight. The molecule effectively absorbs UV-light and neutralizes damaging molecules (radicals) created by exposure to sunlight.


Carotene or rather #beta#-caroteen is a red-orange colored pigment that gives carrots their orange color. An excess of carotene would turn your skin orange. In the body, carotene is converted into vitamin A.

Interestingly #beta#-carotene also protects somewhat against sunlight. The exact mechanism is not known yet, but we do know that this molecule can also neutralize the earlier mentioned radicals. Carotene can not be used instead of sunscreen, the protective factor (SPF) is at most about 4.

Sometimes #beta#-carotene is used to alleviate symptoms of people who are very sensitive for sunlight (photosensitivity disease).

Hemoglobin is the protein in red blood cells that gives the blood a red color due to the interaction of iron. When your skin is red this can be caused because more blood flows to the area. This is further not relevant in this question.