Melanin is a natural substance that provides color to the skin, eyes and hair and that protects your cells from sun damage generating an increase in pigmentation in response to sunlight, a process known as tanning. That same pigment in the skin also naturally eliminates free radicals in response to environmental pollution.
Well, now, researchers at Northwestern University (in the United States) have created a synthetic melanin cream that protects and repairs the skin from sunlight and environmental damage by eliminating free radicals. Thus, among its potential applications are sun protection, wound healing and as a defense against environmental toxins.
As the scientists explain in the study, recently published in the magazine «Nature», this “super melanin”, which is applied topically, can both protect the skin from sun exposure and heal skin already damaged by sun or chemical burns. This technique works by eliminating free radicals produced by injured skinlike sunburn.
In addition, “synthetic melanin is capable of eliminating more radicals per gram than human melanin,” says co-author of the work, Nathan Gianneschi, professor of Chemistry, Materials Science and Engineering, biomedical engineering and Pharmacology at Northwestern University. «It’s like super melanin. It is biocompatible, biodegradable, non-toxic and transparent when applied to the skin. In our studies, it acts as an effective sponge, removing harmful agents and protecting it », he continues.
Once applied, it remains on the surface and not absorbed into the lower layers. “Synthetic melanin stabilizes the skin and puts it on the path to healing, which we see in the upper layers and throughout the body,” says Gianneschi, who has been studying melanin for almost ten years. They tested it for the first time as a sunscreen and, after verifying that it protected the skin and its cells from damage, they then decided to investigate whether it could be applied topically to a skin lesion and have healing effects. And, according to the researcher, “it works exactly that way”: “It protected the skin and skin cells from damage,” the researcher continues.
For Kurt Lu, professor of Dermatology at Northwestern University School of Medicine and one of the authors of the work, the synthetic melanin cream will be used as a complement to sun protection and as Moisturizer enhancer to promote skin repair.