By Enzo Berardesca; Jean-Luc Leveque; Howard I Maibach
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Extra resources for Ethnic skin and hair
If the concentration of melanin in the stratum corneum became large, so that it would become of a strong yellow-brown-gray color, then it would also limit our ability to look into the skin because it would make subsurface structures appear diffuse or foggy. This may occur only in the darkest skins and on chronically exposed sites (Fig. 12). , there are no changes in the index of refraction between these layers because there are no structures that separate the two layers. Since most of the melanin in skin resides in the viable epidermis it is here that we would expect the major changes in light attenuation and direction of travel to occur.
It has been documented in dark-complexioned individuals during the summer months that their shirt collars get soiled dark when they spend time out-of-doors, leading one to think that the dark stains are probably due to melanized corneocytes and lipids that are shed faster because of sun exposure. This phenomenon is insigniﬁcant during the winter months. The distribution of melanosomes within the viable keratinocytes has been studied to determine the extent to which they may provide protection to the nucleus from solar UV radiation (12).
Melanosomes often are concentrated in nuclear caps that look like umbrellas, that have been shown to protect the nucleus from UV radiation. While this is frequently the case, it is not found to be so 100% of the time (Fig. 4). The epidermis is under continuous renewal, in contrast to the dermis which to a great extent is acellular and renews very slowly. Keratinocytes are generated at the dermal–epidermal junction and then move upwards to the stratum corneum by terminally differentiating into cells that eventually go through apoptosis and are shed.