The role of melanin as protector against free radicals in skin and its role as free radical indicator in hair

Spectrochim Acta A Mol Biomol Spectrosc. 2008 May;69(5):1429-35. doi: 10.1016/j.saa.2007.09.030. Epub 2007 Oct 2.


Throughout the body, melanin is a homogenous biological polymer containing a population of intrinsic, semiquinone-like radicals. Additional extrinsic free radicals are reversibly photo-generated by UV and visible light. Melanin photochemistry, particularly the formation and decay of extrinsic radicals, has been the subject of numerous electron spin resonance (ESR) spectroscopy studies. Several melanin monomers exist, and the predominant monomer in a melanin polymer depends on its location within an organism. In skin and hair, melanin differs in content of eumelanin or pheomelanin. Its bioradical character and its susceptibility to UV irradiation makes melanin an excellent indicator for UV-related processes in both skin and hair. The existence of melanin in skin is strongly correlated with the prevention against free radicals/ROS generated by UV radiation. Especially in the skin melanin (mainly eumelanin) ensures the only natural UV protection by eliminating the generated free radicals/ROS. Melanin in hair can be used as a free radical detector for evaluating the efficacy of hair care products. The aim of this study was to investigate the suitability of melanin as protector of skin against UV generated free radicals and as free radical indicator in hair.

MeSH terms

  • Electron Spin Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Female
  • Free Radicals / metabolism*
  • Hair / drug effects*
  • Hair / metabolism*
  • Hair / radiation effects
  • Humans
  • Melanins / chemistry
  • Melanins / metabolism*
  • Protective Agents / pharmacology*
  • Skin / drug effects*
  • Skin / metabolism*
  • Skin / radiation effects
  • Sunscreening Agents / pharmacology
  • Ultraviolet Rays


  • Free Radicals
  • Melanins
  • Protective Agents
  • Sunscreening Agents