The Grapevine

The Science Of Skin Tones: How Human Evolution, Sun Exposure Led To A Variety Of Skin Colors

The Science Of Skin Tones: How Human Evolution And Sun Exposure Led To A Variety Of Skin Colors
Humans are born into the world with different skin colors and complexions, but we weren’t always so varied. In the most recent Ted-Ed video, the science of skin color is explained through the evolutionary human origins story and the result of our ancestors adaptability to sun exposure.The sun is the orchestrator of our skin tones. Fifty-thousand years ago, our African ancestors migrated north and settled in Europe and Asia. The sun produces ultraviolet (UV) radiation and creates incremental damage to the DNA in our cells. According to the American Cancer Society, UV rays are the main source of the sun’s damaging effects on the skin.Today, we use SPF broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect our skin from the sun’s rays. But how did humans protect their skin before sunscreen was made available? Darker-skinned people are less likely to get skin cancer than light-skinned people because they have greater amounts of melanin in their skin. Melanin is the protective pigment that gives skin, hair, and eyes their color—the darker the skin, the more melanin they naturally produce.Humans who remained closer to Africa and the equator naturally produce more melanin, giving them a built in sun shield while lighter-skinned people are susceptible to a temporary tan or damage. Generations after generations have led to a gradual lightening in the north, giving way to a widely varied palate of skin pigments we see across the globe today. Youtube

Humans around the world are born with different skin colors and complexions, but we weren’t always so varied. In the most recent Ted-Ed video, the science of skin color is explained through evolutionary human origins.

The sun is the orchestrator of our skin tones. Fifty-thousand years ago, our African ancestors migrated north and settled in Europe and Asia. Humans who remained closer to Africa and the equator naturally produce more melanin, giving them a built in sun shield while lighter-skinned people are more susceptible to a temporary tan or damage. Generations after generations have led to a gradual lightening in the north, giving way to a widely varied palate of skin pigments we see across the globe today. 

Watch the video above for more insight into how humans evolved to become so diversely beautiful.

 

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