Skin color

Why is it that people with any skin color other than white have whitish palms and the underside of their feet are light? Is it because there was never a need for those parts to have pigment?

First of all, those parts do have pigment, they just don’t have as much as the rest of the skin.

I think the answer to your question lies in another question: "If you were walking around outdoors naked all day every day, what parts of your body would exhibit less suntanning?

Hrmmm. But I would think that the palms of your hands would get far more sun than your underarms…

Your palms may get sun, but they don’t tan. At least, mine don’t. Even after hours in the sun, my palms are still about the same color as the skin covered by clothing.

I think a better question would be why aren’t people’s palms as dark as the rest of the skin? What causes this?

Lack of pigment is how…but why?

I think it’s because of the thicker skin there. I mean, the rest of the skin on your body is pretty much a relative texture and density, except for your palms and the soles of your feet.


I’m ready to meet Him
‘Cause where I’m livin’ ain’t right
Black hate white
White hate black
It’s right back to the same fight…

–DMX

It’s because the palms of your hands and the soles of your feet are exposed to sunlight less than the rest of your body. Think about it.

You’re lying in the sun, your hands behind your head. Armpits flappin’ in the breeze, palms hidden. Or just lie down on your back. Which way do your palms face, up or down?

Carry a spear, or a basket or a hunk of animal carcase. You holding them in your armpits? Not bloody likely. Throw the spear. Is your armpit exposed? Yep, on the backswing, but the palm of your hand never faces the sun, it’s wrapped around the spear, or the rock or the bone you’re going to club that dude with. Man carries things with his hands, that’s why the palms are not heavily pigmented.

I like the skin thickness answer better than the sunlight one. Yeah, your palms are hidden a lot, but then why do the lines where the skin folds tend to be so much darker than the rest? They can’t be getting THAT much more sunlight.

On the other hand, the skin is a lot thinner there. Thin skin=more need for pigmentation for protection.

This seems like the appropriate thread to ask about something I’ve wondered about. Occasionally, I’ve seen a black person whose skin color appears to be fading away. It’s hard to describe, but these people will have darker skin color, with lighter regions that are scattered or blotchy. It’s kinda like male pattern baldness, but with skin pigment. Does anybody else know what I’m talking about? Is this phenomena genetic, like sickle-cell anemia, or is it acquired somehow? Does it have a name? I’d never feel right asking such a person why they look different, so I’m hoping one of the Teeming Millions has the answer.


“I had a feeling that in Hell there would be mushrooms.” -The Secret of Monkey Island

I think the affliction you speak of is that thing Michael Jackson has. I don’t remember the name of it.

Melanocytes occur only in the top layer of skin, the epidermis. They comprise about 5 percent of epidermal cells, and they manufacture and distribute melanin, the protein that adds pigment to skin and protects the body from ultraviolet rays. Skin color is determined by the amount of protein produced by these cells, not by the number of melanocytes, which is fairly constant in all races.

Skin “thickness” has nothing to do with it.

The skin condition that results in patchy areas with less melanin than surrounding areas is called vitiligo (vit uh LYE go). It is an auto-immune condition - the immune system fails to recognize that some protein in the melanocytes is “self” and makes antibodies against it that attack & destroy the melanocytes. I’m an Army doc; my patients understand the term friendly fire all too well, and I use that to explain auto-immunity.

Vitiligo does not afffect only dark-skinned people, but it is much more noticeable in them than in most Caucasians. Treatment depends on how much area is affected, and whether the condition has gone on long enough to be irreversible (many auto-immune diseases come & go). For small areas dark make-up or tattooing are options; for very large areas, it may be easier to bleach the surrounding skin to match.


Sue from El Paso
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