How We Get Our Skin Color
This animation describes how skin color is generated by skin cells as protection against ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
The animation briefly explains the basic structure of the skin, then concentrates on the part of the skin responsible for developing skin color. Students learn about the functions of melanocytes, an important type of cell that produces the color pigment melanin. The animation also explores the biological basis of variation in skin color, and how it is related to melanin, vitamin D synthesis, and protection against the harmful effects of UV radiation, which has important implications for health.
Depending on students’ background, it may be helpful to pause the animation at various points to discuss different cell types and structures.
adaptation, folate, keratinocyte, melanin, melanocyte, pigmentation, ultraviolet (UV) radiation, vitamin D
Jablonski, Nina G. “The Evolution of Human Skin and Skin Color.” Annual Review of Anthropology 33, 1 (2004): 585–623. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.anthro.33.070203.143955.
The resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International license. No rights are granted to use HHMI’s or BioInteractive’s names or logos independent from this Resource or in any derivative works.
Accessibility Level (WCAG compliance)
HS-LS3.A, HS-LS3.B, HS-LS4.A, HS-LS4.C
AP Biology (2019)
EVO-1, EVO-3, IST-1, IST-2, IST-4, SYI-3
IB Biology (2016)
1.2, 2.6, 3.4, 5.1, 10.2
AP Environmental Science (2020)
Topic(s): 2.6, 9.1, 4.7
IB Environmental Systems and Societies (2017)
Common Core (2010)
Vision and Change (2009)