How can you increase the pheomelanin production in your body, while decreasing the eumelanin production? In other words, shifting the balance towards pheomelanin.

From what I see, sulfur and cysteine can help with this. MSM and glutathione caps can be a good way to do this, since these are used for skin lightening.

But is there another way? Something more scientific? Like deactivating the MC1R? Is that even possible?

Thank you!


Since Eumelanin is the protective form of melanin and there is some research available that Pheomelanin contributes to the generation of reactive oxygen species which are harmful to the cell (see reference 1, which contains a lot of further references on this topic), I don't see any reason to do so, but ok. Additionally removing Eumelanin from your skin will lead to a higher risk for skin cancers as Melanoma. Let's think through this:

If we look at the biosynthesis pathway of the Melanins, they both start with the same two reactions (see the figure from here):

Melanin biosynthesis pathway

The routs parts at the DOPAquinone, which in the presence of Gluthathione or Cysteine goes into the pheomelanin direction. The concentration of Cysteine available to the cell needs to be higher than 0,76 µM (see references 2 and 3 for details), otherwise the reaction goes exclusively into the Eumelanin direction.

There are some skin whitening (or better lightening) products available which contain L-Cysteine or GSH. This will work to some extend, but once the level drops enough, the ratio will shift back to the more natural ratio between Eumelanin and Pheomelanin. There is also no data available on the risks of doing this, so I would strongly advocate against it. See the review in reference 4 for details and additional references on this topic.

If you now think, ok, taking some pills is enough, I would call this a false hope, since this process is highly regulated. This happens on one part through external signaling through the MC1R receptor (which as you already mentioned is of importance here) and also through the availability of key enzymes in the process as well as stability of them and their regulation.

Signaling through the MC1R receptor is highly important for pigmentation and also the amount of enzymes available (the transcription factor MITF is regulated by it). If the signaling is strong, the cysteine storage is soon depleted bringing on the production of Eumelanin. If this signaling is weak this will not happen and the production of pheomelanin is favoured. Mutations in MC1R are the reason for people having red hair and and fair skin. See reference 5 and 6.

Interfering with the signaling cascade which is activated by MC1R is certainly not a good idea either, since this will interfere with other processes in the cell as well. These pathways are also disregulated in cancers, so I would not touch these.

Summarizing I think there will only be a way of influencing this by taking some supplements, but how safe this is, is unknown. All the other possible ways are certainly more dangerous.


  1. How does pheomelanin synthesis contribute to melanomagenesis?: Two distinct mechanisms could explain the carcinogenicity of pheomelanin synthesis.
  2. Rate constants for the first two chemical steps of eumelanogenesis.
  3. Chemistry of mixed melanogenesis--pivotal roles of dopaquinone.
  4. Systemic skin whitening/lightening agents: What is the evidence?
  5. UV signaling pathways within the skin
  6. The melanocortin-1 receptor: red hair and beyond.
| improve this answer | |
  • $\begingroup$ Thanks for clearing that up!That figure surely makes things more simple.So basically the only effective solution would be interfering with the MC1R signalling.I am not talking about completely screwing it up,but making it slightly/moderately less effective.IN THEORY,how can this be done? About supplements:what would you consider effective?Vitamin C,glutathione and MSM?Or basically any form of cysteine and sulfur? My main goal is to reduce brown/black (eu)melanin and the best way to accomplish this seems by increasing/shifting towards pheomelanin production. $\endgroup$ – amateur_at_science Feb 2 '16 at 20:25
  • $\begingroup$ But I have found other approaches as well.One main approach which stood out to me is inhibiting the tyrosinase activity.For this there is a list of tyrosinase inhibitors,but two stood out to me especially: ZINC SULPHATE and CAPTOPRIL.I will attach links to the studies.What do you think about this approach of reducing (eu)melanin? And the third approach I came across was directly inhibiting melanogenesis.Messing with MSH by using MSH inhibiting drugs/supplements,like melanostatin or resveratrol. What do you think,which one of these is the most effective,and respectively the safest? $\endgroup$ – amateur_at_science Feb 2 '16 at 20:31
  • $\begingroup$ The links:Zinc sulphate: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16792750 Captopril & other tyrosinase inhibitors: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2705500 MSH inhibitor: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melanocyte-inhibiting_factor alpha-MSH inhibitor: hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2013/632121 As you can see,I have done a little bit of research on this,but there is quite a mess in my head since I don't know which route would be more effective.I am looking for OVERALL reduction of black/brown (eu)melanin,and I don't care if this is achieved by pheomelanin increase or other ways $\endgroup$ – amateur_at_science Feb 2 '16 at 20:38
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ It sounds like you're planning to experiment on yourself. This community is not for medical advice, although I'd strongly advise against self-experimentation. $\endgroup$ – Luigi May 3 '16 at 17:41
  • $\begingroup$ Also, the second two papers from your comment are from publishers accused/suspected of predatory or unscrupulous publishing (MDPI, Hindawi). Frankly I don't know anything about the science in these two papers but that was an immediate red flag for me when I opened them. $\endgroup$ – Luigi May 3 '16 at 17:50

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.