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Melanin is a pigment produced by cells in the skin that gives your skin a tanned look. The skin cells that produce the melanin are called melanocytes. Everybody has the same number of melanocyte cells, but not everybody's melanocyte cells produce the same amount of melanin. Melanocytes ramp up production of melanin in response to exposure to ultraviolet light, which is emitted from the sun, from indoor tanning bed lamps, and other consumer and commercial devices.