Melanocytes are mainly found in the epidermis of the skin, although they also occur in the matrix of the hair. They are found in birds and mammals.
A melanocyte is a skin cell which produces the pigment melanin, which darkens skin. They are dendritic, or branched, cells that use their dendrites to transfer melanin granules to adjacent epidermal cells. Melanin can be either dark brown eumelanin, or pale red/yellow phaeomelanin. Both are formed inside melanocytes by the oxidation of the amino acid tyrosine, using the enzyme tyrosinase. Conditions such as vitiligo, albinism and phenylketonuria are caused by problems within the melanocyte.