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It has to do with the way the pigment organelles, or melanosomes, within the skin cells are distributed. In the skin cells of most of the body (glabrous skin), the melanosomes are all basically separate, while in skin cells of the palms and soles (volar skin), the melanosomes tend to form into complexes-basically just groups of previously ordinary melanosomes all enveloped in another membrane. Something about the way these groups operate, or simply something about the way they appear on a macroscopic level, is different from the way individual, ungrouped melanosomes are, leading to lighter colours.

This same difference in colour actually occurs in Caucasian people as well as Africans and African-Americans, but because Caucasian people tend to have mostly these grouped melanosomes in both types of skin instead of having only free-floating pigment bags in the glabrous skin, the difference in colour between their palms and the rest of their skin is much subtler.

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Q: Why are Africans and African-Americans' palms much lighter in color than the rest of their bodies?
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