Under ultraviolet and visible light excitation, melanin is essentially a nonfluorescent substance. This work reports our study on near-infrared (NIR) fluorescence properties of melanins, and explores potential applications of NIR fluorescence techniques for evaluating skin disorders involving melanin. The NIR fluorescence spectrum is obtained using a fiber optic NIR spectrometer under 785-nm laser excitation. In vitro measurements are performed on synthetic dihydroxyphenylalanine (DOPA) melanin, melanin extracted from Sepia ink sacs, human hair, animal fur, and bird feathers. Paired spectral comparisons of white and black skin appendages show that melanization of hair, fur, or feathers more than doubles the NIR fluorescence. In vivo NIR autofluorescence of normal dorsal and volar forearm skin of 52 volunteers is measured. Dorsal forearm skin, which is darker than volar skin, exhibits significantly greater NIR fluorescence. Patients with vitiligo , compound nevus , nevus of Ota , superficial spreading melanoma , and postinflammatory hyperpigmentation are also evaluated. NIR fluorescence is greater within the lesion than the surrounding normal skin for all these conditions except vitiligo, where the converse was true. The observed melanin NIR fluorescence provides a new approach to in vitro and in vivo melanin detection and quantification that may be particularly useful for evaluating pigmented skin lesions.