The characteristic absorption and photochemical properties of pheomelanins are generally attributed to “benzothiazine” structural units derived biogenetically from 5-S-cysteinyldopa. This notion, however, conveys little or no information about the structural chromophores responsible for the photoreactivity of pheomelanins. At pH 7.4, natural and synthetic pheomelanins show a defined maximum around 305 nm, which is not affected by reductive treatment with sodium borohydride, and a monotonic decrease in the absorption in the range 350–550 nm. These features are not compatible with a significant proportion of structural units related to 2H-1,4-benzothiazine and 2H-1,4-benzothiazine-3-carboxylic acid, the early borohydride-reducible pheomelanin precursors featuring absorption maxima above 340 nm. Rather, these features would better accommodate a contribution by the nonreducible 3-oxo-3,4-dihydrobenzothiazine (λmax 299 nm) and benzothiazole (λmax 303 nm) structural motifs, which are generated in the later stages of pheomelanogenesis in vitro. This conclusion is supported by a detailed liquid chromatography/UV and mass spectrometry monitoring of the species formed in the oxidative conversion of 5-S-cysteinyldopa to pheomelanin, and would point to a critical reassessment of the commonly reported “benzothiazine” chromophore in terms of more specific and substantiated structural units, like those formed during the later stages of pheomelanin synthesis in vitro.