Abstract Background Melanocytes are derived from neural crest stem cells in the embryonic stage. In mature melanocytes, a series of complex enzyme-catalyzed reactions leads to the production of melanins, which determine the hair and skin colors of animals. The process of melanogenesis is complex and can be regulated by mRNA, microRNAs (miRNAs) and long noncoding RNAs (lncRNAs) genes. MiRNAs are a type of endogenous noncoding RNA approximately 22 nt in size that predominantly regulate gene expression by inhibiting translation. miR-380-3p is a candidate miRNA potentially related to melanogenesis. To better understand the mechanism of miR-380-3p melanogenesis regulation, plasmids to overexpress or knockdown miR-380-3p were transfected into alpaca melanocytes, and their effects on melanogenesis were evaluated. Results In situ hybridization identified a positive miR-380-3p signal in alpaca melanocyte cytoplasm. Luciferase activity assays confirmed that SOX6 is targeted by miR-380-3p. miR-380-3p overexpression and knockdown in alpaca melanocytes respectively downregulated and upregulated SOX6 expression at the mRNA and protein levels. Additionally, miR-380-3p overexpression and knockdown, respectively, in alpaca melanocytes decreased and increased the mRNA levels of melanin transfer-related genes, including microphthalmia-associated transcription factor (MITF), tyrosinase (TYR), tyrosine-related protein-1 (TYRP1), and dopachrome tautomerase (DCT). In contrast, miR-380-3p overexpression and knockdown respectively increased and decreased the mRNA levels of β-catenin. Additionally, the effect of miR-380-3p on melanogenesis was assessed by Masson-Fontana melanin staining. Conclusions The results demonstrated that miR-380-3p targeted SOX6 to regulate melanogenesis by influencing β-catenin and MITF transcription and translation, which reduced the expression of downstream genes, including TYR, TYRP1, and DCT. These results provide insights into the mechanisms through which miR-380-3p controls melanogenesis.