The effects of all-trans retinoic acid (RA) on melanogenesis and the mechanism of its action in topical treatment have not been elucidated. The purpose of this study was to determine the effects of RA on melanogenesis in the pigmented skin equivalent as well as in monolayer culture of melanocytes, and to determine whether RA, hydroquinone (HQ), and hydrocortisone (HC) show synergistic depigmenting effects in combined treatments of each other. The suppressing effect of RA on melanogenesis was not observed in pigmented skin equivalents and monolayer culture of murine and human melanocytes, although HQ showed strong inhibition of melanogenesis. The synergistic effects between RA, HQ, and HC were not particularly seen. The results suggested that RA neither has direct inhibitory effects on melanogenesis of melanocytes, nor influences the cell-cell interactions between melanocytes, keratinocytes and fibroblasts, such as paracrine actions with regard to melanin production. The role of RA in bleaching treatments appears to be in other specific actions, such as promotion of keratinocytes proliferation and acceleration of epidermal turnover.