Skin-lightening products revisited

Int J Cosmet Sci. 2003 Aug;25(4):169-81. doi: 10.1046/j.1467-2494.2003.00182.x.


Skin colour typology depends on the amount and location of its chromophores. Among them, eumelanins derived from 5,6-dihydroxyindole-2-carboxylic acid (DHICA) and 5,6-dihydroxyindole (DHI), and phaeomelanins are of utmost importance. These biomolecules result from the multi-step enzymatic and non-enzymatic conversion of tyrosine into melanins. Pigmentation disorders are multiple and depend on alterations in the density in active melanocytes, and on specific abnormalities of any of the complex melanogenesis mechanisms. This review presents some of the main skin-lightening agents with respect to their mechanisms of action and side-effects. Some of the novel compounds may lead to new perspectives in the fields of dermatology and cosmetology. The methods commonly used to assess efficacy of skin-lightening products rely on in vitro models including cell-free enzymatic assays, melanocyte cultures and reconstructed epidermis bioassays. Animal models have little relevance. By contrast, human testing with the support of instrumental evaluations is the most informative.