To investigate the physiological functions of polyphenols from acerola (Malpighia emarginata DC.) fruit, the effects on melanogenesis were studied. The crude polyphenol concentrated extract from acerola (C-AP) was used to examine the skin-lightening effect on brownish guinea pigs which had been subjected to controlled UVB irradiation. The results show that C-AP significantly lightened the UVB-irradiated skin pigmentation. Furthermore, treatment with C-AP reduced the content of melanin in B16 melanoma cells, suggesting that the in vivo skin-lightening effect of C-AP was due to the suppression of melanin biosynthesis in melanocytes. In addition, we found that C-AP could effectively inhibit mushroom tyrosinase activity, the main constituents responsible for this effect being thought to be such anthocyanins as cyanidin-3-alpha-O-rhamnoside (C3R) and pelargonidin-3-alpha-O-rhamnoside (P3R). This result indicates that the skin-lightening effect of C-AP can be partly attributed to the suppression of melanogenesis through the inhibition of tyrosinase activity in melanocytes. An oral ingestion of C-AP may therefore be efficacious for reducing UVB-induced hyper-pigmentation by inhibiting the tyrosinase in melanocytes.