This study was conducted to determine whether saponified evening primrose oil (sap-EPO) has the potential for use as a whitening agent and to investigate its underlying mechanisms of action. In B16 melanoma cells, sap-EPO dose-dependently inhibited isobutylmethylxanthine-induced melanogenesis with no cytotoxicity. This decrease in melanin production was correlated with reduced enzyme activity and decreased mRNA and protein levels of tyrosinase. The mRNA levels of tyrosinase-related proteins 1 and 2 decreased in response to treatment with sap-EPO, indicating that it regulated tyrosinase at the transcriptional level. Expression of microphthalmia-associated transcription factor was also decreased by sap-EPO as evidenced by decreased mRNA and protein levels. Additionally, topical application of sap-EPO resulted in efficient whitening of UVB-induced hyperpigmentation of human skin. Taken together, these results suggest that sap-EPO has the potential for use as a cosmetic whitening agent.