Effects of vitamin C vs. multivitamin on melanogenesis: comparative study in vitro and in vivo

Int J Dermatol. 2010 Feb;49(2):218-26. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-4632.2009.04336.x.


Background: Vitamin C has been used for the treatment of hyperpigmented diseases. However, there is no study available on hypopigmenting effect of multivitamin.

Objectives: To investigate the inhibitory effects of multivitamin and vitamin C on melanogenesis.

Methods: We assessed the effect of multivitamin and vitamin C on cell viability, melanogenesis, and mushroom tyrosinase. The antioxidant activity of multivitamin and vitamin C was measured. We performed the Western blot analysis to study the effect of multivitamin and vitamin C on the expression of tyrosinase, microphthalmia-associated transcription factor (MITF), extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK), and Akt/protein kinase B. In a clinical trial, 20 melasma patients were treated with split face iontophoresis using either multivitamin or vitamin C. We evaluated the hypopigmenting effects of multivitamin and vitamin C through colorimetric measurement.

Results: Both vitamin C and multivitamin inhibited melanogenesis with low cytotoxicity. Multivitamin reduced melanin contents greater than vitamin C. However, the effects of vitamin C are greater than those of multivitamin on mushroom tyrosinase inhibition and antioxidation. In the Western blot, the reduced tyrosinase expression and MITF level were observed only in multivitamin-treated group, and not in vitamin C-treated group. No changes of ERK and Akt activation were observed in both multivitamin and vitamin C-treated groups. After 12 weeks of treatment with iontophoresis, both multivitamin and vitamin C were effective for melasma.

Conclusions: Multivitamin has shown more anti-melanogenic effect than vitamin C via the downregulation of MITF.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ascorbic Acid / pharmacology*
  • Ascorbic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Blotting, Western
  • Cells, Cultured
  • Colorimetry
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Free Radicals / metabolism
  • Humans
  • In Vitro Techniques
  • Iontophoresis / methods
  • Melanins / metabolism*
  • Melanocytes / drug effects*
  • Melanosis / drug therapy*
  • Melanosis / physiopathology
  • Mice
  • Microphthalmia-Associated Transcription Factor / metabolism
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase / metabolism
  • Reference Values
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Vitamins / pharmacology*
  • Vitamins / therapeutic use


  • Free Radicals
  • Melanins
  • Microphthalmia-Associated Transcription Factor
  • Vitamins
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase
  • Ascorbic Acid