The melanogenesis and mechanisms of skin-lightening agents--existing and new approaches

Int J Cosmet Sci. 2011 Jun;33(3):210-21. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2494.2010.00616.x. Epub 2011 Jan 25.


Skin-lightening products are commercially available for cosmetic purposes to obtain lighter skin complexion. Clinically, they are also used for treatment of hyperpigmentary disorders such as melasma, café au lait spot and solar lentigo. All of these target naturally melanin production, and many of the commonly used agents are known as competitive inhibitors of tyrosinase, one of the key enzymes in melanogenesis. In this review, we present an overview of commonly used skin-whitening ingredients that are commercialized, but we also hypothesize on other mechanisms that could be important targets to control skin pigmentation such as for example regulation of the adrenergic and glutaminergic signalling and also control of tetrahydrobiopterins in the human skin.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Dermatologic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Dermatologic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Hyperpigmentation / drug therapy*
  • Melanins / biosynthesis*
  • Melanosomes / drug effects
  • Melanosomes / metabolism
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase / metabolism
  • Skin Pigmentation / drug effects
  • Skin Pigmentation / physiology*


  • Dermatologic Agents
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Melanins
  • Monophenol Monooxygenase