Skin Lightening Agents


Great looking, clear skin is everyone’s desire, some are lucky to be born with great skin and some aren’t so lucky. Hyperpigmentation and skin darkening is a major concern, specifically if they occur on the face and other uncovered parts of the body. Several studies have been done to find effective ways to treat hyperpigmentation disorders and lighten the skin tone. Apart from healthy diet, good sleep and proper skin care, skin lightening products give you the best chance possible to reduce the appearance of pigmentation and lighten the skin.

There are several skin whitening agents that act at different levels of melanin production in the skin. Some of them work by inhibiting tyrosinase activity, whereas some stop the synthesis of tyrosinase in the first place. Let us have a look at the most commonly used skin whitening agents in various skin lightening products.


Arbutin is a natural derivative of hydroquinone. This botanical compound is found in certain plants species, such as bearberry, blueberries, wheat, pears and cranberries. It works by slow and controlled release of hydroquinone, which further helps in inhibiting tyrosinase activity. This inhibits the synthesis of pigment melanin. It is a safe skin lightening agent, and does not have toxicity, unpleasant odor or side effects.

Kojic acid-

It is a fungal metabolite, which is extracted from several species of fungus such as Aspergillus, Acetobacter and Penicillin. It lightens the skin by inhibiting the catecholase activity of tyrosinase. It also contains antioxidant properties and works as a free radical scavenger. It is used in a 1-4 percent cream base, either in combination with hydroquinone, corticosteroid or tretinoin. This decreases the irritation of the skin.


Retinoids or retinoils are derivatives of vitamin A. Retinoids help in lightening the skin tone by inhibiting the induction of tyrosinase and accelerating epidermal cell turnover. Retinol helps to renew or exfoliate the skin, thereby removing old cells and giving a new lighter, beautiful skin. They are most commonly used to treat acne, photodamage and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. They enhance the penetration action when formulated with other skin lightening agents.


This derivative of vitamin B3 (niacin) is found in many plants and vegetables. It contains antioxidant properties and participates in various enzymatic reactions in the body. Topical niacinamide improves the appearance of photoaging facial skin and slows down cutaneous pigmentation. According to research, niacinamide has no action on tyrosinase activity. The actual action by which it improves hyperpigmentation and skin lightening is still not confirmed.

Vitamin C-

Vitamin C, a water soluble vitamin has a wide variety of roles in human health. This naturally occurring anti-oxidant plays a vital role in maintaining the health and beauty of skin. Vitamin C works by interfering with synthesis of melanin pigment. It enhances the production of collagen, one of the most important protein that keeps your skin younger looking and beautiful. Due to its anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and photo-protective properties, vitamin C is a great skin lightening agent used in several skin products. It is formulated with other skin lightening agents.


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