Cysteamine in Skin Care

Cysteamine is a new cosmeceutical ingredient used in skin lightening products.

It is relatively new ingredient used to lighten dark spots because for years the compound was considered too unstable to last on shelves before turning rancid.

New processes have been developed which prevent degradation and enable this ingredient's use in modern skin care. (4,5)

Cysteamine is great for treating dark spots and preventing sun damage, but it isn't perfect for every skin type. It is a tyrosinase inhibitor.

Cysteamine is the simplest compound in the aminothiol Family. It is naturally present in the body.

Aminothiols are used as protective ingredients against radiation.

It can be found in many mammal tissues, but is found in highest natural concentrations in mammal milk.(3)

To make sure cysteamine is right for your skin, shop by your Baumann Skin Type!


The primary benefit of cysteamine is that it is much safer as a skin lightener than hydroquinone with comparable efficacy.

Other skin lighteners such as kojic acid are a little less irritating to skin, but also less effective.

Because it also absorbs radiation, this ingredient may help prevent sun burns and sun damage when used in combination with sunscreen.

Which skin types should use Cysteamine?

Skin types that are not sensitive to inflammation are good candidates for this potent skin lightening ingredient. That being said, not all skin types require a lightening ingredient in their regimen. The skin types that we think this ingredient is best for are:

  • Skin type 9: ORPT
  • Skin type 11: ORPW
  • Skin type 13: DRPT
  • Skin type 15: DRPW

Basically, if your skin is resistant to inflammation and also has irregular pigmentation, cysteamine is a great choice for you.

Which skin types should avoid cysteamine?

In general, the skin types that should avoid cysteamine are those prone to inflammation. Inflammation can lead to subsequent conditions like post inflammatory hyperpigmentation, redness, or stinging in general.

If your skin type has sensitivity and inflammation as one of their barriers to skin health, you should avoid this ingredient. If you use an anti-inflammatory alongside cysteamine, however, there is less risk of inflammation even for sensitive types.

In particular, we advise the following skin types to consider skin lighteners with less abrasive sensations if they do not also have anti-inflammatories:

  • Skin type 1: DSPT
  • Skin type 2: DSNT
  • Skin type 3: DSPW
  • Skin type 4: DSNW
  • Skin type 5: OSPT
  • Skin type 6: OSNT
  • Skin type 7: OSPW
  • Skin type 8: OSNW

This is to say that sensitive skin types, whether they are pigmented or not, are not always the best candidates for cysteamine in their custom regimens.

Side effects

There are a few common short term side effects from using cysteamine products, but none of them are true threats to your skin health.

It is common to experience mild redness and stinging for about 30 minutes; this is completely normal and safe during the first few days of treatment.

If continued use of cysteamine products is irritating your skin, consider layering an anti-inflammatory product on top.

No studies surrounding usage while pregnant or breast-feeding have been done, so it is recommended to avoid products containing this ingredient under those conditions until research is produced.

If you are pregnant, there are multiple effective and proven safe treatments for hyperpigmentation conditions like melasma.

This ingredient is also worth avoiding if you have vitiligo, as the treatments for vitiligo involve producing more melanin, not inhibiting pigment production with tyrosinase inhibitors.

Is cysteamine safe?

It is considered completely safe for use in skin care as long as it is used properly within your custom skin care regimen!

The EWG rating for cysteamine is "1" which means there are no commonly associated risks or concerns with this ingredient.

Many studies on this ingredient have found it to be a safe alternative to the controversial hydroquinone, which itself has a few associated risks.(7)

As a naturally occurring compound in the human body, cysteamine is entirely non-toxic and safe to use depending on your skin concerns.

cysteamine for hyperpigmentation

For hyperpigmentation

Cysteamine is an effective skin lightening ingredient which is more easily absorbed by the human body than competing skin lighteners.It is a potent tyrosinase inhibitor.

It becomes increasingly common as a skin lightening ingredient every year as more research comes out to support its efficacy.(5)

It is considered the most effective natural compound for the treatment of melasma.

Unlike other skin lighteners like hydroquinone, this ingredient is free of many common concerns having to do with mutagenicity or carcinogenicity.

In fact, it has demonstrated anti-carcinogenic and anti-mutagenic properties. (3)

Despite its effectiveness, some people find the irritating initial feeling of cysteamine uncomfortable.

You may get faster results if you combine cysteamine together with some of these other skin lighteners:

Cysteamine Products

Here are some of our favorite skin lightening products featuring cysteamine as a main ingredient:

Level up your skin care knowledge with medical advice from dermatologists

How does cysteamine lighten skin?

Cysteamine inhibits the tyrosinase receptor, stopping the production of melanin filled keratinocytes at the source.

Is cysteamine expensive?

Depending on the product, cysteamine can actually be quite affordable. On this page, you can find a few cysteamine options for under $30!

Here are some of the best references on cysteamine in skin care:

  1. Mansouri, P.; Farshi, S.; Hashemi, Z.; Kasraee, B. (July 2015)."Evaluation of the efficacy of cysteamine 5% cream in the treatment of epidermal melasma: a randomized double-blind placebo controlled trial". The British Journal of Dermatology. 173 (1): 209–217.
  2. Farshi, Susan; Mansouri, Parvin; Kasraee, Behrooz (2017-07-26)."Efficacy of cysteamine cream in the treatment of epidermal melasma, evaluating by Dermacatch as a new measurement method: a randomized double blind placebo controlled study". The Journal of Dermatological Treatment: 1–8.
  3. Besouw, Martine; Masereeuw, Rosalinde; van den Heuvel, Lambert; Levtchenko, Elena (August 2013). "Cysteamine: an old drug with new potential". Drug Discovery Today. 18 (15-16): 785–792.
  4. Chavin, W.; Schlesinger, W. (August 1966). "Some potent melanin depigmentary agents in the black goldfish". Die Naturwissenschaften. 53(16): 413–414.

  5. Qiu L, Zhang M, Sturm RA, Gardiner B, Tonks I, Kay G, Parsons PG. Inhibition of melanin synthesis by cysteamine in human melanoma cells. J Invest Dermatol. 2000 Jan;114(1):21-7.

  6. Kasraee B. "Deodorized cysteamine* as a depigmenting agent for the treatment of melasma." Pigment Cell Melanoma Research. 2017;30:e27– e137

  7. Hsu C. et al. "Cysteamine cream as a new skin depigmenting product." Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (2013) 68:4-1 AB189

  8. Goorochurn R. "Cysteamine as the new treatment of human hyperpigmentation disorders", EADV 2017, September 2017

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