Skin Lightening Ingredient Dictionary

What are Skin Lightening Ingredients in Skin Care?

Looking for a list of skin lightening ingredients? This is a complete glossary of skin lightening, brightening, and whitening ingredients.

These skin lightening ingredients can be used in skin care products to lighten skin. Many of them are natural and clean, but not all. Click on the skin lightening ingredient name to go to a blog to learn more about that brightening ingredient.

Most skin whitening products combine different types of ingredients from this list.  It is best to combine skin lightening ingredients from different categories together in your skin care routine to treat melasma and hyperpigmentation.

Look below for categories of skin lightening ingredients and an alphabetical list of ingredients used to lighten skin and erase dark spots.

What is the most effective skin lightening ingredient in skin care?

Hydroquinone is the most effective skin lightening ingredient to decrease melanin pigment production.

However, due to safety concerns, hydroquinone is now only available by prescription.

These are the top 10 tyrosinase inhibiting skin lightening ingredients to lighten dark spots on the skin.

  1. Arbutin
  2. Artemisia Capillaris
  3. Bilberry extract
  4. Cysteamine
  5. Hexylresorcinol
  6. Hydroquinone
  7. Kojic Acid
  8. Licorice extract
  9. Resorcinol
  10. Tranexamic acid

Niacinamide is also a wonderful ingredient to lighten skin, but it is not a tyrosinase inhibitor like the skin lightening ingredients on the above top 10 list. Niacinamide is an anti-inflammatory ingredients an a PAR-2 blocker.

What Skin Conditions Do Skin Lightening Ingredients Treat?

Skin lightening ingredients treat melasma, dyschromia, post inflammatory hyperpigmentation, and dark spots.

Skin whitening, lightening, brightening, or skin bleaching ingredients work best when different categories of ingredients that target the skin pigment melanin are used together in the same skin care routine.

Categories of Skin Lightening Ingredients:

You should choose an ingredient from at least 3 of these categories to include in your skin care routine to treat melasma or to treat hyperpigmentation.

Anti-Inflammatory Ingredients

Antioxidant Ingredients


PAR-2 Blockers



Tyrosinase Inhibitors


Combining cosmeceutical ingredients from this list of categories of skin lightening ingredients below will help you to achieve the fastest results.

The best skin care routines for skin lightening have these ingredient types:

  1. An anti-inflammatory
  2. A PAR-2 blocker
  3. A tyrosinase inhibitor
  4. A retinoid

The prescription medication for melasma called Tri-Luma® is an example of a melasma cream that contains ingredients from 3 different skin lightening categories.

It has an anti-inflammatory corticosteroid, a tyrosinase inhibitor, and a retinoid. Dermatologists call this a Triple Combination Cream and it is the gold standard of prescription melasma creams.

You can combine ingredients from different classes of skin lighteners in your routine to mimic this triple combination cream.  Just make sure you have at least 3 of the categories above in your routine and that he products all increase the effectiveness of each other.

We can help!

List of Skin Brightening and Lightening Ingredients in Alphabetical Order:

Click on each ingredient to learn more about the science of the skin brightening ingredient and how it works to treat hyperpigmentation.

Aloesin- an extract of aloe

Arbutin - Alpha and Beta Arbutin

Artemisia capillaris flower extract

Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)

Azelaic Acid- Also exfoliates because it has a low pH like hydroxy acids do.

Corticosteroid (Hydrocortisone, Fluocinolone)



Ferulic Acid

Glabridin (Licorice Extract)

Green Tea Extract



Hydroxy Acids

Kojic Acid

Mulberry Extract

Niacinamide ( Vitamin B3)

Pentasodium Tetracarboxymethyl Dipeptide-51

Phenylethyl Resorcinol

Polyhydroxy Acids




Saururus Chinensis

Tranexamic Acid

Note: these lists will be continuously updated as more dark spot treatments are discovered.

Safe and Clean Skin Lightening Ingredients

There are many safe, clean and natural skin lightening ingredients. To learn more about the safety of ingredients and if they meet clean beauty standards. click on the skin brightening ingredient in the alphabetized list to learn more about it.

Here are examples of safe and clean skin lightening ingredients:

  1. Artemisia Capillaris
  2. Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)
  3. Bilberry extract
  4. Cysteamine
  5. Licorice extract
  6. Niacinamide

What is the purpose of skin lightening products?

Skin lightening ingredients lighten dark spots on the skin caused by an increase in skin pigment.

These skin conditions will benefit from skin lightening ingredients:

What is the most effective way to lighten the skin?

The goal is not to whiten your skin but to lighten the dark spots so that your complexion and skin color is the same all over your face. Tis is particularly important when treating dark spots on black skin.

Skin lightening ingredients can inactivate each other and the moisturizer and cleanser you choose affect how well skin lightening ingredients work. Every product in your routine matters!

It can take 8-16 weeks for dark spots on the skin to improve.

To build an effective hyperpigmentation skin care routine you should choose products according to what your Baumann Skin Type.

It is complicated to make a skin care routine for hyperpigmentation, so let us help you design the best skin care routine for your skin type.

How to find the best skin lightening ingredient for your skin?

You can choose skin lightening products based on which skin lightening ingredients they have.  But it is complicated to combine then so that you maximize effectiveness. This is because these ingredients can inactivate each other. You need to combine them correctly.

You also need to choose a moisturizer like Zerafite Brightening Barrier Cream that has unsaturated fatty acids which help your skin lightening ingredients work better.

It is much better if you take the skin care routine quiz and let us help you build a custom skin routine for your Baumann Skin Type.

Skin Care Products with skin lightening ingredients for Dry Skin:

Skin Care Products with Skin Lightening Ingredients for Oily Skin:

Best Skin Lightening Products

Best skin lightening products with niacinamide

Best skin lightening products with kojic acid

Allantoin for Skin Whitening

Allantoin is not the best natural skin lightening ingredient.  It is mostly an anti-inflammatory ingredient that helps prevent skin pigmentation.  

You can find it in many melasma skincare products.

Oils to Lighten Skin

Oils that have a large amount of unsaturated fatty acids can inhibit tyrosinase.  So make sure your face cream has these oils or unsaturated fatty acids when you want to brighten skin.

Oils with unsaturated fatty acids:

How to find the best skin lightening ingredients for your skin type?

  • Diagnose your Baumann Skin Type
  • Get a step by step skin care routine
  • Choose products from many brands for each step


Using a custom skin lightening routine for your skin type is the best way to combine different skin lighteners in a skin care routine.

So make sure you shop for skin lightening products using your Baumann Skin Type!


(You can also read product reviews of skin lightening products from others with your same skin type.  Watch for your colored skin type octagon in the reviews).


Best references and evidence based publications about skin lightening ingredients:

  1. Baumann L. Ch. 32-45 Cosmeceuticals and Cosmetic Ingredients (McGraw Hill 2015)
  2. Baumann L. Ch. 41 Baumann's Cosmetic Dermatology 3rd Edition (McGraw Hill 2022)
  3. Guevara IL, Pandya AG. Melasma treated with hydroquinone, tretinoin and a fluorinated steroid. Int J Dermatol. 2001;40:212.
  4. DeCaprio AP. The toxicology of hydroquinone—relevance to occupational and environmental exposure. Crit Rev Toxicol. 1999;29:283.
  5. Penney KB, Smith CJ, Allen JC. Depigmenting action of hydroquinone depends on disruption of fundamental cell processes. J Invest Dermatol. 1984;82:308.
  6. Nordlund JJ, Grimes PE, Ortonne JP. The safety of hydroquinone. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venerol. 2006;20:781.
  7. Jones K, Hughes J, Hong M, et al. Modulation of melanogenesis by aloesin: a competitive inhibitor of tyrosinase. Pigment Cell Res. 2002;15: 335.
  8. Maeda K, Fukuda M. Arbutin: mechanism of its depigmenting action in human melanocyte culture. J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 1996;276:765.
  9. Nakajima M, Shinoda I, Fukuwatari Y, et al. Arbutin increases the pigmentation of cultured human melanocytes through mechanisms other than the induction of tyrosinase activity. Pigment Cell Res. 1998;11:12.
  10. Boissy RE, Visscher M, DeLong MA. DeoxyArbutin: a novel reversible tyrosinase inhibitor with effective in vivo skin lightening potency. Exp Dermatol. 2005;14:601.
  11. Solano F, Briganti S, Picardo M, et al. Hypopigmenting agents: an updated review on biological, chemical and clinical aspects. Pigment Cell Res. 2006; 19:550.
  12. Kim YJ, Uyama H. Tyrosinase inhibitors from natural and synthetic sources: structure, inhibition mechanism and perspective for the future. Cell Mol Life Sci. 2005;62:1707.
  13. Hira Y, Hatae S, Inoue T, et al. Inhibitory effects of kojic acid on melanin formation. In vitro and in vivo studies in black goldfish. J Jpn Cosmet Sci Soc. 1982;6:193.

Comments 0

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published

    1 out of ...