Tyrosinase Inhibitors To Lighten Skin

tyrosinase melanin production

The best skin-lightening products use ingredients known as tyrosinase inhibitors. These skin lightening products block the production of melanin and are used to treat uneven skin tone. Before we discuss skincare ingredients with tyrosinase inhibitors to even the skin tone, let's discuss how skin pigment is made.

Skin color is mostly caused by a skin pigment called melanin. There are two types of melanin:

  • Eumelanin- dark brown or black skin pigment

  • Pheomelanin- reddish-yellow skin pigment

Both types of melanin are made from tyrosine and L-Dopa. Pheomelanin requires the presence of cysteine, eumelanin does not.  When you have excess levels of cysteine, more pheomelanin is made.  Redheads have defects in the gene that makes eumelanin which is why redheads have light skin.

As seen in the diagram, tyrosinase is necessary for the production of both types of melanin.  Blocking the tyrosinase enzyme prevents the production of skin pigment.  This is why tyrosinase inhibitors are the most effective way to lighten skin color and even skin tone.


Tyrosinase Inhibitor Products To Inhibit Melanin Production 

This tyrosinase inhibitor ingredient list has most, if not all, of the ingredients in skincare products used to block tyrosinase.  There are other ways to lighten the skin, but tyrosinase inhibitors are the best ingredients to reduce melanin in the skin. Hydroquinone is the most effective tyrosinase inhibitor, but questions about the safety of hydroquinone have led to the development of hydroquinone alternatives to inhibit tyrosinase. These are the best tyrosinase inhibitors found in skincare products listed in alphabetical order.  

  • Aloesin

  • Arbutin

  • Ascorbic acid

  • Difluorocyclohexyloxyphenol

  • Ellagic Acid

  • Emblica (Emblican)

  • Flavonoids (Large family of compounds that includes resveratrol)

  • Gentisic Acid

  • Kojic Acid

  • Licorice Extract (Glabridin, Glycyrrhiza glabra)

  • Paper Mulberry (Mulberry extract)

  • Resveratrol

How Fast Do Tyrosinase Inhibitors Work To Lighten Skin?

Tyrosinase inhibitors begin blocking skin pigment production right away but it takes months to see results.  This is because the skin pigment is in the cells of the epidermis called keratinocytes. It takes around 30-50 days for the epidermis to completely replace all of the skin cells and repopulate the epidermis with cells without melanin.1

in the publication process.


This image shows a large octopus-shaped melanocyte in the lower part of the epidermis.  As the cells in the lower part of the epidermis mature and change- they move to the top of the epidermis and eventually flake off of the skin’s surface taking the melanin pigment with it.  It can take 40 or more days to repopulate the epidermis.

This is why you must use tyrosinase inhibitor skincare products for at least 6 weeks to see a difference.  In many cases, melanin pigment is also in the dermis which takes even longer to clear.  This is why you should plan to use your tyrosinase inhibitor products for 8 weeks before you begin to tell a difference.  Most people require 16 weeks of a tyrosinase inhibitor treatment before they can see results.

How To Lighten Skin Fast?

There are many ways to improve the results of skincare products with tyrosinase inhibitors. You must use the skin lightening products consistently and with a customized skin care routine designed for your Baumann Skin Type®.  It is critical that you use the correct skincare products and in the correct skincare routine order because every product in the skincare routine- including the moisturizer- will affect how well the tyrosinase inhibitor works. You will not be able to lighten skin in a week because it will take at least 30 days as described above.


Here are other tips to help lighten skin faster:

  • Use a low ph Cleanser that is right for your Baumann Skin Type® to speed exfoliation. The best cleansers for melasma are discussed here.
  • Combine the tyrosinase inhibitors with antioxidants, soothing ingredients to reduce inflammation and pAR-2 inhibitors.
  • Use a moisturizer that has linoleic acid and linolenic acid fatty acids which help block tyrosinase.
  • Avoid sun completely.
  • Avoid heat
  • Wear a tinted mineral (Physical) sunscreen with iron oxides to protect the skin from blue light
  • Use a melasma cream that combines tyrosinase inhibitors with anti-inflammatory and antioxidants. 
  • Combine with microdermabrasion or chemical peels
  • Consider a supplement such as pycnogenol, melatonin or polypodium leucotomos to block skin pigment production.
  • Add stress-relieving activities to your lifestyle
  • Get at least 7 hours of sleep.  

Lightening the skin can be frustrating and can take weeks.  You cannot lighten the skin overnight. These tips will help lighten your skin but it is very important to get on a customized skincare routine for your Baumann Skin type.  Once you begin a skin lightening skincare routine, you will need to take a break from tyrosinase inhibitors after 4 weeks.  The skin gets used to them and figures out other ways to make melanin.  If you take a 4-week break every 3 months, the tyrosinase inhibitors will work better.2  To get started on the best tyrosinase inhibitors for your skin type- take the skin type quiz and follow our recommendations.  Stay current on social media @SkinTypeSolutions to see when new tyrosinase inhibitors come out in skin care products.  

1 Baumann, L. S., (2021). Cosmetic Dermatology. McGraw-Hill Professional Publishing. Edition 3
 2This statement has never been proven but this is the practice of most dermatologists.  Check back every few months to see if recommendations have changed.

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