During the 241st National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), Hui-Min Wang, PhD, of Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan, reported that actives derived from the evergreen bush Cinnamomum subavenium, used in traditional Chinese medicine, provide safer and more effective skin whitening benefits than current actives.
Researchers isolated two chemicals from the plant that have the ability to block tyrosinase and tested them on the embryos of zebrafish, which contain a highly visible band of black pigment. Exposure to low levels of the two chemicals reportedly reduced melanin production in the fish embryos by almost 50% within four days, turning the embryos snowy white, the scientists reported.
“When we saw the results, we were amazed,” said Wang. He added, “My first thought was ... [that] maybe they can also lighten women’s skin.” He estimated that the chemicals are 100 times more effective in reducing melanin pigmentation than the skin-whitening agents kojic acid and arbutin, which have been used for more than 30 years in the industry. Further, the substances did not appear to be toxic when tested in low doses on both cultured human skin cells and zebrafish embryos, Wang noted. These ingredients are reportedly poised for clinical trials as safer, more effective alternatives to current skin whitening ingredients, and Wang and his colleagues have applied for patents in the United States, Japan and Taiwan.
Wang noted that skin-whitening products, while en vogue in Asia, are often accompanied by itching, redness, inflammation and other side effects due to mercury, hydroquinone and other toxic substances content. He added that some whitening ingredients could increase the risk of skin cancer when used frequently and at high doses. As an alternative, the Cinnamomum subavenium-derived actives are suggested as a safe alternative, and a cream based on them could be available in as little as one year. Such a product could raise the bar in ethnic care formulating and have the added marketing benefit of being nature-derived.