Tyrosinase Inhibitors and Hyperpigmentation


Let’s first break down Tyrosinase
(Tyrosine + ase)

Tyrosine – Tyrosine is a nonessential amino acid made by the body that is a building block for several important neurotransmitters like epinephrine, norepinephrine, serotonin, and dopamine. (these all help nerve cells communicate and perform several individually important functions as well…but that’s another topic.) This amino acid is involved in every protein of the body, especially in the hormone secreting and regulating organs…so we need quite a bit of it!

The reason we are concerned with Tyrosine in the skin care world is that it helps produce melanin (the pigment responsible for hair and skin color.)

Pigment (or melanin as we estheticians like to call it) is vital in protecting our skin from excess UV radiation. Antioxidants work to support this first line of defense, but because they are used so frequently in the body – we are often depleted. This is why we hear so much about the importance of antioxidant supplementation topically and internally. It’s true. Eat as many antioxidants as you can! They are found in every fruit and vegetable, especially in the skins (the darker or brighter the skin color, the more antioxidants.) Also, adding Vitamins A and C to your skin care routine allows the skin to absorb and use these powerhouse antioxidants before the rest of the body can steal them away.

ase – refers to any enzyme

Tyrosinase, therefore is an enzyme of plant and animal (and human) tissues responsible for the production of melanin and other pigments from tyrosine by oxidation, as in the blackening of a peeled or sliced potato exposed to air…or in our case – skin hyperpigmenting. For example: if the tyrosine in a banana is responsible for the green and yellow color of the peel, tyrosinase is responsible for causing that peel to oxidize and turn brown. If tyrosine is responsible for skin pigmentation, tyrosinase is responsible for hyperpigmentation.

Don’t Blame it all on the Sun

The sun is responsible for most skin hyper-pigmentation, hence the nickname “sun damage.” But don’t blame it all on the sun. Stress, hormones, diet and inflammation from any trauma can all cause skin hyperpigmentation. Melasma, for example, is almost always caused by something other than the sun.

Remember at the beginning of this post when I mentioned tyrosine being important in hormone regulation? You can hyper-pigment from any kind of stress on the body, especially when that stress is caused by a hormonal fluctuation or imbalance. Ever hear of the “mask of pregnancy” or someone hyperpigmenting from their birth control medication? Aha! Yes hormones play a big role in the way your skin regulates pigment production.

Well what about stress? Well, there are two stress hormones: epinephrine and norepinephrine, that are both dependent on Tyrosine. When you become stressed, cortisol rises and Tyrosinase is used to produce more of these stress hormones. Because your body cannot distinguish between the stress of a life threatening emergency and the stress over a final exam, it responds in the same way regardless of the circumstance. Stressing on a regular basis, therefore, depletes your body and could lead to issues with skin hyperpigmentation (among many other unpleasant skin issues.)

So, Why Use a Tyrosinase Inhibitor?

tyrosinase inhibitor

A tyrosinase inhibitor will help prevent the overproduction of this enzyme, and hopefully help prevent hyperpigmentation of your skin. There are synthetic tyrosinase inhibitors, like hydroquinone – but we will be focusing on the natural varieties because bien-etre believes natural is always better for the body than synthetic.

Kojic Acid
Arbutin (Bearberry Extract)
Licorice Extract
Mulberry Extract
Burner (Burdock) Root Extract

These ingredients help to prevent the overproduction of tyrosinase and keep the skin from hyperpigmenting….for a while. The skin is smart and will find a way around most of these inhibitors, which means that they will not be effective long term if you do not stop the source of the imbalance. In most cases the source is hormone imbalance, stress, sun overexposure, sugar/synthetics in the diet, too much caffeine or lack of antioxidants.

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3 replies
  1. Omar
    Omar says:

    How can you boost the production of tyrosinase (vitiligo patient here) .. in addition to anti-oxidants, can tyrosinase be ingested? Thank you.

  2. bien-être
    bien-être says:

    Thanks for your question!
    Vitiligo is a tough one. Tyrosine can be boosted with the addition of certain foods in the diet, such as almonds, bananas, pumpkin and sesame seeds and avocados. I would suggest adding more of these foods and limiting foods that can inhibit tyrosine like fried fatty food, caffeine and sugars. Tyrosinase, the enzyme associated with tyrosine, helps to promote melanin production, so as long as you are boosting tyrosine in natural ways, it could only help. I don’t know of any breakthrough supplements that boost melanin. There are some medications, but there are still a lot of unknown factors. (My perspective always leans toward natural and non-invasive remedies and treatment.)
    Any areas with less pigment should be protected from the sun with a natural sun block, like Sanitas Solar Block. Adding more antioxidants to your diet will help naturally protect your skin from the elements and keep inflammation low. If the Vitiligo is coming from something internal you ALWAYS want to minimize inflammation…so this is a good idea.
    As an esthetician, I cannot diagnose or suggest internal treatments. If it were me, I’d look into meeting with an integrative doctor who combines western and eastern treatments and seek further advice.
    I hope this helps a little. Thanks again for your questions, and be well!

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