1. Headline
  1. Headline
updated 3/29/2011 7:41:39 PM ET 2011-03-29T23:41:39

While many Americans often long for the perfect tan, a popular desire in Asia for many women and men is fair skin.

Current skin-whitening products often contain mercury and the chemical hydroquinone, a potential carcinogen that can cause inflammation, itching and even skin cancer. Now researchers report finding a plant-based chemical that they say could lighten skin more effectively and safely.

Two chemicals from the Cinnamomum subavenium plant, a relative of the tree from which cinnamon bark originates, reduced production of the skin pigment melanin in zebrafish embryos by 50 percent in four days, turning their skin snowy white, said study researcher Hui-Min Wang of Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan.

  1. MyHealthNewsDaily
    1. Workers Want Employers to Help Them Stay Healthy
    2. Girls Struggle More When Friends Let Them Down
    3. Psychotherapy May Help Teens with Fibromyalgia
    4. Collective Brands Recalls KEDS Girls' Shoes

The chemicals work by blocking the enzyme tyrosinase, which controls production of the melanin pigment that darkens our skin, eyes and hair.

These chemicals have the potential to be up to 100 times more effective than other skin-whitening creams, Wang said. "It's from a Chinese herbal medicine plant, and we used it for maybe 1,000 or 2,000 years," Wang told MyHealthNewsDaily.

Wang and his colleagues tested the ingredient on the embryos of zebrafish, which have highly visible black bands of pigment. Within four days of exposure to the Cinnamomum subavenium ingredient, the black bands had faded to white, they found.

Because of the similarities of zebrafish pigmentation to humans', the researchers think the effects should extend to people as well.

The chemicals did not seem to be toxic to the zebrafish or cultured human skin cells, researchers found.

Now, Wang is looking to partner with cosmetic companies to devise a cream made with the Cinnamomum subavenium chemicals for use on humans.

The research was presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society in Anaheim, Calif.

Pass it on: Chemicals taken from a plant relative of the cinnamon tree whitened black stripes of zebrafish embryos and are promising for use in skin-whitening creams.

Follow MyHealthNewsDaily staff writer Amanda Chan on Twitter @ AmandaLChan.


Discussion comments


Most active discussions

  1. votes comments
  2. votes comments
  3. votes comments
  4. votes comments

More on TODAY.com

  1. Joan Lunden: 10 things I wish I knew before I was diagnosed with breast cancer

    From the moment you hear the words ‘You have breast cancer,’ it’s almost like you’re shot out of a cannon. Here are 10 things I wish I knew before I was diagnosed.

    10/1/2014 10:52:45 AM +00:00 2014-10-01T10:52:45
  2. Want to help? A guide to breast cancer charities

    In the United States an estimated 296,000 women and 2,240 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year and almost 40,000 women and 410 men will die of the disease. That's one death every 14 minutes, according to the National Breast Cancer Coalition.

    10/1/2014 10:45:11 AM +00:00 2014-10-01T10:45:11
  3. Samantha Okazaki / TODAY
  1. Nbc News

    9 things we learned from Brian Williams' Facebook chat

    10/2/2014 1:41:28 AM +00:00 2014-10-02T01:41:28
  1. Noel Vasquez / Getty Images Contributor

    Mila Kunis,  Ashton Kutcher welcome baby girl

    10/2/2014 1:24:09 AM +00:00 2014-10-02T01:24:09
  1. Kevin Lamarque / Reuters

    Secret Service director resigns amid scandal

    10/1/2014 7:30:52 PM +00:00 2014-10-01T19:30:52
  1. Texas Ebola patient had contact with kids

    Texas Gov. Rick Perry said in a press conference on Wednesday that “some school-age children” had been identified as having contact with the man diagnosed with the first case of Ebola in the United States. 

    10/1/2014 5:37:52 PM +00:00 2014-10-01T17:37:52