Few anti-pigmenting agents have been designed and developed according to their known hyperpigmentation mechanisms and corresponding intracellular signaling cascades. Most anti-pigmenting agents developed so far are mechanistically involved in the interruption of constitutional melanogenic mechanisms by which skin color is maintained at a normal and unstimulated level. Thus, owing to the difficulty of confining topical application to a specific hyperpigmented skin area, potent anti-pigmenting agents capable of attenuating the natural unstimulated pigmentation process have the risk of leading to hypopigmentation. Since intracellular signaling pathways within melanocytes do not function substantially in maintaining normal skin color and are activated only by environmental stimuli such as UV radiation, specifically down-regulating the activation of melanogenesis to the constitutive level would be an appropriate strategy to develop new potent anti-pigmenting agents with a low risk of hypopigmentation. In this article, we review the hyperpigmentation mechanisms and intracellular signaling pathways that lead to the stimulation of melanogenesis. We also discuss a screening and evaluation system to select candidates for new anti-melanogenic substances by focusing on inhibitors of endothelin-1 or stem cell factor-triggered intracellular signaling cascades. From this viewpoint, we show that extracts of the herbs Withania somnifera
and Melia toosendan
and the natural chemicals Withaferin
A and Astaxanthin
are new candidates for potent anti-pigmenting substances that avoid the risk of hypopigmentation.