Is Lemon Essential Oil for Skin Whitening?

There is a Chinese proverb saying “one whiteness can substitute for three physical unattractiveness.” This is why people are crazy on whitening products and willing to spend more on it.

In the market, most of the common skin lightening products available is with ingredients of hydroquinone, (HQ), kojic acid, arbutin, catechins, and azelaic acid. The adverse effects for the ingredients are skin become thinner, cutaneous damage, ochronosis etc.

It is also interesting to know that people using lemon essential oil on their face for skin whitening effect.

Before we started, let’s exam…

How Whitening Agents Works?

Our skin has different colour is because of the melanin produced by our melanocytes cells. Fair people produce little melanin and dark skin people produce more amounts.

According to studies, tyrosinase is the key enzyme that synthesis melanin. Therefore, most whitening agents are tyrosine inhibitors focus on reducing or blocking the concentration of pigment melanin synthesis leading to skin whitening.

Ultra violet (UV) light, photosensitive agents, drugs, medications, hormone change, auto immune conditions … contribute in skin darkening factors.

Is Lemon Essential Oil Really Has Whitening Effect?

The studies by Palazzolo et. al. reported that the citrus oils has tyrosinase inhibiting effects. Thus it is used in many skin care and cosmetic products.

But… please be careful when using citrus oils essential oil.

Avoid sun or UV exposure and sun bathing cause…

Most cold pressed citrus oils are phototoxic and they contain photoactive agents such as furocoumarins.

Tisserand & Balacs also suggested that the risk of phototoxicity will remain for up to 12 hours.

Therefore, Scientific Committee on Cosmetic Products and the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) laid down a restriction and standard on furocoumarin-like substances in cosmetic products such as product does not exceed one part per million…

My advise is avoid using the cold press citrus oils or phototoxic oils on face during daytime.

You can read the Essential Oil Safety by Robert Tisserand and Rodney Young on the list of phototoxicity and essential oils and my previous article.


BattagliaS. (2002). The Complete Guide to Aromatherapy (second edition). Brisbane: The International Centre of Holistic Aromatherapy

Draelos, Z. D., Dover, J. S & Alam, M., 2015. Cosmeceuticals. 3rd Ed. Elsevier

Jenniffer, C et. al., 2012. A Review on Skin Whitening Property of Plant Extracts. 3(4): (B) 332 – 347. International Journal of Pharma and Bio Sciences

Palazzolo, E., Laudicina, V. A., & Germanà, M. A., 2013. Current and Potential Use of Citrus Essential Oils. 17, 3042-3049, Current Organic Chemistry.

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