Sepiwhite is being hailed as a breakthrough age spot fader that takes a novel approach to controlling hyperpigmentation. If it works as well as the manufacturer claims then it will be a welcome alternative to hydroquinone (which does work, but at a price - in France it is banned because of links to cancer).

The key thing in the regulation of skin pigmentation is melanotropin, also called alpha-MSH. Melanotropin controls tyrosinase activity, melanin (eumalanin) synthesis and melanosome. Sepiwhite MSH is a molecule that works by "antagonizing" alpha-MSH and inhibiting tyrosinase. Tyrosinase is the essential enzyme in the formation of melanin by converting DOPA to DOPAquinone. Therefore, reducing its activity is a principal method of improving skin tone and the one most commonly claimed for ingredients in current production for skin lightening. However, the manufacturer claims Sepiwhite inhibits all the other stages of pigmentation as well.

In a test conducted by the manufacturer, a 2% solution of Sepiwhite was compared to the same concentrations of arbutin and kojic acid and a 1% (because of its cytotoxicity) dose of hydroquinone. Sepiwhite's results were visible within seven days and the "efficacy greater and faster" than the competing ingredients. It is thought that the speed of its action is due to Sepiwhite's molecular structure, which is well adapted to reach the targeted melanocytes located in the lower layers of the epidermis.

It all sounds impressive, but I have yet to find an independent study.

The chemical name of Sepiwhite is undecylenoyl phenylalanine. You can buy a tub of it in its pure powder form from Making Cosmetics.com, should you feel inclined to whip up an anti-age spot cream in the kitchen. Pret-a-porter, it can be found in the following products:

DDF Discoloration Reversal Pods ($70 for 28 pods); Sothy's W Double Lightening Serum ($90); Skin White Bleaching Cream ($45.99) (which the company markets as "the Michael Jackson cream"); Arcona Mandarin Brightening Peel ($78/2oz in the shop)NutraLuxe High Potency Skin Whitening ($165).

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