Skip to main content
Log in

Extracts of red seaweed, Pyropia yezoensis, inhibit melanogenesis but stimulate collagen synthesis

  • Published:
Journal of Applied Phycology Aims and scope Submit manuscript


Owing to increasing concern regarding human well-being and quality of life, the demand for natural products is increased, leading to the development of a market for biological and natural products. This study aimed to investigate the depigmentation and anti-ageing properties of red seaweed (Pyropia yezoensis) extracts for skin care applications. Within the tested range of concentrations (100, 200, 400, and 800 μg mL−1), P. yezoensis extracts did not exert cytotoxic effects on the three skin cell lines tested: mouse melanocytes (Melan-A), human dermal fibroblasts (1064 SK), and human dermal keratinocytes (HaCaT cells). No significant statistical difference (p = 0.05) was detected in the melanin content between cells exposed to 100 μg mL−1 of arbutin and 800 μg mL−1 of P. yezoensis extracts, indicating that P. yezoensis extracts had an potent inhibitory effect on melanogenesis as arbutin. There was a significant decrease in tyrosinase activity by 59.3% and 35.5% after treatment with arbutin and P. yezoensis extracts, respectively. These results indicated that P. yezoensis extracts had strong tyrosinase inhibitory properties but were not as effective as arbutin. P. yezoensis extracts also promoted collagen production by inhibiting collagen-degrading enzymes (matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2 and MMP-9) and promoting procollagen synthesis enzymes (tyrosinase-related protein (TRP)-1 and TRP-2). Evaluation of skin brightness and melanin content and dermatological assessment showed that P. yezoensis extracts enhanced skin brightness and reduced melanin content in 23 volunteers. Our results suggest that P. yezoensis extracts can be used as functional cosmetic agents to prevent, or remediate skin ageing and pigmentation.

Graphical abstract

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6
Fig. 7

Similar content being viewed by others


  • Azam MS, Choi J, Lee M-S, Kim H-R (2017) Hypopigmenting effects of brown algae-derived phytochemicals: A review on molecular mechanisms. Mar Drugs 15:297

  • Binic I, Lazarevic V, Ljubenovic M, Mojsa J, Sokolovic D (2013) Skin ageing: Natural weapons and strategies. Evid-Based Complement Alternat Med 2013:827248

  • Burger P, Landreau A, Azoulay S, Michel T, Fernandez X (2016) Skin whitening cosmetics: Feedback and challenges in the development of natural skin lighteners. Cosmetics 3:36

  • Cha SH, Ko SC, Kim D, Jeon YJ (2011) Screening of marine algae for potential tyrosinase inhibitor: Those inhibitors reduced tyrosinase activity and melanin synthesis in zebrafish. J Dermatol 38:354–363

  • Chapman V, Chapman D (1980) Seaweed as animal fodder, manure and for energy. In: Seaweeds and their uses, 3rd edn. Chapman & Hall, London, pp 30–61

  • Chinnathambi S, Bickenbach JR (2005) Human skin and gingival keratinocytes show differential regulation of matrix metalloproteinases when combined with fibroblasts in 3-dimensional cultures. J Periodontol 76:1072–1083

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Cho TJ, Rhee MS (2020) Health functionality and quality control of laver (Porphyra, Pyropia): Current issues and future perspectives as an edible seaweed. Mar Drugs 18:14

  • Cian RE, Drago SR, De Medina FS, Martínez-Augustin O (2015) Proteins and carbohydrates from red seaweeds: Evidence for beneficial effects on gut function and microbiota. Mar Drugs 13:5358–5383

  • Dawczynski C, Schubert R, Jahreis G (2007) Amino acids, fatty acids, and dietary fibre in edible seaweed products. Food Chem 103:891–899

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Dufour AM, Borowczyk-Michalowska J, Alvarez M, Truchetet M-E, Modarressi A, Brembilla NC, Chizzolini C (2020) IL-17A dissociates inflammation from fibrogenesis in systemic sclerosis. J Invest Dermatol 140:103–112 e108

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • El Ghalbzouri A, Ponec M (2004) Diffusible factors released by fibroblasts support epidermal morphogenesis and deposition of basement membrane components. Wound Repair Regen 12:359–367

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • FAO (2019) Fisheries and aquaculture statistics. FAO, Rome

  • Global Market Research Reports (2018) Global cosmetics market - by product type, ingredient, region - market size, demand forecasts, industry trends and updates (2018—2025)

  • Han D, Wang S, Hu Y, Zhang Y, Dong X, Yang Z, Wang J, Li J, Deng X (2015) Hyperpigmentation results in aberrant immune development in silky fowl (Gallus gallus domesticus Brisson). PLoS One 10:e0125686

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Helfrich YR, Sachs DL, Voorhees JJ (2008) Overview of skin aging and photoaging. Dermatol Nursing 20:177

    Google Scholar 

  • Heo S-J, Ko S-C, Kang S-M, Cha S-H, Lee S-H, Kang D-H, Jung W-K, Affan A, Oh C, Jeon Y-J (2010) Inhibitory effect of diphlorethohydroxycarmalol on melanogenesis and its protective effect against UV-B radiation-induced cell damage. Food Chem Toxicol 48:1355–1361

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Hwang EK, Park CS (2020) Seaweed cultivation and utilization of Korea. Algae 35:107–121

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Kang HS, Kim HR, Byun DS, Son BW, Nam TJ, Choi JS (2004) Tyrosinase inhibitors isolated from the edible brown alga Ecklonia stolonifera. Arch Pharm Res 27:1226–1232

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Kim C-R, Kim Y-M, Lee M-K, Kim I-H, Choi Y-H, Nam T-J (2017) Pyropia yezoensis peptide promotes collagen synthesis by activating the TGF-β/Smad signaling pathway in the human dermal fibroblast cell line Hs27. Int J Mol Med 39:31–38

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Kim S, You DH, Han T, Choi E-M (2014) Modulation of viability and apoptosis of UVB-exposed human keratinocyte HaCaT cells by aqueous methanol extract of laver (Porphyra yezoensis). Photochem Photobiol B 141:301–307

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Kooyers T, Westerhof W (2006) Toxicology and health risks of hydroquinone in skin lightening formulations. J Eur Acad Dermatol Venereol 20:777–780

    Google Scholar 

  • Korea Ministry of Drug and Food Safety (2013) Korean functional cosmetics codex. Cosmetic Act

  • Lawrence KP, Long PF, Young AR (2018) Mycosporine-like amino acids for skin photoprotection. Curr Med Chem 25:5512–5527

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Mercurio D, Wagemaker T, Alves V, Benevenuto C, Gaspar L, Campos PM (2015) In vivo photoprotective effects of cosmetic formulations containing UV filters, vitamins, Ginkgo biloba and red algae extracts. Photochem Photobiol B 153:121–126

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Mooberry SL, Leal RM, Tinley TL, Luesch H, Moore RE, Corbett TH (2003) The molecular pharmacology of symplostatin 1: A new antimitotic dolastatin 10 analog. Int J Cancer 104:512–521

  • Nova P, Martins AP, Teixeira C, Abreu H, Silva JG, Silva AM, Freitas AC, Gomes AM (2020) Foods with microalgae and seaweeds fostering consumers health: A review on scientific and market innovations. J Appl Phycol 32:1789–1802

  • Novak J (2010) Arbutin-a risk substance in herbs? Zeitschr Arznei Gewürzpflanz 15:170–173

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Paudel P, Wagle A, Seong SH, Park HJ, Jung HA, Choi JS (2019) A new tyrosinase inhibitor from the red alga Symphyocladia latiuscula (Harvey) Yamada (Rhodomelaceae). Mar Drugs 17:295

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Pimentel FB, Alves RC, Rodrigues F, Oliveira P, Beatriz M (2018) Macroalgae-derived ingredients for cosmetic industry—an update. Cosmetics 5:2

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Qian W, Liu W, Zhu D, Cao Y, Tang A, Gong G, Su H (2020) Natural skin-whitening compounds for the treatment of melanogenesis. Expe Therapeut Med 20:173–185

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Quah CC, Kim KH, Lau MS, Kim WR, Cheah SH, Gundamaraju R (2014) Pigmentation and dermal conservative effects of the astonishing algae Sargassum polycystum and Padina tenuis on guinea pigs, human epidermal melanocytes (HEM) and Chang cells. Afr J Tradit Compl Alternat Med 11:77–83

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rasoanaivo P, Wright CW, Willcox ML, Gilbert B (2011) Whole plant extracts versus single compounds for the treatment of malaria: Synergy and positive interactions. Malar J 10:1–12

  • Rittié L, Fisher GJ (2002) UV-light-induced signal cascades and skin aging. Ageing Res Rev 1:705–720

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rupérez P (2002) Mineral content of edible marine seaweeds. Food Chem 79:23–26

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Russo B, Brembilla NC, Chizzolini C (2020) Interplay between keratinocytes and fibroblasts: A systematic review providing a new angle for understanding skin fibrotic disorders. Front Immunol 11:618

  • Sawicki G, Marcoux Y, Sarkhosh K, Tredget EE, Ghahary A (2005) Interaction of keratinocytes and fibroblasts modulates the expression of matrix metalloproteinases-2 and-9 and their inhibitors. Mol Cell Biochem 269:209–216

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Scharffetter K, Wlaschek M, Hogg A, Bolsen K, Schothorst A, Goerz G, Krieg T, Plewig G (1991) UVA irradiation induces collagenase in human dermal fibroblasts in vitro and in vivo. Arch Dermatol Res 283:506–511

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Schmid D, Schürch C, Zülli F (2006) Mycosporine-like amino acids from red algae protect against premature skin-aging. Euro Cosmetics 9:1–4

    Google Scholar 

  • Solano F, Briganti S, Picardo M, Ghanem G (2006) Hypopigmenting agents: An updated review on biological, chemical and clinical aspects. Pigment Cell Res 19:550–571

  • Sorrell JM, Baber MA, Caplan AI (2004) Site-matched papillary and reticular human dermal fibroblasts differ in their release of specific growth factors/cytokines and in their interaction with keratinocytes. J Cell Physiol 200:134–145

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Vance KW, Goding CR (2004) The transcription network regulating melanocyte development and melanoma. Pigment Cell Res 17:318–325

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Wagner H, Ulrich-Merzenich G (2009) Synergy research: Approaching a new generation of phytopharmaceuticals. Phytomedicine 16:97–110

  • Wells ML, Potin P, Craigie JS, Raven JA, Merchant SS, Helliwell KE, Smith AG, Camire ME, Brawley SH (2017) Algae as nutritional and functional food sources: Revisiting our understanding. J Appl Phycol 29:949–982

  • Zamilpa R, Lopez EF, Chiao YA, Dai Q, Escobar GP, Hakala K, Weintraub ST, Lindsey ML (2010) Proteomic analysis identifies in vivo candidate matrix metalloproteinase-9 substrates in the left ventricle post-myocardial infarction. Proteomics 10:2214–2223

    Article  CAS  Google Scholar 

  • Zhang Q, Li N, Zhou G, Lu X, Xu Z, Li Z (2003) In vivo antioxidant activity of polysaccharide fraction from Porphyra haitanesis (Rhodophyta) in aging mice. Pharmacol Res 48:151–155

  • Zion Market Research (2019) Skin lightening products market by type (lotion and cream, foam, gel, serum & toner, scrub, and others), by end-user (men and women), by nature (natural/herbal, synthetic, and organic), and by distribution channel (pharmacy, specialty outlet, supermarket/hypermarket, convenience store, beauty salon, e-retailer, and others): global industry perspective, Comprehensive Analysis, and Forecast, 2017—2024

Download references


The authors thank the anonymous reviewers for their helpful comments. This study was supported by the Regional Innovation System (RIS) funded by the Korea Institute for Advancement of Technology (KIAT) of the Republic of Korea (Grant No. R0002107).

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Taejun Han.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Additional information

Publisher’s note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Park, J., Lee, H., Choi, S. et al. Extracts of red seaweed, Pyropia yezoensis, inhibit melanogenesis but stimulate collagen synthesis. J Appl Phycol 33, 653–662 (2021).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: