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Safran effets éclaircissants.

Saffron for skin lightening?

Saffron is an ingredient used in various fields: culinary, therapeutic, cosmetic... When incorporated into topical treatments, it provides several benefits to the skin, notably due to its moisturizing and antioxidant properties. Saffron extract is also attributed with brightening virtues. But what is the real story?

Published February 8, 2024, by Pauline, Head of Scientific Communication — 5 min read

Lightening the skin to conceal brown spots.

Skin lightening is often motivated by the presence of dark spots on the skin. They form as a result of melanin accumulation in the epidermis. This dark brown pigment is an essential element that plays a protective role against UV rays. However, in the case of overproduction, it impacts the uniformity of the complexion. There are three categories of pigment spots depending on the cause.

  • The sun spots caused by prolonged and repeated exposure to the sun's UV rays.

    When exposed to the sun, melanocytes initiate the production of melanin (melanogenesis) to protect DNA and cellular constituents. Sunspots gradually form throughout life, as sun exposure is repeated. That's why it's important to apply a sunscreen daily. Tobacco or pollution can also play a role in their appearance, as these elements generate oxidative stress in cells and accelerate skin aging.

  • The pregnancy mask is related to hormonal changes.

    During pregnancy, levels of estrogen and progesterone increase in the body. These hormones are capable of stimulating melanogenesis and causing the appearance of melasma. This can also occur as a result of taking birth control pills or undergoing hormone replacement therapy.

  • Thepost-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

    These brown spots form as a result of skin inflammation or lesions. Indeed, during inflammation (acne, burn, injury...), pro-inflammatory cytokines stimulate the activity of melanocytes.

Does saffron extract have lightening properties?

Saffron is often considered an intriguing ingredient for skin lightening. Indeed, it is believed to possess depigmenting properties and could have an effect on brown spots. However, to this day, no scientific study has been able to demonstrate that saffron extract has such an effect.

However, it is true that this botanical extract possesses antioxidant properties, making it a good ally for preventing hyperpigmentation. Saffron indeed contains several active ingredients capable of acting in this regard. For instance, we can think of crocin and crocetin, molecules that act against lipid peroxidation, a chain reaction that causes damage to cell membranes and disrupts the hydrolipidic film. Their chemical structure, rich in double bonds, allows them to rearrange and donate an electron to free radicals, which neutralizes and stabilizes them.

Saffron also contains safranal, a compound capable of stimulating the activity of certain antioxidant enzymes, such as superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione peroxidase (GPx). These are essential proteins involved in the elimination of free radicals. GPx, in particular, facilitates the transformation of organic hydroperoxides before they can damage cells. SOD, on the other hand, catalyzes the dismutation of superoxide anions O2.- into oxygen O2 and hydrogen peroxide H2O2.

Finally, a study has highlighted that saffron extract possesses photoprotective properties. Indeed, the safranal it contains has an SPF (Sunburn Protection Factor) of 6.6. However, this is relatively low considering that a sunscreen is deemed effective when its SPF reaches 15. The SPF is theindex measuring a product's ability to block UV rays responsible for sunburn. Nevertheless, it has been shown that adding saffron extract to a chemical-based SPF 20 sunscreen allows for anincrease in SPF by 43%. Therefore, this natural ingredient has interesting potential for preventing hyperpigmentation.

Note : If you wish to diminish brown spots or lighten your skin, we recommend relying on active ingredients that have proven and scientifically demonstrated lightening properties. For instance, you could turn to the vitamin C, the azelaic acid, the arbutin acid, the licorice extract, the tranexamic acid , or even the glycolic acid.


  • SHOJAOSADATI S. & al. Evaluation of antioxidant activities of bioactive compounds and various extracts obtained from saffron (Crocus sativus L.): a review. Journal of Food Science and Technology (2015).


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