Aminoglycosides, broad spectrum aminoglycoside antibiotics, are used in various infections therapy due to their good antimicrobial characteristics. However, their adverse effects such as nephrotoxicity and auditory ototoxicity, as well as some toxic effects directed to pigmented tissues, complicate the use of these agents. This study was undertaken to investigate the effect of aminoglycoside antibiotic—kanamycin on viability, melanogenesis and antioxidant enzymes activity in cultured human normal melanocytes (HEMa-LP). It has been demonstrated that kanamycin induces concentration-dependent loss in melanocytes viability. The value of EC50 was found to be ∼6.0 mM. Kanamycin suppressed melanin biosynthesis: antibiotic was shown to inhibit cellular tyrosinase activity and to reduce melanin content in normal human melanocytes. Significant changes in the cellular antioxidant enzymes: SOD, CAT and GPx were stated in melanocytes exposed to kanamycin. Moreover, it was observed that kanamycin caused depletion of antioxidant defense sytem. It is concluded that the inhibitory effect of kanamycin on melanogenesis and not sufficient antioxidant defense mechanism in melanocytes in vitro may explain the potential mechanisms of undesirable side effects of this drug directed to pigmented tissues in vivo. J. Cell. Biochem. 114: 2746–2752, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.