Flavonoids are a group of polyphenolic compounds widely distributed in plants. Their potent bio-activities and relatively low toxicity have rendered them useful ingredients in functional cosmetics. The purpose of the present study was to examine their potential effects on cellular melanogenesis. When tested in murine melanoma B16F10 cells activated by α-melanocyte stimulating hormone (α-MSH), taxifolin and luteolin inhibited the cellular melanogenesis as effectively as arbutin, one of the most widely used hypopigmenting agents in cosmetics. As opposed to their antimelanogenic effects, taxifolin and luteolin rather increased the tyrosinase protein levels in the absence and presence of α-MSH. However, these flavonoids effectively inhibited tyrosinase-catalysed oxidation of l-dihydroxyphenylalanine in cell-free extracts and in living cells. Furthermore, they attenuated cell pigmentation induced by expression of exogenous human tyrosinase. Therefore, the antimelanogenic effects of taxifolin and luteolin are attributed to their inhibitory effects on tyrosinase enzymatic activity, despite their effects on increasing tyrosinase protein levels. Copyright © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.