Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist -  Written by Sritama Dutta (Medical Science) on 08th Mar 2021

A Concise Guide on Layering With Alpha Arbutin Serum: The Do’s and Don’ts

The Do's and Don'ts of Layering with Alpha Arbutin

Alpha Arbutin is a known potent skin lightening agent that has gained popularity in recent days. While experimenting with various other active ingredients, we have found that Alpha arbutin's effects can be enhanced when layered with certain ingredients.

This article will discuss the various ingredients that one can and cannot layer along with alpha arbutin and know about the various merits and demerits of such skincare cocktailing. But before we jump into the science of layering active ingredients, let us know a bit about what Alpha Arbutin is and what it does to your skin.  

What is Alpha Arbutin? 

Alpha Arbutin is a naturally occurring active ingredient accredited for being a potent skin lightening agent. It is extracted from the dried leaves of plants such as bearberries, blueberries and cranberries. It targets the melanin-producing cells of the skin and helps in fading away skin hyperpigmentation.

Alpha arbutin has a structure similar to tyrosine, a non-essential amino acid that binds with the tyrosinase enzyme to catalyze melanin synthesis. Alpha arbutin mimics tyrosine's action, binds with tyrosinase, and blocks its action, reducing melanin production.  

How Does Alpha Arbutin Work On the Skin?

Before we understand how Alpha Arbutin works, we need to know a little about how our skin gets colored. Our skin's pigmentation depends upon the melanin concentration (the skin pigment) synthesized by the pigment-producing cells known as the melanocytes. Our body secretes an enzyme called tyrosinase that is responsible for stimulating the melanocytes to begin melanogenesis (synthesis of melanin). On exposure to sunlight or experiencing certain conditions, the tyrosinase gets activated and produces excess melanin causing hyperpigmentation.

Alpha arbutin, on being applied topically, gets absorbed in the skin, targets the tyrosinase enzyme, and inhibits its action. With no stimulus from the enzyme, the melanocytes decrease their production rate of melanin. The pigmentation gradually fades away with regular use, leaving your skin evenly tones without any undesirable spots and patches. 

What Benefits Can You Expect From Topical Alpha Arbutin?

1. It Can Help In Reducing Dark Spots and Pigmentation 

By inhibiting the Tyrosinase activity, Alpha Arbutin limits the melanin production on the skin. With regular use of this active ingredient, the dark spots and patches on the skin can fade away within a few weeks. Alpha Arbutin can also be useful in reducing age spots, acne scars, and post-blemish redness. Alpha arbutin can also help in treating liver spots and freckles.  

2. It Can Act as a Skin Lightener 

Alpha Arbutin can also act as a potent skin lightening agent. On topical application, the active ingredient targets the tyrosinase enzyme responsible for melanin production in our skin. The melanin synthesis in our skin gets decreased by inhibition of the tyrosinase activity. In turn, the skin gets lighter and more evenly toned. Alpha Arbutin can be used to treat melasma or even suntan.  

3. It Can Give You an Even Skin Tone 

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Uneven skin tone can be distressing to people. Alpha Arbutin can help even out the skin tone and make your skin look healthier and livelier. It can make your skin complexion more radiant and vibrant.  

4. It is Much Safer Than Other Skin Lightening Agent 

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Skin lightening agents like hydroquinone can be very aggressive on the skin. Frequent use of such ingredients can damage the integrity of the skin. Hydroquinone has also been enlisted under restrictive use in bleaching and skincare products. Alpha arbutin being an organic ingredient is a much secure option and has similar benefits. 

How To Use Alpha Arbutin On Your Skin? 

Alpha arbutin is usually mild on the skin and can be used in both AM and PM skincare routines.  

Here are some simple steps that you can follow to get the most benefits out of Alpha Arbutin:  

  • Cleanse your face with a mild cleanser and apply your preferred toner.  
  • Apply a few drops of any hydrating agents such as Hyaluronic acid. This will enhance the rate of absorption of Alpha Arbutin serum.  
  • Now apply 2-3 drops of Alpha Arbutin on your face and gently massage the ingredient in a soft circular motion so that it spreads evenly on your face.  
  • Wait for a few seconds to allow the Alpha Arbutin serum to absorb in your skin. The serum will penetrate the deeper dermal cells and show its effect. 
  • You can apply direct acids such as AHAs and BHAs. You can also layer it with niacinamide serum.  
  • Melanin can protect our skin from harmful UV rays. As alpha-arbutin restricts melanin production, you need to provide your skin with some extra protection against the sun. Layer your skin with ample amounts of broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF at least above 30 to avoid sunburn. 
  • Alpha arbutin will begin to show its effect within 4-5 weeks.  

Layering With Alpha Arbutin: Do’s and Don’ts  

What Goes Well With Alpha Arbutin? 

1. Alpha Arbutin with Vitamin C: 

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that can help neutralize the free radicals in your skin. Both Vitamin C and Alpha Arbutin work along the same pathway and thus go very well with it. Vitamin C or Ascorbic acid brightens the skin tone and also reduces the signs of aging.

2. Alpha Arbutin with Niacinamide:

Alpha Arbutin and niacinamide serum are both water-based lightweight serums that can blend quite well. Niacinamide is known to promote collagen production that makes the skin healthier, firmer and more resilient. It also enhances cell turnover rate that gradually exfoliates the superficial dull, hyperpigmented skin cells and brings out lighter, more even tones from underneath the skin. This action acts in favor of Alpha arbutin and enhances its effects.

3. Alpha Arbutin with Hyaluronic Acid 

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Alpha Arbutin 2% + Hyaluronic Acid 1%

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Hyaluronic acid is an active ingredient known for its incredible skin hydrating property. It is often used as a booster ingredient in Alpha Arbutin serums. This active ingredient preps the skin to absorb the subsequently applied Alpha Arbutin. This, in turn, enhances the skin lightening and depigmenting properties of Alpha Arbutin.  

4. Alpha Arbutin with Facial Acids 

Direct acids such as AHAs and BHAs can exfoliate the skin at the cellular level and help you get rid of the hyperpigmented patches and spots on the skin. Layering such acids with alpha arbutin can help better absorb the ingredient and give you most of its benefits.  

5. Alpha Arbutin with Kojic Acid:

Alpha Arbutin and Kojic acid are both potent skin lightening agents that can be used quite well together. Including both ingredients in your skincare regime will help eliminate skin hyperpigmentation faster and more effectively.  

What Shouldn’t You Mix With Alpha Arbutin?

Alpha Arbutin is inert and can generally be safely applied to the skin. However, merely mixing multiple active ingredients would not do any good to your skin. Thus, skin experts suggest choosing a maximum of three active ingredients diligently to cater to most of your skin concerns.

You might want the benefits of alpha arbutin, niacinamide and vitamin C, but that is not a good choice to make because niacinamide and Ascorbic acid do not go well together.   

Are There Any Potential Side Effects of Alpha Arbutin? 

Alpha Arbutin is generally safe on the skin with no major side effects. However, some cases have been reported where people using Alpha Arbutin serum have experienced certain hypersensitive reactions.  

Here are some symptoms that one might experience: 

  • Skin irritation 
  • Mild skin breakouts 
  • Sensitivity to sun or sunburns 
  • Redness 

To avoid such events, it is advised to perform a patch test at least 48 hours before including Alpha Arbutin serum in your skincare regime.  

The Bottom Line: 

Alpha Arbutin is an incredibly potent skin-lightening ingredient that can leave your skin looking radiant and evenly toned with religious use. And layering it with other active ingredients can enhance its properties. We hope this article has helped you get a better idea about Alpha Arbutin's action and other ingredients that can be paired along with it.

Frequently Asked Questions: 

1. Is Alpha Arbutin safe on the skin as a skin lightening agent? 

Alpha arbutin being an organic ingredient with much lesser invasive action than other inorganic skin lightening agents like hydroquinone, is mostly considered safe for the skin. Alpha arbutin is not cytotoxic and does not affect cell viability.

According to skin experts, individuals with any skin type can include alpha arbutin in their skincare regimen for treating skin hyperpigmentation. Alpha arbutin is useful as a skin lightening agent in as low a 1% concentration. However, you can use a maximum of 2% concentration without any irritation and dryness.  

2. Can Alpha Arbutin permanently lighten your skin? 

No, Alpha Arbutin only affects the tyrosinase activity and has no permanent action on our skin's melanocytes. Regularly using alpha arbutin will reduce the hyperpigmented patches and spots on the skin as long as the tyrosinase stays blocked.

If you discontine using the active ingredient, the skin-lightening effect will continue for a few more weeks and then eventually wear off.