Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist -  Written by Gopika Suresh (Journalist)  on 04th Jan 2021

Alpha Arbutin - Safe and Effective Skin lightening ingredient to include in your routine 

Safe and Effective Skin lightening ingredient

Although most people are concerned about wrinkles, which they assume is the first sign of aging, there is something worse. Having uneven skin tone, ruddy skin, and age spots can make you look older than having crow's feet and fine lines.

You are sure to have heard of various products and ingredients that claim to tone, brighten, and add radiance to your skin. However, some of these can be drying and too harsh for those with sensitive skin. So, how do you pick an ingredient that will suit your skin? Well, you could blindly go for alpha arbutin that is safe for all skin types! Although it may not be as popular as kojic acid, vitamin C, and licorice, alpha arbutin can be found in many cosmetic and skincare products. Although the above ingredients are excellent skin brighteners, read more to know why alpha-arbutin tops them. 

What is Arbutin?  

According to dermatologist Michael Lin, MD, who practices in Los Angeles, 

arbutin is a molecule extracted from the bearberry plant. It prevents the formation of melanin

Lin compares arbutin to other gentle brighteners, licorice root derived from the licorice plant, and kojic acid, derived from mushrooms. Although they are all obtained from natural ingredients, they work as tyrosinase inhibitors. Doing so provides brightening effects and skin lightening.

The brown spots that you may find on your skin come from certain pigments. These are produced in cells called melanocytes. These cells contain enzymes known as tyrosinase. These get activated when in contact with UV light. This is why it is essential not to spend too much time under sunlight and wear sunscreen regularly. If not followed, you may notice sun spots and freckles that begin to develop on your skin.

That is when arbutin begins its magic. It keeps dark spots away by blocking the tyrosinase.

Although alpha-arbutin is great, beta arbutin is cheaper and unstable. So, you must be aware as to what ingredient you are putting on your face. Moreover, alpha arbutin is water-soluble, stable in light, and heat resistant.  

How does Alpha Arbutin work on your skin? 

Alpha arbutin occurs naturally and is a derivative of hydroquinone, which is a popular skin lightening ingredient. As we mentioned above, it can be extracted from dried leaves of plants like bearberry, cranberry, blueberry. It works as an excellent skin lightening agent, fades spots and pigmentation caused due to sun damage or breakouts.

The quantity of melanin in your skin determines your skin tone. Melanin is stimulated by an enzyme called tyrosinase, found in melanocyte cells. Tyrosinase is activated every time your skin comes in contact with harsh UV light. Alpha arbutin blocks or slows down the process of pigmentation caused by UV rays by blocking tyrosinase activity. This helps to keep away dark spots.  

Benefits Of Using Alpha Arbutin 

1. Reduces pigmentation and dark spots  

Alpha arbutin does its magic by blocking tyrosinase activity, which decreases the melanin production in your skin. Lesser the tyrosine and melanin, the lesser the dark spots and pigmentation. This leads to a more even complexion as well.

Whether you have age spots, post blemish redness, or acne scars, alpha arbutin can minimize them all. It is excellent for reducing liver spots and freckles too

2. Helps in lightening of the skin  

Alpha arbutin helps in reducing tan on your skin. It does so by reducing the degree of the production of melanin. This natural ingredient can even treat the condition of melasma, in which the individual suffers from tan or dark skin discoloration. 

3. Provides an even skin tone  

Using alpha-arbutin regularly reduces the appearance of discolored patches and sunspots on the skin as it decreases melanin production in your skin. This evens out your skin and brightens your complexion. Thus, making your skin look vibrant and much healthier. 

4. Safer Option Than Hydroquinone 

Most experts claim that alpha-arbutin is a safer alternative than hydroquinone. Although hydroquinone kills the cells that produce melanin and cause pigmentation, alpha arbutin inhibits enzyme action, making the pigment-producing cells.  

5. Gentle On Skin

Most of you may have noticed by using brightening ingredients can have a drying effect on the skin. Sometimes, they can irritate those with sensitive skin too. However, alpha arbutin is an excellent option as it is less irritating and drying. This is due to its presence of active components that are very slowly released.  

How To Use Alpha Arbutin?

You may use alpha-arbutin twice daily. Please use it with other skin lightening gels, cleaners, creams, serums, cleansers, masks, and other chemical peels for better results.

Try out Minimalist's Kojic Acid 2% + Alpha Arbutin 1%, which is fragrance-free and non-comedogenic. This powerful anti-pigmentation duo made of kojic acid and alpha-arbutin reduces blemishes and dark spots to give you brighter-looking, even-toned skin.

For even better results, you may apply alpha-arbutin along with Vitamin C. You could use it after exfoliation of the skin with an AHA also. Doing so will improve the absorption of the ingredient. However, make sure to apply it to dry, clean skin before moisturizing.  

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Like any other product, once again, remember that alpha-arbutin can only work its magic when you are consistent with its usage. Remember/do not forget that it will take one to two months before you begin to see some noticeable improvements.  

Who Should Use Alpha Arbutin? 

You need not be concerned about your age or skin type before using alpha-arbutin. Anyone can use it to treat tan related concerns or pigmentation. No matter what your skin kind/type or age is, you can safely use alpha-arbutin for your skin to treat pigmentation or tan associated concerns. Alpha arbutin is safe for topically when present in up to 2% concentrations in skincare products.

Although alpha-arbutin is much less drying and irritating than other brightening agents, it is advisable to do a patch test on your elbow before using it on your face.  

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Side-effects Of Alpha Arbutin 

Although alpha-arbutin is one of the safest and most gentle brightening ingredients, it can cause adverse reactions in some rare cases. Despite suiting almost every skin type, under alkaline conditions, alpha arbutin may convert into hydroquinone. This is a depigmenting agent that is used to lighten areas around dark skin. In such cases, you must consult a dermatologist and use alpha-arbutin under their guidance.  

A few other side effects of alpha arbutin include:  

  • Irritation of the skin may result in mild acne  
  • Sunburns or sun sensitivity  
  • Irritation or redness from an allergic reaction 

Does Alpha Arbutin tend to darken skin? 

As we mentioned above, alpha arbutin can be used to lighten your skin and decrease its melanin production. By using the right concentration, it can help those suffering from hyperpigmentation.  

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However, its whitening effect is not permanent, which is essential to note. This is because it only decreases tyrosinase activity. Once you discontinue the ingredient, the lightning effect will last for a few weeks and disappear over time.  

Wrapping Up 

Alpha arbutin is one of the safest brightening and lightening agents you can use today. It works well in treating age spots, dark spots, and pigmentation amongst all skin types and age groups. Although it takes a little patience, the ingredient will surprise you.