Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist - Written by Rithi Choudhary (Journalist) on 12th Feb 2021
Alpha Arbutin with Niacinamide: The Ultimate Solution for Pigmentation
The definition of beauty is always evolving. From unibrows to thin brows to now bushy brows, the norms for what is considered fashionable are never constant. Pigmentation, for example, is something nobody wanted two centuries ago. Not even a speck of a blemish was desired, but thanks to the Kardashian/Jenner clan, freckles are in vogue and considered to be
Uneven skin tone and acne scars still haven't made it to the 'in vogue' list. This is why at Minimalist, we are constantly working on solving all your pigmentation related woes. Today we have come with a solution that may be your holy grail to erase pigmentation and polish your skin for the airbrushed skin you fancy so much whenever you put on those aesthetic Instagram filters. To learn more, read on.
Meet Blemish Erasing Duo - Alpha Arbutin and Niacinamide
1. Alpha Arbutin
Arbutin is the naturally occurring counterpart to the controversial skin lightening veteran Hydroquinone. Arbutin is derived from bearberry, mulberry, blueberry, cranberry, wheat, and some pears varieties.
However, Arbutin on its own is not stable or effective enough, which is why for cosmetic formulations, a biosynthetic and stable form of arbutin - Alpha Arbutin is used.
- Alpha Arbutin is synthesized from Hydroquinone using an enzymatic or chemical reaction. The hydroquinone group allows it to inhibit tyrosinase (the enzyme needed to synthesize melanin) and decrease melanin production.
- Melanin is the component responsible for giving skin its respective color. Lesser melanin in the skin leads to lighter skin tone, while more melanin leads to darker skin tone. Alpha Arbutin prevents and treats hyperpigmentation by inhibiting L-tyrosine production (an amino acid) essential for melanin production. An excess of melanin production is responsible for hyperpigmentation and dark spots. According to the American Academy of dermatology, when you protect your skin from UV rays, dark spots are blemishes fade out fast.
- Although Alpha arbutin effectively fades unevenness, spots, acne scars, and dark patches, it is not meant for overall fairness treatment. Alpha arbutin is safer and non-irritating, unlike Hydroquinone, and also does not lead to rebound hyperpigmentation (which means pigmentation comes back after you stop using Hydroquinone).
- It is suited for all skin kinds/types and is a good option for people of color to address pigmentation.
Niacinamide is a derivative of Vit B3, also known as Niacin. Niacinamide is a gentle alternative to the gold standard skincare ingredient retinoids, which, although extremely effective, cannot be tolerated by all skin types.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin) is a precursor to two important molecules: nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD+/NADH) and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP+).
These molecules are fundamental to the chemical reactions that our skin cells require to grow, repair damage, & function normally. The same process - helping your body create more NAD+ and repair cellular damage-increases the topical advantages derived from Niacinamide on the skin.
- Niacinamide can help build healthy skin cells & protect the skin from environmental damage such as ultraviolet rays, pollution, and toxins. Simultaneously, it also disrupts tyrosinase activity and thereby prevents melanin production, which helps in fading hyperpigmentation.
- Niacinamide also boosts collagen, the structural protein responsible for maintaining skin elasticity and plumpness. It also slows the bonding of glucose and proteins in the skin, leading to cross-linking and ultimately degrading collagen chains.
- Niacinamide enhances the skin's barrier function and helps the skin produce ceramides (lipids that help maintain the skin's safety/protective barrier), which helps retain moisture and minimize the appearance of wrinkles fine lines. Thus it delays the formation of lines and wrinkles.
- Niacinamide's anti-inflammatory properties make it an effective treatment for skin inflammation like mild acne, rosacea, psoriasis, etc.
- Topical Niacinamide application of Niacinamide reduces the production of sebum and thereby helps prevent comedones and pimples.
- Niacinamide stimulates the enzymes on the skin surface that acts as antioxidants and helps the skin build protein (particularly keratin). Thereby the skin attains a smoother texture and reduces the appearance of pores.
Decoding skin pigmentation
To effectively treat pigmentation, it is important to understand it from a skeletal level.
Our skin consists of three layers- the epidermis, the topmost protective layer; the dermis, the mid-layer with hair follicles and sweat glands; and the hypodermis, the innermost layer composed of fat and connective tissue. Scars form when the dermis is damaged (either from a wound or injury). Our body forms new collagen fiber to repair the damage, which creates a tissue of a different texture & quality than the surrounding tissue.
But the injury is not the only cause of pigmentation (also known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation). Pigmentation and tanning is also a result of UV exposure. The body's natural defense mechanism accelerates/speeds up the production of a lot of melanin, making the area darker.
What causes dark spots?
Some of the major factors which lead to pigmentation are:
1. Sun exposure:
The first and usual culprit is direct sunlight, that is, prolonged UV exposure. Hyperpigmentation almost always shows up in the places exposed to the sun, such as the face, neck, or arms, especially where using sunscreen has been skipped.
Whenever there is any inflammation or wound, our skin's healing process involves a chemical reaction by hyper activating our melanocytes and producing more melanin. This process of darkening of the skin after any inflammation is known as Post Inflammatory Hyperpigmentation. Sometimes, a pimple or acne flare-ups can also leave behind dark spots on the skin, which generally fade away with time.
Dark spots are also likely to develop due to conditions such as melasma. Melasma is a common hyperpigmentation disorder that appears as dark, discolored patches on the skin. It is also known as a "pregnancy mask" since pregnant women are more prone to developing this skin condition.
4. Skin products:
Skin products, if not chosen wisely, will end up doing more harm than good. Certain chemicals can be skin irritants and lead to hyperpigmentation. Fragrance in skincare, potent acids like glycolic acid (when used by people of color) often worsen or contribute to hyperpigmentation.
Studies have suggested that certain medications can result in hyperpigmentation. This is because they can make our skin more sensitive to photodamage. Medicines containing strong steroids, anti-inflammatory drugs, estrogens, psychotropic drugs, antibiotics, amiodarone, and oral contraceptive pills cause hyperpigmentation.
What should you do to prevent Hyperpigmentation?
- Sunscreen, Sunscreen, and Sunscreen: First and foremost, make wearing sunscreen a religious practice. It is almost equivalent to sin if you are going out bare skin on a sunny or even rainy day. UV rays can penetrate even through windows, and therefore wear sunscreen even when you are inside and think otherwise that you are safe because your skin is not.
- Minimalist Niacinamide 5% and Minimalist Alpha Arbutin 2% Serum: While each serum is wonderful on its own when combined, they attain superpowers and are almost like a magic wand that can work on your skin pigmentation. Science backs it up in this study where it has been found that layering 4% niacinamide and 2% alpha-arbutin enhanced skin brightening effect.
Last but not least, you are beautiful with all your scars and spots. They do not define you as a person. However, it is completely your choice if you wish to get rid of them for aesthetic satisfaction, which is the sole purpose of this article.