Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist -  Written by Viddhi Patel (Journalist)  on 16th Dec 2020

Introducing Alpha Arbutin: The Secret Ingredient That Can Lighten Dark Patches

The Secret Ingredient That Can Lighten Dark Patches

Dark patches can appear anywhere. That's what's annoying! They don't care about your skin type or your age. Hyperpigmentation is a stubborn skin condition to cure. It takes time and dedication.

Moreover, it requires the right ingredients, which to date were considered to be Vitamin C and hydroquinone. Recent talks around 'Alpha Arbutin' have led us to believe we have a skin-brightener in the house.

Uneven skin tone is a huge concern for a lot of people, more so than wrinkles. Age spots and rough texture make you look older than fine lines and crow's feet. There is no scarcity of products that claim to brighten, tone, and bring luster and glow to the skin. But not all products are safe to use for sensitive skin types since these can be harsh and dry out your face.

Here's where Arbutin swoops in: an exciting skin-brightening ingredient, a viable and optimal option for all skin types.

This sensitive skin savior, called Arbutin, is a secret skin brightening agent, and maybe this is the first time you hear about arbutin.  

So let me tell you all about it. 

The Tale of Alpha Arbutin and Hyperpigmentation.  

While vitamin C, kojic acid, licorice, and the likes are supposed to be one of the best skin brighteners, Arbutin has an edge that helps it stand out.

If your dark pigmented marks have been a concern for a long time and were stubborn enough to not budge even with various skin treatments, then allow me to take you through a wonder molecule. It might just be the one. Arbutin may finally treat the intractable spots right out of your skin.

In addition to that, uneven skin tone and hyperpigmentation develop a need for heavily layered makeup, lowers confidence, and can affect one's social life. So it is of prime importance to treat the condition and work on lightening the area.

Unlike many other ingredients, arbutin's efficiency and security are transcendent. The powerful agent has everything you need to act upon hyperpigmentation and dryness caused by UV damage, melasma, or inflammatory skin conditions. 

Understanding stubborn hyperpigmentation 

Discoloration and uneven skin tone are a part of hyperpigmentation and dark skin patches. These tenacious skin conditions are taxing, but they can be treated.

The darkening of the skin because of melanin or skin pigment is called hyperpigmentation.

Melanin is brown or black and absorbs UV light, protecting the skin cells from UV radiation damage.

Melanocytes produce melanin, and these cells contain tyrosinase, an enzyme responsible for your skin darkening. This enzyme activates each time you are exposed to the sun.

Melanin plays a vital role as a barrier against the harmful UV rays, and extended exposure in certain areas leads to an uneven skin tone. This is hyperpigmentation summed up.

Tyrosinase decides the amount of melanin to be produced by the melanocytes through its oxidation. Treatments related to skin-brightening often work on tyrosine and melanin transfer.

The Triggers of Hyperpigmentation  

Hyperpigmentation may be an outcome of your aging skin.

For instance, liver spots are a kind of indication of old age and aging of the skin.

Skin color is directly related to the amount of melanin in our skin. More melanin can result in a darker skin tone.

A possible reason may be the dynamic nature of your hormones. Changes may cause uneven skin tone and hyperpigmentation. Too much sun may also be the reason for your skin concern. Asians, Middle Eastern, and Indians are more likely to be the victim of discoloration.

Beyond that, hormonal changes also contribute to uneven skin tone and hyperpigmentation.

Melanin produced in excess, sun exposure, skin injuries, and inflammation due to acne is are all possible causes of hyperpigmentation .

Understanding Alpha Arbutin

Alpha arbutin is extracted from bearberries, blueberries, and cranberries. This natural derivative of hydroquinone blocks tyrosinase without the added potential adverse effects hydroquinone comes with. Sensitive skin types may see this ingredient as a knight in the shining armor as the active elements of arbutin release slowly.

Vitro studies suggest that 7% of arbutin inhibits melanin production to a certain extent. Arbutin is now included in numerous skincare products to fade skin pigmentation since it is used for cosmetic purposes.

Out of the two arbutin, Alpha and Beta, the former is comparatively expensive and more effective.

The purest form of arbutin is alpha arbutin (5-hydroxyphenyl α-glucopyranoside), and since it is water-soluble, it penetrates easily into the skin.

Furthermore, arbutin also improves skin texture due to its antioxidant properties. And this quality makes its presence prominent in anti-aging products too. Arbutin is present in lotions, serums, and treatments intended to lighten dark sun patches and brighten the complexion.

The unparalleled hydroquinone's skin lightening action is imitated by arbutin. Arbutin is photostable but also degraded by heat. The incorporation should be at cold temperatures. 

The mechanism that makes arbutin unique.  

Hydroquinone is banned in Europe and America. It has a dangerous bleaching effect on the skin. Arbutin suppresses enzymes that stimulate melanin and reduce skin's pigment. Arbutin slows down the process of UV rays acting on pigmentation, resulting in the prevention and treatment of pigmentation issues.

Composed of hydroquinone with a sugar group involved, Arbutin acts as the tyrosinase inhibitor due to structural similarity to hydroquinone, a tyrosinase's natural substrate.

Apart from the inhibitory effect, it acts as a reservoir that slowly allows hydroquinone to absorb in the skin. Once absorbed, enzymes in the body cleave off the sugar group from arbutin, releasing hydroquinone. Arbutin prevents exposure to hydroquinone all at once.  

The Benefits of Using Alpha Arbutin 

1. An armor against UV. 

Arbutin can reduce the degree of darkened skin by inhibiting tyrosinase production triggered due to UV exposure. 

2. Like velvet on the skin 

Arbutin is comparatively less irritating than the usual skin brightening agents. The active components of arbutin release slowly into the skin, making it optimal for sensitive skin types. It is comparatively gentler than glycolic acid and retinol

3. Evens out the uneven 

The inhibition of tyrosinase makes arbutin efficient in preventing dark spots and fading out dark patches, leading to an even complexion. 

4. Skin-Friendly 

Arbutin has been well behaved with other skincare products and ingredients, and no known negative behavior has been reported yet.

Maximize effectiveness with the dual application. Arbutin's effect can be maximized by using it both in the morning and at night. 

5. Not Carcinogenic 

The inimitable Hydroquinone was declared carcinogenic for oral use by the FDA. On the other hand, Hydroquinone works its way by killing the cause; the cells that cause and produce pigmentation and melanin.  

6. Fades your insecurities 

The inflamed dark acne scars that stick with you for a long time can effectively be treated with arbutin. Post-blemish redness, age spots, or acne scars, all these pigmentation concerns can be efficiently treated upon by alpha arbutin.

7. A radiant, bright glow.  

The brightening effect is the result of arbutin's ability to prohibit dark spot formation. It makes the skin clear and radiant.

Apart from hyperpigmentation, alpha arbutin effectively acts upon lentigines, melasma and chloasma, and freckles.

With the depth of pigmentation being a determining factor and your skin type, four weeks is all arbutin needs to show visible skin lightening.

Religious application of arbutin infused products results in even and lightened skin. 

Is arbutin capable of a negative reaction? 

Arbutin is safe for all skin types, but there are rare cases where arbutin causes adverse reactions.

Arbutin's side effects are of concern as it is the derivative of hydroquinone. When it comes to synthetically sourced arbutin from hydroquinone and the likes, it becomes partly dubious for topical use.

Alkaline conditions turn arbutin into hydroquinone, making it unsafe for some circumstances.

Your skin, however, is acidic and does not lead to hydrolyzing of arbutin and hydroquinone.   

Naturally sourced arbutin is the safest option with zero side effects. 

If arbutin containing products are causing any poor reaction, you may want to look after the ingredient's concentration. You should consider less concentrated products. It will allow the skin to adjust.

Keep in mind that heat reduces the effectiveness of arbutin. Please keep it away from heat and direct sunlight.  

Incorporating Arbutin in Your Skincare Routine

The gentleness of arbutin makes it viable to use with other skin lightening ingredients like chemical peels and retinol. You can use arbutin twice daily after cleansing. Use it before any heavy moisturizers.

There may be a number of your existing skin lightening products infused with arbutin. Although prominently found in serums, arbutin also works exceptionally in overnight masks and water creams.

Conversely, you are allowed to make your cocktail of arbutin with other similar ingredients aimed at brightening skin, like vitamin C and AHA.

The Alpha Arbutin 2% + Hyaluronic Acid 1% by Minimalist is a soothing skin tone enhancer. The safe skin lightening active alpha-arbutin evens tone in 5 weeks. It is an ultra-light formula that reduces sun tanning to a great extent after exposure to UV light. It absorbs easily into your skin, giving clear, radiant skin.  

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Ordinarily, arbutin is predominantly combined with kojic acid, vitamin C, or niacinamide. They work on the same line of reducing pigmentation when paired together.

A similar pairing is also found in the Kojic Acid 2% + Alpha Arbutin 1% combination by Minimalist that delivers the two very powerful skin-lighteners' efficiency. The aloe-based, ultra-light formula prevents melanin formation, which results in reduced spots, and smooth clear skin.  

Word of Advice by Minimalist  

Eliminate the future existence of hyperpigmentation by:

Applying SPF 30 or more every day, every month, and every season of the year.

Avoid picking at scabs, acne spots, and pimples. It worsens inflammation.

You may protect yourself from potential sun damage with products infused with vitamin C and niacinamide.  

The Last Word 

Arbutin is not magical. It will take time. It will require patience and perseverance.

Apply it on clean, dry skin, maybe in combination with vitamin C or after an AHA exfoliation.

Act with discretion and take proper care of your skin.