Alpha arbutin is a safe and powerful skincare ingredient that tackles hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone, allowing you to achieve a radiant complexion.
Although many skincare ingredients out there can brighten dark spots, alpha arbutin is often said to be at the top of this list of ingredients.
It’s not only effective at toning your skin, but is also known to be much safer, less harsh, and won’t dry out your skin. That means it’s perfect for sensitive skin types.
So, if you’re looking for a gentle brightener, keep on reading as we cover everything you need to know about alpha arbutin.
What is alpha arbutin
Alpha arbutin, or hydroquinone β-D-glucopyranoside, is a naturally occurring skin brightener commonly extracted from plants such as bearberries, blueberries, and cranberries.
While it is sometimes referred to as “natural hydroquinone”, it is completely safe with none of the problematic side effects associated with hydroquinone, which is highly potent and prohibited for use in cosmetic products.
You may sometimes see “arbutin” in your ingredient list but while they may sometimes be used interchangeably, “arbutin” typically refer to “beta-arbutin” when it’s in your product.
Beta-arbutin is cheaper, less stable, and less effective than alpha arbutin.
What this means is that you should specifically look for “alpha arbutin” – instead of just “arbutin” – in your ingredient list if you’re looking for this top-grade skin-brightener.
Alpha arbutin function
Pigmentation is produced in cells called melanocytes, which activate enzymes called tyrosinase when in contact with UV light.
Alpha arbutin works by releasing hydroquinone over a long period of time and blocking tyrosinase. This means that it both prevents and treats pigmentation issues, leading to less discolouration and fewer dark spots.
You might be wondering “wait, I thought you said hydroquinone is banned?”. There is no need to worry about the safety of alpha arbutin.
As the potent hydroquinone is released gradually, the skin is exposed to the ingredient in very small amounts. This means that you can get similar brightening results without the dangerous side effects.
Alpha arbutin benefits
By picking alpha arbutin as your skin brightener of choice, you can stand to benefit from a long list of pros:
- Treats uneven skin tone: As it prevents and fades dark spots, you will be able to enjoy a glowing and even complexion.
- Able to fade scars: This skin brightener is also great at treating stubborn red-purple acne scars.
- No photosensitivity: Unlike most skin brighteners like vitamin C and retinol, alpha arbutin doesn’t make your skin more sensitive to the sun.
- Gentle on the skin: It is not only safe, but gentle without risk of irritation. Still, you should always spot-test a new skincare product before implementing it into your routine.
- Safe with other skincare: While some skincare ingredients don’t react well together, alpha arbutin is safe to mix and match with most other ingredients. You could even combine it with another spot fader like vitamin C for extra efficacy.
- Suitable for daily use: You can use alpha arbutin every day without needing to take a break from it. In fact, it’s highly recommended to use it both in the morning and night.
How to use alpha arbutin for skin
There are many types of alpha arbutin products including toners, serums, moisturisers, and face masks, so be sure to follow product instructions.
The general recommendation is to apply alpha arbutin after cleansing, on dry skin and before any heavier products like oils or thick moisturisers or creams.
Although you can use it as a spot treatment to target problematic areas, you can just apply it to your whole face. To achieve maximum results, go ahead and incorporate it in both your morning and night skincare routines.
The Ordinary alpha arbutin review
One of the most well-known alpha arbutin products out there is The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA (hyaluronic acid) serum, so it certainly deserve a special mention in this article.
This colourless serum has a gel-like consistency that spreads evenly and absorbs quickly into the skin with minimal stickiness. The presence of HA allows for better moisture retention, so this serum will also keep your skin hydrated.
But how effective is it in fading hyperpigmentation? To get a better idea, we’ve compiled some reviews from Sephora Singapore.
The product has 4.1 out of 5 stars at 420 reviews at time of writing, so it seems to be working for most, especially those with dark spots from picking at pimples or acne.
Some reviewers who said that it didn’t make much difference to their hyperpigmentation did notice an improvement in their skin texture and wrinkles.
The main reason why The Ordinary alpha arbutin is so well loved seems to be its affordability, as many reviewers highlighted its attractive price point.
One reviewer says that you’ll need at least two months to see any improvements but notes that it is a good option for those who are allergic to vitamin C or kojic acid.
The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA retails for RM95 on Zalora.
Other alpha arbutin products
Ruruberry 2% Alpha Arbutin DV's favourite
A personal favourite of ours, this Malaysian-made alpha arbutin serum really helped to lighten our dark spots.
It also contains several delivery-enhancing and hydrating ingredients like n-acetyl glucosamine, aquaxyl, and beta glucan.
It retails for RM49.
The Ordinary Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2%
The Ordinary has another alpha arbutin product and this one is a multitasking dark spot tackler as it also has the powerful vitamin C.
This is a great option if you’re looking to incorporate both of these hyperpigmentation fading ingredients into your routine.
It retails for RM105.
The Inkey List Alpha Arbutin
This product has 2% of alpha arbutin to tackle pigmentation issues and even out your dull skin.
It is also formulated with 0.5% squalane which helps to hydrate the skin.
It retails for RM77.
Garden of Wisdom Alpha Arbutin 2% & Kojic Acid 1% Serum
Another multitasking product with more than one skin brightener in its formulation, this one not only has kojic acid but also vitamin C and niacinamide.
We’re also glad to see that this product is also fragrance-free, alcohol-free, and never tested on animals.
It retails for RM95.
Naturium Alpha Arbutin Serum 2%
A highly concentrated serum, this one has alpha arbutin, niacinamide, and lemon extract to tackle dark spots, inflammation, and environmental stressors.
Great for all skin types, this is cruelty-free, paraben-free, gluten-free, fragrance-free, and vegan too.
It retails for Rm182.
Beauty of Joseon Glow Deep Serum
Lightweight and quick-absorbing, this product contains 68.6% rice bran water to clarify skin and 2% alpha arbutin to fade hyperpigmentation.
Vegan and cruelty-free, this also contains no artificial fragrances, colours, parabens, sulfates, animal products, alcohol, mineral oils, essential oils, and silicone.
It retails for RM40.