What is alpha arbutin and how is it used for skin blemishes?

Alpha arbutin is a product used for the treatment of hyperpigmentation. How is it obtained? What are its properties? Find out!

Last update: November 27, 2021

In recent years, alpha arbutin treatments have become popular as an effective alternative for the treatment of skin blemishes. In fact, it is a common compound in cosmetic skin care products.

As an article published in Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin, it is a safe and effective ingredient to reduce melanin synthesis and lighten the skin. What exactly? How does it work? We will detail it below.

What is alpha arbutin?

Alpha arbutin is a substance used in cosmetics to minimize the presence of blemishes on the skin.

Alpha Arbutin is a natural derivative of hydroquinone, an ingredient used to gradually fade blemishes on the skin. In particular, it is a hydroquinone glycoside which comes from the dried leaves of plants such as bearberry, blueberry and pear. It is also manufactured synthetically.

Its mechanism of action is explained by its ability to inhibit the activity of tyrosinase, an enzyme that is responsible for stimulating the production of melanin. Since it mitigates the impact of the sun’s UV rays, it slows down the pigmentation process and prevents the formation of dark spots.

Top benefits of alpha arbutin for skin care

The main benefit of alpha arbutin for the skin is the reduction of spots caused by the sun, hormonal changes or other factors. By blocking the tyrosine process, decreases melanin synthesis and forces a degradation of skin imperfections.

On the other hand, it has been observed that it has antioxidant properties that not only enhance its lightening effect, but also mitigate the negative impact of free radicals on cells. The result? Healthier, younger and unaltered skin. Other advantages of this substance are those mentioned below.

Brighter complexion

Alpha Arbutin naturally brightens and makes the face look healthier and brighter. Its compounds remove dead cells that accumulate on the skin, which provides cleanliness, softness and a radiant appearance.

Less aggressive than hydroquinone

Hydroquinone is often used regularly in products for melasma and severe hyperpigmentation. However, most are of synthetic origin and their incorrect use can cause adverse reactions. While alpha arbutin is a derivative of hydroquinone, its application is more secure and its effects are similar.

How is alpha arbutin used to reduce skin blemishes?

Right now, alpha arbutin is available in natural and synthetic forms. In general, it is used in concentrations of 1 or 2% in creams, masks, lotions and lightening serums. These, in turn, are applied 1 or 2 times a day. In order to enhance its effects, some presentations contain other active ingredients such as vitamin C or depigmenting acids.

Application mode

  • First of all, it is advisable to do a patch test to rule out unwanted reactions. To do this, apply the product to a small area of ​​the skin at night. If after 24 hours there is no irritation or discomfort, it can be used without problem.
  • After verifying that the alpha arbutin product is safe, you can use it as a spot or general treatment. That is to say, you can put a small amount on the stain or distribute it evenly on the face, chest, hands or any hyperpigmented area.


Possible side effects

In the presence of redness or irritation, the use of alpha arbutin should be discontinued.

Until now, alpha arbutin is considered safe for most people. In fact, it is suitable for all skin types. However, their concentrations should not exceed 4%. In rare cases, people with sensitive skin experience a burning sensation after application. Other side effects are as follows:

  • Breakout skin irritation.
  • Sensitivity to the sun
  • Redness from an allergic reaction.
  • Peeling.

Is the effect of alpha arbutin long-lasting?

It should be noted that, with an adequate concentration, alpha arbutin serves as an adjuvant for skin care and the reduction of spots. However, since its function is to intervene with the activity of tyrosinase, its lightening effects are not permanent. Although it remains a week after stopping treatment, the spots may reappear over time.

Note: excess heat decreases the effectiveness of this substance. Therefore, if you have products that contain it, avoid exposing them to sunlight or heat sources.



Consult your dermatologist before using alpha arbutin

Finally, it is important to note that hyperpigmentation or other skin problems should be evaluated by a professional in dermatology. The specialist will determine if other treatments are required or if alpha arbutin products suffice.

On the other hand, it is worth highlighting the importance of applying other facial care to obtain better results. In this sense, it is essential to hydrate the skin 2 times a day and, of course, use sunscreen. The latter is quite important, since arbutin can cause photosensitivity.

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