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Alpha arbutin is a gentle yet powerful skincare ingredient that treats uneven skin tone and dark spots, allowing you to achieve glowing skin.

Even though there are many skincare ingredients that can brighten hyperpigmentation, alpha arbutin could well be the very best.

Not only is it effective at toning your skin, but it is also known to be less harsh and totally safe. It won’t dry out your skin too, which means dry and sensitive skin types can use it without issue.

So, if you’re looking for a gentle brightener, you may have finally found it. You’ll want to continue reading as we will be going over everything you need to know about alpha arbutin.

What is alpha arbutin?

Alpha Arbutin for Skin what is alpha arbutin patrycja grobelny pexels

Photo source: Patrycja Ggrobelny on Pexels

Alpha arbutin, or hydroquinone β-D-glucopyranoside, is a naturally occurring skin brightener. It is commonly found in plants such as bearberries, blueberries, and cranberries.

Although sometimes referred to as “natural hydroquinone”, it is totally safe and has none of the problematic side effects associated with hydroquinone, which is prohibited in cosmetic products due to its high potency.

You may sometimes see “arbutin” in your ingredient list but while they may sometimes be used interchangeably, “arbutin” typically refers to “beta-arbutin” when it’s in your product.

Beta-arbutin is cheaper, less stable, and less effective than alpha arbutin.

This means 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.

How alpha arbutin works

Alpha Arbutin for Skin alpha arbutin function maethus bertelli pexels

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Cells called melanocytes activate enzymes called tyrosinase when in contact with UV light, which leads to the production of pigmentation.

Alpha arbutin functions by slowly releasing hydroquinone and inhibiting tyrosinase, therefore preventing and treating pigmentation issues. This means less discolouration and fewer dark spots.

But wait, you might be wondering “isn’t hydroquinone banned?” Well, alpha arbutin is totally safe to use, as there are no dangerous side effects.

This is because the hydroquinone is released gradually, so the skin is exposed to the potent ingredient in minuscule amounts, leading to similar brightening results with no danger.

Alpha arbutin benefits

Alpha Arbutin for Skin alpha arbutin benefits xframe

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You can enjoy a long list of benefits by incorporating alpha arbutin into your routine:

  • Treats uneven skin tone: You will be able to enjoy a glowing and even complexion as it prevents and fades dark spots.
  • Able to fade scars: Other than dark spots, this skin brightener is great at fading stubborn red-purple acne scars.
  • No photosensitivity: Alpha arbutin doesn’t make your skin more sensitive to the sun unlike most skin brighteners like vitamin C and retinol.
  • Safe with other skincare: This ingredient has been shown to not interact negatively with other skincare ingredients, so you can even combine it with another spot fader like vitamin C to speed up the process.
  • Gentle on the skin: While you should always patch test a new skincare product before adding it to your routine, alpha arbutin is generally gentle without risk of irritation.
  • Suitable for daily use: It is so gentle you can use it every day without needing to let your skin rest. In fact, you can use it both in the morning and night for maximum results.

How to incorporate alpha arbutin in your skincare routine

Alpha Arbutin for Skin how to use alpha arbutin for skin shiny diamond pexels

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You can find alpha arbutin in many skincare products including toners, serums, moisturisers, and face masks, so be sure to follow the instructions of the product of your choice.

Generally, you will want to apply alpha arbutin on clean, dry skin and before any oils and heavy moisturisers or creams.

You can use it on your whole face and as a spot treatment to target problematic areas. Go ahead and incorporate it into both your morning and night skincare routines for best efficacy.

The Ordinary alpha arbutin review

Alpha Arbutin For Skin The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA moon.vanity instagram

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One of the most popular alpha arbutin products is The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA (hyaluronic acid) serum.

Colourless and lightweight, this product has a gel-like consistency that spreads evenly, absorbs quickly, and leaves minimal stickiness. You can also enjoy hydrated skin as the presence of HA allows for better moisture retention.

But how is its effectiveness in fading hyperpigmentation? We’ve gone through the reviews from Sephora to get a better understanding of what makes this product so popular.

It seems to be working for most users as the product has a solid 4.1 out of 5 stars at 420 reviews at the time of writing. Most who have reported progress with their hyperpigmentation seem to be those dealing with post-inflammatory acne spots.

Some who didn’t experience much progress in terms of hyperpigmentation noted an overall improvement in their skin texture and wrinkles.

The biggest reason why The Ordinary alpha arbutin is so popular seems to be due to its price, as many love how affordable it is.

One reviewer mentions that you should expect progress only after two months as it takes a while to work. She also notes that it is a great option if you are allergic to vitamin C or kojic acid.

The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA retails for S$19 on Sephora.

More alpha arbutin products to try

Ruruberry 2% Alpha Arbutin

Ruruberry 2% Alpha Arbutin Personal Favourite

This Malaysian-made alpha arbutin serum is a personal favourite of ours as it really helped to lighten our dark spots.

It also contains n-acetyl glucosamine, aquaxyl, and beta glucan to enhance the delivery and provide hydration.

It retails for S$20.


The Ordinary Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2%

The Ordinary Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2%

The Ordinary has another alpha arbutin product, and the difference is that this one also contains the powerful vitamin C.

We recommend picking this up for an easy way to add both of these dark spot fading ingredients into your routine.

It retails for S$30.


The Inkey List Alpha Arbutin

The Inkey List Alpha Arbutin

You can expect bright, clear, and even skin with this product which contains 2% alpha arbutin.

It won’t dry out your skin at all thanks to the presence of 0.5% squalane.

It retails for S$21.


Garden of Wisdom Alpha Arbutin 2% & Kojic Acid 1% Serum

Garden of Wisdom Alpha Arbutin 2% & Kojic Acid 1% Serum

This multitasking product has several skin brightening ingredients in its formulation. It includes kojic acid, vitamin C, and niacinamide.

You’ll be glad to know that it is fragrance-free, alcohol-free, and never tested on animals.

It retails for S$41.99.


Naturium Alpha Arbutin Serum 2%

Naturium Alpha Arbutin Serum 2%

Other than alpha arbutin, this serum has niacinamide and lemon extract to deal with dark spots, inflammation, and environmental stressors.

This product is ideal for all skin types and is cruelty-free, paraben-free, gluten-free, fragrance-free, and vegan.

It retails for S$38.35.


Beauty of Joseon Glow Deep Serum

Beauty of Joseon Glow Deep Serum

Containing 68.6% rice bran water and 2% alpha arbutin, this product clarifies the skin while dealing with hyperpigmentation.

You’ll be glad to know that there are no artificial fragrances, colours, parabens, sulfates, animal products, alcohol, mineral oils, essential oils, and silicone.

It retails for S$20.


Featured image credit: _bbyskin_ & Marie-Michele Bouchard