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Hyperpigmentation happens. Regardless of skin type, hyperpigmentation is a common skin condition that affects many people for a wide range of reasons, including acne, hormonal changes, and exposure to the sun.
You’ve probably already heard of vitamin C and kojic acid, but there’s one other skin brightener that’s just as worth knowing. Alpha arbutin — best known for its lightening effects on skin, is often incorporated into serums, creams, overnight masks, or skin treatments designed specifically to brighten skin or fade dark spots.
What is Alpha Arbutin?
Arbutin naturally occurs in various plant sources like bearberry, pomegranate, and mulberry. Typically extracted from the bearberry plant, arbutin has skin-lightening properties that are essential to treating issues related to pigmentation.
You may often hear the terms “arbutin” and “alpha arbutin” used interchangeably, however, alpha arbutin is the chemically synthesized version of arbutin. It’s important to note that beta arbutin exists as well, but it’s a cheaper version of arbutin that’s also less stable.
What is Hyperpigmentation?
Hyperpigmentation occurs when there’s excess melanin in the skin. Melanin is the substance that’s responsible for giving skin its pigment. Too much melanin causes patches or spots on skin that appear much darker in color compared to the areas surrounding it. A number of factors can lead to an overproduction of melanin in skin, such as hormonal changes, inflammation or injury to skin, and sun exposure.
Benefits of using Alpha Arbutin for the Skin
When it comes to skincare, the popularity of alpha arbutin is deeply rooted in its ability to lighten or brighten skin.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the main benefits of using alpha arbutin for the skin:
Most skincare products that are formulated with alpha arbutin are meant to help fade dark spots or improve issues related to pigmentation. Using products that contain alpha arbutin regularly on skin can help brighten your complexion, improve uneven skin tone, and lighten patches of skin that appear darker than its surrounding areas.
Improves Dark Spots
Arbutin has the ability to inhibit tyrosinase, which is an enzyme that’s required to produce melanin or pigment in skin. For this reason, using products that contain arbutin can effectively improve dark spots and discoloration in skin, along with other forms of hyperpigmentation, including melasma.
Fades Acne Scars
Alpha arbutin is also effective when it comes to improving scars and fading pigmentation from acne. Not to mention, alpha arbutin has slight antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which can provide additional benefits to skin.
Overall, adding alpha arbutin to your skincare routine can help even out skin tone while reducing the appearance of acne scars.
Safer than other Skin-Brightening Ingredients
Compared to hydroquinone, alpha arbutin is a much safer alternative for treating hyperpigmentation and melasma. In addition to its toxicity, hydroquinone has been linked to a number of serious negative side effects — and it’s actually banned in some countries.
Overall, arbutin is considered to be just as effective when it comes to brightening skin. Though arbutin does release hydroquinone, it doesn’t have the same toxicity as hydroquinone because it’s being released at a much slower rate.
How to Incorporate Alpha Arbutin into an Existing Skincare Routine
Alpha arbutin can be used on skin twice daily — in the morning and at night. But of course, it’s important to follow the instructions on the packaging of your skincare products and to only use them as directed.
Ultimately, how you incorporate this ingredient into an existing skincare routine largely depends on what type of product you’re using. For example, a cream, gel, or serum that contains alpha arbutin should be applied to skin after cleansing and before moisturizing.
What’s great about using alpha arbutin for the skin is that there are no known negative interactions with other ingredients. In fact, alpha arbutin works especially well with other skin-brightening ingredients, such as vitamin C, kojic acid, or niacinamide. For this reason, it’s a good idea to look for skincare products formulated with additional ingredients so you can reap the benefits of their combined powers.
When using alpha arbutin for the skin, don’t forget to load up on the SPF. Though it’s always recommended to wear sunscreen daily, it’s especially important to do so when you’re incorporating alpha arbutin into your skincare routine. Because alpha arbutin helps brighten skin and fade dark spots, exposing your skin (unprotected) to the sun could undo its effects or any progress you’ve made.
How to Store Alpha Arbutin
Exposure to heat can degrade the integrity of alpha arbutin and make it less effective. To preserve the quality of alpha arbutin, store it in a cool, dry area away from any sort of heat or humidity.
What to Keep in Mind when using Alpha Arbutin for the Skin
Patience is key when using alpha arbutin for the skin. Though this ingredient has a strong reputation for its skin-brightening effects on skin, the results definitely won’t be instant. In fact, it could take weeks or even months for you to notice any real difference, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t see any immediate changes.
Though alpha arbutin is considered much safer than other skin-brightening ingredients, there are a few things you should still keep in mind. First off, if you experience any sort of irritation, redness, or stinging while using a product that contains alpha arbutin, stop using it immediately. Before adding alpha arbutin — or any new ingredient — to an existing skincare routine, we always recommend doing a patch test to see how your skin will react to it.
If you’re looking for a safe and effective way to fade dark spots, acne scars, or any sort of hyperpigmentation, you might want to give alpha arbutin a try. Compared to other alternatives for lightening skin, alpha arbutin is just as powerful (but much safer) when it comes to brightening skin and improving uneven skin tone.
Have you tried alpha arbutin before? Let us know in the comments about your personal experience with alpha arbutin, and of course, if you have any questions or product recommendations for us!