Active Ingredients: Arbutin

Reyanna Ng Beauty Expert
Active Ingredients: Arbutin

What is Arbutin?

Arbutin is a natural brightening ingredient extracted from bearberry, blueberry, cranberry and pear plants. Though sometimes it can be synthetically made. Arbutin is a natural derivative of hydroquinone, another popular skin-lightening agent but it has been caught in a bit of controversy.

 Arbutin is an amazing brightening agent because it prevents the formation of melanin and inhibits tyrosinase (an enzyme found in melanocytes, the pigment produced in cells that cause the skin to darken).

 There are other similar sounding ingredients to arbutin but it is crucial to distinguish alpha-arbutin which is the good stuff.

  • Alpha-arbutin = The purest form. Water-soluble.
  • Beta-arbutin = The lower grade that is cheaper and more unstable.



Brightening agent powerhouse 

  • As arbutin is a tyrosinase inhibitor that decreases melanin production, it reduces the speed of skin darkening after being exposed to UV rays, as well as fade pigmentation. Which leads to a more even and brighter skin complexion.
  • The same goes for darkened skin caused by scarring, age spots and melasma as they are all caused by excessive melanin production.
  • Perfect for those with hyperpigmentation concerns. 

Suitable for all and with all

  • As mentioned above, arbutin is a natural derivative of hydroquinone but it is less aggressive. Hydroquinone has been declared carcinogenic (causing cancer) and can permanently damage the skin with blueish/greyish splotches. Hydroquinone works to kill the cells that produce pigmentation, whereas arbutin inhibits the enzymes in the cells, making it a safer and gentler option.
  • Less irritating to the skin because its active component is slowly released making it suitable for those with sensitive skin.
  • Arbutin is safe to use in conjunction with other skincare ingredients, like chemical exfoliants, retinol and even vitamin C.


What to note?

  • Arbutin of up to 2% concentration is safe for topical use.
  • Must wear sunscreen after applying arbutin as it can make your skin more vulnerable to UV rays as it limits melanin production. Melanin actually helps protect your skin from UV damage such as, sunburns.
  • Please do NOT use more than 3 months at a time, prolong use can damage your skin.
  • Do not apply arbutin on damaged skin and open wounds.
  • Although gentle for all and daily use, be sure to slowly introduce arbutin to your skin. Apply according to the product instruction, some formulations are suitable for daily use while some aren’t.
  • Those with sensitive skin should still be cautious when applying arbutin, do conduct a patch test prior.
  • Heat can degrade the effectiveness of arbutin, place it somewhere cool and away from direct sunlight.


Products we recommend 

The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA Concentrated Serum

the ordinary alpha arbutin ha serum

Alpha Arbutin reduces the looks of spots and hyper-pigmentation. It's used at a high 2% concentration versus a standard concentration of 1% and supported with a next-generation form of Hyaluronic Acid for enhanced delivery. The pH of this formula is approximately 4.9 which is shown to be the most suitable pH to minimize degradation of Alpha Arbutin.


The Ordinary Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2%

the ordinary ascorbic acid alpha arbutin

This formula combines two of the most powerful brightening agents in skincare: pure Vitamin C and Alpha Arbutin, both solubilized in a completely water-free formula for ideal stability. Vitamin C is an effective antioxidant that brightens the skin tone and reduces signs of aging. Alpha Arbutin is a highly-purified biosynthetic active ingredient that reduces the look of dark spots and uneven skin tone.


The INKEY List Alpha Arbutin Serum

the inkey list alpha arbutin serum

A serum containing alpha arbutin and hyaluronic acid that reduces the looks of spots and hyper-pigmentation. This product contains a high 2% concentration versus a standard concentration of 1% and supported with a next-generation form of Hyaluronic Acid for enhanced delivery.


Some By Mi Yuja Niacin Brightening Sleeping Mask

some by me yuja niacin brightening sleeping mask

A sleeping mask containing ten kinds of vitamins and goheung yuja extract that brightens, improves skin tone and moisturises. Is a dual functional product: Whitening + Anti-wrinkle. Brightens and moisturises skin with 70% of Goheung Yuja Extract. Improves skin tone and brightens skin with Glutathione, Arbutin and Resmelin. Hydrates skin with Aquaxyl and Fructan™ and vitalises skin with 10 kinds of vitamins.


Naruko Taiwan Magnolia Brightening and Firming Night Gelly EX 

naruko taiwan magnolia brightening and firming night gelly

This contains magnolia and snow mushroom extract that moisturizes the skin and restores the moisture barrier to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles that occur because of dehydrated skin. Arbutin and tranexamic acid brightens the skin tone, fades dark spots, and corrects pigmentation for an all around brightening effect.


Hada Labo Shirojyun Premium Whitening Face Wash

hada labo shirojyun premium whitening face wash

A foaming face wash containing super hyaluronic acid, arbutin and plant extracts. Helps to remove impurities, brightens your complexion, hydrates and restores a more even skin tone.

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