Derived from bearberry leaves, arbutin is known for its lightening properties. This molecule acts by inhibiting the synthesis of melanin, a dark pigment of blackish to brown-red color found in skin, hair, and the membrane of the eye. Thus, arbutin effectively fights against the appearance of pigmentation spots.
All You Need to Know About Alpha Arbutin.
What Is Arbutin?
Arbutin is a cosmetic active ingredient also known as alpha arbutin or 4-Hydroxyphenyl-alpha-D-glucopyranoside. This molecule is naturally present in certain plants, such as ash heather, cranberry, or bilberry. However, it is in bearberry leaves that it is possible to extract the maximum amount. This active ingredient can also be produced synthetically, in particular from hydroquinone, a chemical substance known for treating skin discoloration or hyperpigmentation.
Note: Beta-arbutin (β-arbutin) is an isomer of alpha-arbutin (α-arbutin) also found in some anti-hyperpigmentation treatments. However, studies have shown that alpha-arbutin is ten times more effective than beta-arbutin on hyperpigmentation.
Hyperpigmentation in a Few Words.
It is a disorder of the pigmentation process. Melanin, the pigment responsible for the natural coloring of the skin, is overproduced in certain areas, which leads to the appearance of brown, red, or pink spots. These spots vary in size and impact the uniformity of the complexion. Hyperpigmentation affects all skin tones, but is most common and visible in darker skinned people. Pigmentation spots can cause some discomfort in the daily life of the subjects concerned.
Alpha-Arbutin, the Anti-Hyperpigmentation Active Ingredient Par Excellence.
Arbutin is often referred to as a natural hydroquinone because of its pigment-regulating properties. When applied to the skin, its remarkable effectiveness is due to its perfect affinity with the active site of tyrosinase, an enzyme involved in melanin formation. Thus, this competitive inhibition of the active site of the enzyme blocks its activity and consequently the synthesis of melanin. Due to its lightening properties, this active ingredient is recommended for fading acne marks (post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation), sun spots and pregnancy masks.
Because of these properties, this active ingredient is present in our alpha-arbutin Serum for Hyperpigmentation at a level of 2%, combined with another lightening compound, lemon extract. We recommend that you use this treatment daily for a minimum of 6 weeks in order to see the effects on your pigmentation spots.
Arbutin to Limit Skin Aging.
This active ingredient also has a strong antioxidant activity. Thus, it inhibits the formation of free radicals, extremely reactive species derived from oxygen that degrade the skin's healthy cells and proteins, accelerating its aging.
Dangers or Contraindications?
Alpha-arbutin is now presented as a natural and safe alternative to hydroquinone. As a reminder, hydroquinone is a bleaching agent that has been banned in cosmetics since 2001 in Europe because of its carcinogenic potential.
When applied to the skin, in high concentrations, arbutin can generate mild irritation and redness. According to a 2015 report, the SCCS (Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety) considers the use of alpha arbutin in cosmetic products to be safe for consumers at a concentration of up to 2% in face creams and up to 0.5% in body milks.
Arbutin can be combined with other skin-lightening actives, such as kojic acid, glutathione, and hydroxides. No bad association was currently reported.
Please note: When ingested, this substance is contraindicated for nursing and pregnant women or those suffering from severe liver disorders or irritative digestive diseases.
ICHIASHI M. & al, Effect of arbutin on melanogenic proteins in human melanocytes. Pigment Cell & Melanoma Research (1998).
Rapport du CSSC sur l'alpha-arbutine (22 juillet 2015).
KAULPIBOON J. & al. Optimization of amylomaltase for the synthesis of α-arbutin derivatives as tyrosinase inhibitors. Carbohydrate Research (2020).
MOHAMMADAMINI H. & al. A comprehensive review of the therapeutic potential of alpha-arbutin. Phytotherapy Research (2021).