Alpha-arbutin is an active ingredient that is increasingly present in cosmetic products because of its skin-lightening properties. It helps reduce the appearance of all types of pigmentation marks, such as acne marks, sun spots or even pregnancy masks. Side effects, contraindications, potential dangers? Typology informs you about the precautions to take when integrating this molecule into your routine.
What Is Alpha-Arbutin?
Arbutin is a natural derivative of hydroquinone, a component frequently used in dermatology as a skin-lightening ingredient. Arbutin has a better skin tolerance than the hydroquinone molecule, which has been prohibited in all cosmetic products since 2001 by European regulations due to its carcinogenic potential.
This active is extracted from the dried leaves of plants such as bilberry, cranberry, or bearberry. When applied topically, alpha-arbutin helps reduce the appearance of pigmentation spots. These are generally caused by several factors: repeated exposure to the sun, scars from skin eruptions, hormonal fluctuations or simply age and the passage of time.
Alpha-arbutin is a molecule that owes its effectiveness to its high affinity with the active site of tyrosinase, the enzyme that stimulates melanin synthesis in the skin. As a reminder, melanin is the pigment responsible for the brown color; when it is produced in too large a quantity in a localized area, it leads to pigmentation spots. Thus, alpha-arbutin inhibits the overproduction of melanin and fades the spots already present, as well as any skin marks left by blemishes.
Does Alpha-Arbutin Present Any Dangers?
Molecules described as whitening, such as hydroquinone, can be particularly aggressive and can dry out the skin by altering the upper layer of the epidermis. Described as a biological stripper, hydroquinone is prohibited in all cosmetic products by the European regulation since 2001, because of its carcinogenic potential.
Alpha-arbutin has gradually emerged as a gentler alternative to hydroquinone for reducing the appearance of hyperpigmentation. Instead of killing the cells responsible for melanin production, alpha-arbutin only slows down their action. Its use does not affect the viability of the cells.
Side Effects of Arbutin.
When applied to the skin, in high concentrations, alpha-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.
Therefore, before using an arbutin cream, serum, or other skincare product, it is advisable to check the percentage of this molecule in the product in question. We also advise you to perform a skin tolerance test. Apply a small amount of the product in question to the hollow of the arm or wrist and wait a few minutes. If you do not observe any skin reactions, you can apply the product to the face.
Arbutin can be combined with other active ingredients such as kojic acid, glutathione, and hydroxides. No bad associations have been reported to date.
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).