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When Should You Use Arbutin Acid/Alpha-Arbutin?

In dermo-cosmetic, several synthetic or natural active ingredients, targeting dark spots and uneven skin tone, exist. Alpha-arbutin or arbutin acid is one of them. It is a lightening (not whitening) agent derived from plants such as bearberry. Find here our advice concerning the frequency and the moment of application of a care with arbutin acid.

What Is Arbutin Acid?

Also known as alpha-arbutin, arbutin acid is a natural derivative of hydroquinone, a whitening agent that has been banned in cosmetic products by European regulations since 2001 due to its carcinogenic potential. Unlike hydroquinone, arbutin acid is not considered a risk factor in the development of a disease called exogenous ochronosis and has a good skin tolerance.

Mainly found in the bearberry plant, arbutin acid visibly fades skin marks such as pigmentation spots or acne scars.

How Arbutin Acid Works Against Hyperpigmentation.

Hyperpigmentation is defined as a disruption in the pigmentation process: melanin, the pigment that gives the skin its natural color, is overproduced in certain areas, resulting in the appearance of brown, red or pink spots that can be unsightly.

The molecular structure of arbutin acid is similar to that of tyrosine, an amino acid that is transformed into melanin by the action of the enzyme tyrosinase. Thus, arbutin acid binds to the active site of the enzyme which blocks its activity and consequently the synthesis of melanin and therefore the appearance of pigmentation spots. In other words, the action of alpha arbutin is similar to that of tyrosine, so it integrates and competes with tyrosine in order to slow down melanogenesis, without affecting the viability of the cells.

Mainly found in the bearberry plant, arbutin acid visibly fades skin marks such as pigmentation spots or acne scars.

At What Time of Day Should I Use an Arbutin Acid Treatment? How Often Should It Be Applied? When to Use Alpha-Arbutin?

In order to fade skin marks of all kinds, various galenic formulations containing alpha-arbutin are now sold on the cosmetic market. This active ingredient can thus be found in creams, lotions, tonics, serums or even night masks.

Alpha-arbutin skin care products can be used safely twice a day on a daily basis. As this active ingredient is not photo-sensitizing (it does not increase skin sensitivity to the sun's UV rays), you can apply your product morning and night. However, be sure to protect your skin every morning with a broad spectrum sun protection.

For example, Typology's Pigmentation Spot Serum, which contains 2% alpha-arbutin acid and lemon extract, is applied in the morning and night to clean and dry skin. We recommend that you use this serum daily for at least 6 weeks in order to see the effects on your pigmentation spots.

Note: This serum can also be applied to other parts of the body, such as the back. The back is often affected by acne and the underarms are darkened by repeated shaving.


  • 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).


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