Alpha Arbutin-Benefits of Arbutin for Skin
What Is Alpha Arbutin?
Alpha Arbutin is a new type of hydroquinone glucoside with an α-glucosyl bond. Applied topically, it inhibits tyrosinase and thus prevents the formation of melanin. Arbutin is therefore used as a skin-lightening agent. It is the more effective, faster and safer approach to promoting skin-brightening and an even skin tone on all skin types. Alpha-Arbutin also minimizes liver spots and meets all the requirements of a modern skin-brightening and skin depigmentation product. Alpha arbutin (AA) is a skin care product that’s most often used to reduce uneven skin tone and hyperpigmentation.
It’s most often extracted from the bearberry plant, which is a plant in the genus Arctostaphylos. It contains beneficial compounds that regulate skin’s pigment.
It can also be extracted from certain other plants and fruits, including pears, berries and those in the Ericaceae family, as well as made synthetically in a lab.
You can use AA on its own — plus you’ll find it in some skin care serums, masks and creams.
It works primarily by stopping melanin from concentrating in certain parts of the skin. While we need a certain amount of melanin in our skin, such as to protect against cellular damage from UV light exposure, concentrated melanin formation can contribute to skin issues, such as age spots and scars.
Alpha arbutin is a choice brightening ingredient because it's a derivative of hydroquinone, one of the most effective skin-lightening and spot-fading actives out there. While it's a champ at gradually fading dark spots, it has a safety profile that's a little, well, questionable. Here's the sitch: hydroquinone can be toxic to living cells and has the potential for side effects such as ochornosis (a bluish-black discoloration of the skin tissue) as well as irritation, according to Dr. Chang. It's why you can only use the ingredient for a few months at a time, and also why it's been banned entirely in the E.U. and Japan.
How Does Alpha Arbutin Work in the Skin?
Does alpha arbutin really work as a skin-brightening ingredient? Here is what research, plus anecdotal evidence, suggests are some of the benefits of alpha arbutin:
1. Can Help Treat Hyperpigmentation and Uneven Skin Tone
AA seems to do a good job of addressing an uneven skin tone.
It can help reduce the appearance of age spots (brown spots), freckles and sun spots, in part by decreasing skin darkening after sun exposure/sun burns by blocking the production of tyrosinase. Tyrosinase is produced in cells called melanocytes, which make your skin darker by adding more pigment.
Topical treatment of arbutin has also been shown to treat melasma (a condition that causes gray-brown patches on the cheeks, forehead, nose and chin, often due to hormonal changes).
All of this translates to AA helping brighten, tone and add luminosity to your skin while fighting general signs of aging and damage. It also has some mild antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, further contributing to healthy skin.
2. May Fade Acne Scars and Discoloration
AA can help lighten dark spots and lessen the appearance of purple, red or brown acne scars. It’s also unlikely to trigger breakouts and lead to oiliness in those with acne-prone or sensitive skin.
Benefits of Arbutin for Skin
Has sun protection properties: Arbutin can reduce the degree of skin darkening after sun exposure by blocking the production of tyrosinase.
Gentle on skin: While other skin brightening agents can dry and irritate the skin, arbutin is less irritating. “Since arbutin’s active component is released slowly, it can be less irritating than other skin-lightening agents and better for those with sensitive skin,” Lin says.
Improves uneven complexion:Since arbutin inhibits tyrosinase, an enzyme that helps with melanin production, it can prevent dark spots or even help fade them, leading to a more even complexion.
Safe to use with other skincare products: There are no known negative interactions between arbutin and other skincare ingredients.
Can be used twice daily: For maximum results, arbutin can be used both in the morning and at night.
Safer than hydroquinone:For a while, hydroquinone was the “miracle” skin-lightening ingredient—until it was declared a carcinogenic by the FDA (when taken orally, rather than applied topically). While hydroquinone works by killing the cells that produce pigmentation and melanin, arbutin inhibits the enzymes that stimulate pigment-producing cells.
Effective at fading scars:Much like its ability to fade dark spots, arbutin is also great at fading those red-purple acne scars that stick around long after a zit is gone.
Brightens skin: As explained above, arbutin prohibits the formation of dark spots, offering a brightening effect on the skin.
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