Move over, vitamin C.

Pia Velasco
Nov 18, 2020 @ 8:35 am
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alpha arbutin skincare ingredient
Credit: Unsplash

Move over vitamin C, there's a new brightening ingredient in town. Alpha arbutin has been making waves in the skincare world for quite some time, but only recently has it become particularly buzzworthy with beauty insiders. The secret skin brightener is gaining popularity these days, so we asked Dr. Dendy Engleman, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist at the Shafer Clinic in New York, everything there is to know about this hot new ingredient.

What is alpha arbutin?

Before diving into what it is, it's important to explain where it comes from. "Hydroquinone is a strong active [ingredient] that can brighten and depigment the skin—you’ll see it available in very small percentages because it can hypopigment the skin," Dr. Engleman says. "Alpha arbutin is a derivative of hydroquinone and may offer pigment correcting benefits without the side effects."

What are the skin benefits of alpha arbutin?

Alpha arbutin helps to even out skin tone and brighten dark spots. "It interacts with tyrosinase, the enzyme that contributes to the product of melanin, by inhibiting production. Therefore, it reduces hyperpigmentation," explains Dr. Engleman.

Are there any side effects of using alpha arbutin?

Dr. Engelman says that this ingredient is generally deemed safe for all skin types, but if you're wary of introducing a new active ingredient to your skincare routine, do a patch test on your arm before using it on your face.

What's the best way to benefit from alpha arbutin?

"To address hyperpigmentation, serums are the best option," says Dr. Engleman. "Serums are workhorse products because they contain powerful concentrations of active ingredients. They are formulated with smaller molecules so they can penetrate deep into the skin and address skin concerns. They also tend to be more concentrated forms of the active, so best to use it in a serum on clean skin once or twice daily."

Here are the best skincare products containing alpha arbutin. 

Best serum with alpha arbutin:

The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA

We love The Ordinary's straightforward approach to skincare that makes incorporating new ingredients, such as hyaluronic acid, super easy to follow. This serum has 2% alpha arbutin versus the standard concentration of 1%, so it helps brighten dark spots way faster than other products.

Best discoloration treatment with alpha arbutin:

Peter Thomas Roth PRO Strength Niacinamide Discoloration Treatment

Consider this skincare product your next brightening go-to. Formulated with alpha arbutin, niacinamide, kojic acid, and tranexamic acid, this powerhouse item works to quickly brighten the skin without over-drying it. You can use it as a spot treatment to target dark spots or as an all-over cream to brighten your overall complexion.

Best eye cream with alpha arbutin:

First Aid Beauty 5 in 1 Eye Cream

If you're looking to brighten up your dark under-eye circles (who isn't?), consider this eye cream. Formulated for super-sensitive skin, this cream also hydrates, smooths, and protects the delicate under-eye skin from environmental aggressors such as pollution.

Best face cream with alpha arbutin:

SUNDAY RILEY Tidal Brightening Enzyme Water Cream

Get visibly brighter and smoother skin with the help of this face cream. It uses a cocktail of alpha arbutin, papaya enzymes, and hyaluronic acid to gently exfoliate the skin while replenishing its moisture levels and brightening new skin cells.

Best natural serum with alpha arbutin:

InstaNatural Skin Brightening Serum

If you're a clean beauty lover, this is the alpha arbutin serum for you. All of InstaNatural's products are powered by vitamin C and other natural ingredients, so you're getting double the brightening ingredients when you use this serum.