Uneven skin tone and dark spots are some of the biggest skin care concerns. While many products and ingredients claim to brighten skin, alpha arbutin is one that most people have never heard of. Alpha arbutin is a powerful skin brightener that targets dark spots. What makes this ingredient so unique is that it is not only effective, but is also safe for all skin types and tones.

Read more to learn about one of our favorite ingredients: alpha arbutin.


What is Alpha Arbutin?

Alpha arbutin, also called Hydroquinone β-D-glucopyranoside, is a naturally occurring antioxidant and skin brightener that is naturally found in the bearberry plant. It reduces melanin formation, improving the appearance of age spots, freckles, melasma, and post-inflammatory pigmentation. It is a glycosylated hydroquinone molecule, meaning a sugar molecule that has replaced one of the hydroxyl (-OH) groups on hydroquinone. Hydroquinone is seen as the gold standard of skin lightening, but there are concerns surrounding this well-studied tyrosinase inhibitor, such as skin sensitization, melanocytotoxicity from oxidative byproducts, and exogenous ochronosis (blue-black splotchy pigmentation) as a result of long-term application.1,2 Alpha arbutin is a more tolerable alternative to hydroquinone and is sometimes referred to as “natural hydroquinone.” Alpha arbutin functions similarly to hydroquinone, due to its molecular structure, but with reduced irritation and melanocytotoxicity. Alpha arbutin does not pose a risk in regards to exogenous ochronosis and poses minimal irritation and sensitization risk, making it a more tolerable alternative to hydroquinone.

What Does Alpha Arbutin Do?

Alpha arbutin acts as a tyrosinase competitive inhibitor and also slows melanosome maturation (the organelles that synthesize and store melanin or pigment).3 This is significant because it works on two different mechanisms of pigmentation. Melanin is derived from the amino acid tyrosine and this conversion is regulated by the enzyme tyrosinase. Alpha arbutin is similar in structure to tyrosine, which fits into tyrosinase, needed for melanogenesis. This means that alpha arbutin is reversibly competing with tyrosine for a spot on the enzyme and not inhibiting cell viability, so therefore is not cytotoxic. By targeting tyrosinase, the rate-limiting enzyme in melanin formation, as well as slowing production of the organelles that produce melanin, alpha arbutin is a potent skin brightening agent.

What are the Benefits of Alpha Arbutin?

Alpha arbutin effectively lightens and reduces UV induced pigmentation and free radicals, without increasing sun sensitivity. It fades discoloration caused by inflammation and environmental stressors while evening skin tone. It also addresses glycation, sugar-induced skin sallowness and loss of elasticity.4

What is the Best Alpha Arbutin Serum?

Naturium’s Alpha Arbutin Serum 2% and Alpha Arbutin Essence 1% feature highly pure alpha arbutin obtained from biotechnology, which minimizes hydroquinone impurity. Alpha arbutin is the more stable and effective form of arbutin. It has greater stability and efficacy than naturally occurring arbutin and beta arbutin. Our products are formulated to the ideal pH to maintain the stability and efficacy of alpha arbutin.

Our alpha arbutin formulas pair well with other skin brightening products to provide a synergistic effect for a flawless complexion. Pair with our Vitamin C Complex Serum for enhanced antioxidant protection. Pair with Niacinamide Serum 12% Plus Zinc 2% to visibly even skin tone and texture. Alpha arbutin is an easy ingredient to incorporate into any skincare regimen, benefiting all skin types and concerns.



Lab Journals are intended to help educate on specific ingredients and skin care topics. Our articles are written to be informative and informational.
Please note any Naturium products with referenced ingredients are formulated for Cosmetic Use Only and NOT intended as replacements for physician pharmaceutical product recommendations.


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Alpha Arbutin Serum 2%


30 ML / 1.0 FL OZ Our highly concentrated serum is formulated with 2% alpha arbutin, along with niacinamide and lemon fruit extract to help fade th...

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