Arbutin Serum: The Under-Radar Skin Perfector You Need

We all know that serums are concentrated active ingredient shots that give the face instant rejuvenation. They are usually formulated with ingredients like vitamin C, kojic acid, or under-radar component arbutin.

Arbutin serum mostly flies under the radar. But it is known to few as highly effective and fast-acting when it comes to brightening and clearing your skin of spots and discoloration.

Hyperpigmentation is something that gives people low self-esteem. This is because they don’t have enough confidence to show their bare spotted faces.

Even with the best makeup, it is not enough. The pigmentation will still crawl on your face when everything is removed. And let’s not even talk about sunspots. They make the skin older than wrinkles and fine lines.

This is where arbutin serum comes in. Vitamin C, kojic acid, and niacinamide are known skin brighteners. But I think it’s time people really get to know about arbutin and its benefits to the skin.


What is Arbutin?

Arbutin is a compound naturally derived from the bearberry, pomegranate, wheat, pear, and mulberry plants. The best arbutin compound is known as alpha-arbutin.

Arbutin works by limiting the production of tyrosinase, a key element in the production of melanin. Tyrosinase activates when there is contact with UV rays, and melanin production begins. This causes sun spots, freckles, and hyperpigmentation.

When you are under the sun for an extended period of time, you need to protect yourself with arbutin serum to slow down tyrosinase.

The component has natural lightening effects. It is also a derivative of hydroquinone, which is effective in brightening the skin.

“Hydroquinone is more effective than arbutin when it comes to skin lightening, but then it can come with side effects like bluish discoloration and cytotoxic melanocyte cells (melanin-producing cells),” says board-certified dermatologist Dr. Y. Claire Chang.

This is why arbutin is safer. It does not kill pigment-producing cells. Rather it slows them down.

According to dermatologist Ife Rodney, M.D., “the alpha arbutin is the chemically synthesized version mostly found in skincare products.”

Another variant of arbutin is beta arbutin. However, this is a less effective variant and shouldn’t be considered. Also, studies have shown that alpha-arbutin is ten times more effective than beta arbutin.

Benefits of Arbutin Serum


1. Sun protection

When the skin is exposed to too much sun and UV radiation, arbutin serums can protect your skin from darkening.

You won’t look too tanned or get sunspots when you use arbutin. This would also help your skin stay healthy and reduce aging effects.

2. Improves even skin complexion

Another benefit you would get from using arbutin serum is evening out your skin complexion. The component slows down tyrosinase, an enzyme that stimulates melanin production.

The discoloration on your skin begins to lose density, fading gradually until your skin complexion is evened out. Also, your skin brightens up, looking healthier and energetic.

3. Fades hyperpigmentation

Arbutin serums are great for removing hyperpigmentation by inhibiting tyrosinase. This, in turn, slows down melanin production. And this further reduces spots and pigments on the skin.

Whether it is age spots, acne scars, or blemishes, the serum helps to remove signs of hyperpigmentation.

4. It is safer than hydroquinone

Arbutin is a derivative of hydroquinone. However, hydroquinone is known to be cytotoxic to cells. It could cause side effects such as ochronosis, which is a blueish discoloration of the skin.

However, arbutin does not cause harm to the skin like hydroquinone that kills cells that produce pigmentation, rather it slows them down.

This means arbutin does not have the same toxicity as hydroquinone. “You can use it without taking breaks,” adds Dr. Chang.

5. It is gentle on the skin

Brightening agents are highly concentrated and could be abrasive on the skin if taken in high doses. Arbutin, on the other hand, is not irritating to the skin.

According to Michael Lin, M.D., “arbutin component is released slowly. Therefore, it is less irritating than other skin lightening components.”

This also means the arbutin serum is a great option for people with sensitive skin. There isn’t a likelihood of having side effects from high concentration.

arbutin serum

How to Use Arbutin

You can apply it twice a day. Most arbutin products are safe to use. You can add the products to your morning and night skincare routine.

And as for the order of use, use arbutin serum after your cleanser and face toner. But before your moisturizer and your sunscreen.

Also, for topical use, you should use arbutin products with a 2% concentration. And if you are to use beta arbutin, it can be up to 7%.

Side Effects of Arbutin Serum

Being in the same category as hydroquinone, it is natural to have some reservations on arbutin. However, this component is generally safe for all skin types.

Although, just like any other skincare product, it could cause some reactions on some skins. Allergic reactions are normal and could occur.

Dr. Chang recommends a patch test before using any arbutin serum or products with the ingredient. “Allergic reactions like flaking, burning sensation, or itching skin could occur,” she says.

Also, it could cause natural skin reactions like mild acne, especially if it is concentrated, or in rare cases, it shifts to hydroquinone. When such a situation happens, you should see a dermatologist for the best possible solution.

Frequently Asked Questions on Arbutin Serum

skincare treatment

Who should use arbutin?

Anyone can use arbutin for topical treatment. It is best for all skin types.

The skincare product is not limited to a few people. If you are experiencing any form of discoloration, acne scarring, or melisma, you can add the skincare product to your routine.

Also, if you have redness or freckles, you can use arbutin to fade them away. They are mostly caused by the sun, but arbutin clears the skin.

Does arbutin come only as a serum?

No, it doesn’t. Arbutin can be added to cleansers, moisturizers, toners, and lotions.

Arbutin comes in mostly serum form because it is a concentrated and effective way of providing the skin with a fast-acting shot of active ingredients.

When you use arbutin serums, it is likely to start showing results almost immediately. This is why serums are very effective and necessary in any skincare routine.

Can arbutin be used with other active ingredients?

Yes, it can. Arbutin can be used with other active skin rejuvenation ingredients like vitamin C, AHAs, and BHAs.

AHAs and BHAs are mostly found in exfoliating products. They help in cleaning the skin of any residue and dead skin cells. Arbutin can then be used to penetrate the skin and treat skin lightening issues.

Pairing arbutin with other active ingredients also leads to faster skin results. Arbutin is a component that works with other skincare ingredients.

Can arbutin permanently lighten my skin?

No, it can’t. Arbutin does not permanently lighten or bleach the skin.

Arbutin, unlike hydroquinone, does not destroy melanocytes, which are skin melanin-producing cells in the skin. All arbutin does is slow the melanin production, not kill the cells.

For the period you are using arbutin, your melanin production is paused. But, it goes back to normal when you stop the treatment.

However, the lightening and brightening effects you got while using arbutin serum would not dissipate unless exposed to the sun and harsh external elements. So you have to always care for your skin to maintain it.

Is arbutin serum safe for dark skin?

Yes, arbutin is safe for all skin complexion and types.

There is no cap on what skin color can use arbutin. However, you won’t be getting bleaching effects with arbutin serums. It won’t change your natural skin color.

It would only treat pigmentation and discoloration caused by sun exposure or acne scars. Unnatural skin pigmentation is only treated on dark skin and not total bleaching or whitening.

Does arbutin serum expire?

Yes, it does. Like any other skincare product arbutin expires.

Arbutin products usually have a short shelf life. Therefore it must be used with care to avoid oxidation. You should look for an expiration date or POA (period after opening) life. This would tell you how long you have till the product goes bad.

Do not use it when the time frame passes. This could lead to skin irritation or redness. Also, it could lead to yeast or bacterial infection.

clear skin


Serums are fast-acting skincare products that give an almost immediate result. This is why arbutin serum is essential in skincare.

The component is known for brightening the skin and clearing it of discoloration. It is an under-radar component that is just as effective as vitamin C and kojic acid. The active ingredient is also known for working well with other skincare ingredients like AHAs.

You can use arbutin serums like Alpha Arbutin Serum 2%. It works by clearing the skin of discoloration and aging effects. Also, you can use it to keep your skin healthy and rejuvenated.

You can add arbutin serum to your skincare routine if you want a glowing even skin complexion. And the best part; it does not irritate the skin.

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