Alpha Arbutin is an ingredient that is obtained from bearberry plant (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi). Although it may also be produced synthetically in laboratory, arbutin is naturally extracted from the leaves of bearberry. It is also found in wheat, in the leaves of blueberry and cranberry, as well as in the skin of pear.
In the past, arbutin extracts were used as a treatment for urinary tract infections, cystitis, and kidney stones, as well as a diuretic and weight loss aid. But today, this ingredient can be found in most kinds of beauty products, especially in skin lightening and whitening formulations.
Arbutin is manufactured in a white, crystalline powder form that is water soluble and can be added to other formulations to improve its lightening effect. But in its pure form, it can also be an extremely powerful whitening agent.
There are two types of arbutin compound – the alpha and beta arbutin. Both types are effective in lightening skin, but alpha arbutin is found to be more potent as it has higher stability and efficiency.
How Does Alpha Arbutin Work?
Similar to hydroquinone and other skin whitening agents, alpha arbutin works by inhibiting the function and activity of tyrosinase, an oxidizing enzyme that is responsible for the production of melanin in the body. Melanin is a substance that gives dark color to our hair, eyes, and skin.
But unlike hydroquinone and other skin whitening products, the effects of alpha arbutin is faster and more effective. In addition, it doesn’t lead to adverse skin health effects as it is naturally extracted.
Usage and Benefits of Alpha Arbutin
Using alpha arbutin provides many benefits to the skin, and these include:
Effective skin lightening
The ability of the compound to inhibit the activity of tyrosinase make it an effective treatment for whitening dark knees and underarms, and even eliminating liver spots, freckles, acne scars, and uneven tone.
Bearberry plant is found to have sun protection properties. This is one of the reasons why arbutin, the active component found in this plant, is used as an active ingredient in most beauty care products. Using products containing alpha arbutin helps protect your skin against harmful UV rays and age-causing free radicals, resulting in a healthier skin.
Elimination of other skin problems, such as melasma and hyperpigmentation
These conditions are two of the most common skin problems, which are both caused by the overproduction of melanin in the body. Applying topical solutions containing arbutin can help lighten the spots as the ingredient is known to have the ability to block melanin production.
Side Effects of Alpha Arbutin
While alpha arbutin is proven to be safe and effective when it comes to skin lightening, there’s a limit on how much you can use. Experts recommend using whitening formulations containing alpha arbutin with only 2% concentration or lower. If you have a more serious skin darkening, your doctor may only prescribe up to 3-4% arbutin-containing treatment.
Excessive use of alpha-arbutin may cause the following side effects:
- Skin Irritation that can lead to acne
- Sensitivity to Sun that can cause sunburn and other skin problems.
For better results, always read the labels and carefully follow instructions. It’s also best to minimize your exposure to sun while using any skincare treatments. Wear effective sunscreen if you need to go outside. If irritation persists, discontinue the use of this ingredient and visit your dermatologist or physician for further advice.