Alpha Arbutin in Skin Lightening Products
What is Arbutin?
Arbutin is a naturally occurring derivative of hydroquinone. It is believed to be one of the best alternatives to hydroquinone as it provides the skin-lightening effect of hydroquinone without some of the risks. Arbutin is now found in a variety of skin care products aimed at lightening skin pigmentation. Skin lightening is often desired for cosmetic purposes to help fade or lighten hyperpigmentation. Hydroquinone is considered the gold standard in skin lightening agents but as effective as it is, it is potent and it should only ever be used carefully.
What can Arbutin Treat?
- Melasma and Chloasma
How Does it Work?
Arbutin is composed of hydroquinone with a sugar group attached. The hydroquinone group allows Arbutin to act as an inhibitor of tyrosinase, a key enzyme involved in melanin (pigment) production. This inhibitory activity is due to the structural similarity of the hydroquinone group to tyrosine, which is the natural substrate for tyrosinase. This acts like a built-in safety valve, preventing the skin from being exposed to too much hydroquinone at once.
How Effective is It?
Researchers have been studying Arbutin’s ability to inhibit tyrosinase in skin cells, since the 1990s. There is promising scientific evidence to suggest Arbutin is effective as a skin lightening agent, particularly with regards to the synthetic forms, A-Arbutin and deoxyarbutin.