Alpha Arbutin In Skincare; Its Benefits And Side Effects

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. 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.

Alpha arbutin acts as a tyrosinase competitive inhibitor and also slows melanosome maturation (the organelles that synthesize and store melanin or pigment). 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.

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.

Benefits Of Using Alpha Arbutin

1. Reduces Dark Spots And Pigmentation

Alpha arbutin works by inhibiting tyrosinase activity that limits the melanin production in your skin. Less tyrosine and less melanin leads to lesser pigmentation, dark spots, and a more even complexion.

Be it age spots, acne scars or post-blemish redness, alpha arbutin minimizes it all. It is also effective in reversing problems like freckles and liver spots.

2. Helps In Skin Lightening

Alpha arbutin helps to reduce tan on your skin by reducing the degree of melanin production. This natural ingredient can be very beneficial in treating melasma characterized by a dark or tan skin discoloration.

3. Promotes An Even Skin-Tone

Alpha arbutin reduces the appearance of sun spots and discolored patches by reducing the amount of melanin produced in your skin. This evens and brightens your complexion, making your skin look healthier and vibrant.

4. Safer Than Hydroquinone

Alpha arbutin is frequently marketed as a safer alternative to hydroquinone. While hydroquinone works by killing the cells that produce pigmentation and melanin, arbutin inhibits the enzymes that stimulate pigment-producing cells.

5. Gentle On Skin

While other skin brightening agents can dry out and irritate your skin, alpha arbutin is less irritating. This is due to its active components that are released slowly.

Side-effects Of Alpha Arbutin

Alpha arbutin is proven to be safe for your skin when used in 3-4 percent concentrations. While arbutin normally suits all skin types, there are still rare cases where it can cause adverse reactions.

Under alkaline condition, there are chances that alpha arbutin converts into hydroquinone, a depigmenting agent used to lighten areas of darkened skin. In such cases, use alpha arbutin under the guidance of a dermatologist.

A few side-effects of using alpha arbutin:

  • Skin irritation that may result in mild acne
  • Sun-sensitivity or sun burns
  • Redness or irritation from an allergic reaction

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