Arbutin at a Glance

  • Antioxidant backed by research for fading discolourations and evening out tone
  • Can be derived naturally from plants (typically bearberry) or made synthetically
  • The pure natural form of arbutin is referred to as beta-arbutin
  • Synthetic versions (known as alpha-arbutin and deoxyarbutin) have been shown to be more effective
  • Colourless to faint yellow powder (as a raw material)

Arbutin Description

Arbutin is antioxidant that may be derived from plants (most commonly the bearberry plant) or made in a lab. The plant-derived form is known as beta-arbutin and the synthetic forms are alpha-arbutin and deoxyarbutin. Each is backed by research for addressing hyperpigmentation issues (i.e. fading dark spots and other discolourations), as well as improving skin’s overall radiance.

Arbutin’s main benefit comes from the fact that it naturally breaks down into hydroquinone (which is known to inhibit excess melanin). This allows it to even out skin tone and minimise blotchy/patchy spots that are caused by factors such as unprotected sun exposure.

Studies have shown the synthetic derivatives alpha-arbutin and deoxyarbutin are more effective in this regard than the pure natural form of beta-arbutin due to having better stability, longer efficacy, and no risk of sensitivity when exposed to human skin cells.

As a raw material, arbutin comes in powder form, with a colourless to faint yellow appearance.

The Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety recognises up to a 2% concentration of alpha-arbutin and 7% concentration of beta-arbutin as safe in facial skin care products.

Arbutin References

Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, March 2021, ePublication
Phytotherapy Research, March 2021, ePublication
Molecules, September 2019, pages 1-9
PLoS One, May 2017, pages 1-19
Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, February 2016, Pages 75-76
Phytochemistry Letters, September 2015, pages 35-40
BMC Biochemistry, October 2014, pages 15-23
Dermatologica Sinica, July 2014, pages 205-210
Applied Microbiol Biotechnology, 2012, pages 1,417–1,425
Archives of Pharmacal Research, March 2009, pages 1,308-1,309
Experimental Dermatology, August 2005, pages 601-608

See bearberry extract

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About the Experts

Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:

The Paula's Choice Research Team is dedicated to busting beauty myths and providing expert advice that solves your skincare frustrations so you can have the best skin of your life!