Whether you call it hyperpigmentation, dark spots, or discoloration, those pesky dark patches are one of the most stubborn skin concerns to treat. Sure, professional treatments are effective, but not everyone has the time, money, or access. That's where at-home skincare products come in, and while they won't give you the same rapid results as in-office treatments, they can make a major difference over time. Trust us, we've seen it with our own eyes.
The most common ingredients for brightening hyperpigmentation at home include exfoliating acids (specifically AHAs, such as glycolic, lactic, and mandelic acids), vitamin C, and retinol. But there's another ingredient that can work wonders on hyperpigmentation. It's called alpha arbutin, and it's known for delivering brighter, more even-toned skin, no matter what your hyperpigmentation is caused by—hormones, post-blemish marks, or sun damage. Keep scrolling to learn everything there is to know about this underrated ingredient and how it can transform your skin. Plus, shop our favorite alpha arbutin products.
What Is Alpha Arbutin, and How Can It Benefit the Skin?
Brendan Camp, MD, is a board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology. He says alpha arbutin is a plant-derived skincare ingredient that acts as a skin brightener, meaning it goes to work to even the skin tone and lighten dark spots. "It limits the activity of tyrosinase, which is an enzyme involved in melanogenesis, or the production of melanin pigment," he says.
That explains why so many of the most effective brightening products on the market include this ingredient, even though it gets a fraction of the attention that other brightening ingredients like vitamin C and retinol do (but more on that in a minute).
How Often Should It Be Used?
Since it's a "generally well-tolerated ingredient," Camp says alpha arbutin can be used daily to combat hyperpigmentation. "It is generally not thought to be a common cause of skin irritation," he says. What's more, it plays well with other brightening ingredients. "Alpha arbutin can be used in combination with other skin-brightening agents such as vitamin C, alpha hydroxy acids, and retinol," he says.
Combining these ingredients can speed up results, which is why many skincare products combine them into a single formula. Consider it an effective, skin-brightening cocktail.
Are There Any Drawbacks?
Alpha arbutin is safe for all skin types since it doesn't create the risk for any other adverse effects like irritation. In fact, Camp says the only downside is its stability. He recommends storing products that contain alpha arbutin in temperature-controlled environments, "as heat may contribute to its degradation and loss of efficacy."
Of course, no brightening skincare routine is complete without sunscreen. Make sure you're wearing sunscreen every single day, rain or shine, to fade hyperpigmentation and prevent new dark spots from forming. Without it, you'll be fighting a losing battle.
Shop Our Favorite Alpha Arbutin Products