Arbutin Vs. Hydroquinone: What’s the Difference?

Camila00Camila00
Jun. 2
Dark spots, hyperpigmentation and acne scars are some of the top skin concerns we see. What if there was a safe product that could help with these issues? Keep reading to know about the benefits of arbutin, the natural skin lightening alternative to hydroquinone.
What Is Arbutin?
Arbutin is a safe and effective skin lightening solution that you’ve probably never heard of! Derived from hydroquinone, this powerful molecule is extracted from a variety of berry plant species including the bearberry, blueberry, mulberry and cranberry. Often marketed as alpha arbutin, you receive the skin-lightening benefits of hydroquinone without any of the associated risks. Arbutin can achieve this brightening skin results because it is a tyrosinase inhibitor. This means that it blocks or reduces the production of pigment by suppressing the enzymes that stimulate melanin production when exposed to UV rays. 
Many skincare products that you've probably tried already include this beneficial brightener. Great for post-blemish redness, dark spots, and acne scars, arbutin is a great alternative to hydroquinone for any kind of pigmentation or unevenness. People with sensitive skin can also benefit from its use because it’s gentle enough for all skin types.  
Risks Associated with Hydroquinone 
While arbutin is relatively risk free and safe to use, you may have heard some questionable and even negative things about the compound it’s derived from—hydroquinone. Hydroquinone has been banned in many countries including Japan, the UK and Australia. Why? While hydroquinone has been shown to effectively reduce and lighten dark spots, it does so with risks. Hydroquinone uses a “bleaching” process that is quite potent when applied to the skin. 
One of these risks is “halo spots” appearing around the treatment areas. While the hydroquinone treats the darkened skin, any skin surrounding that area that comes in contact with the product will be lightened, creating a halo effect. Another possible side effect that can occur with long-term use is a condition called ochronosis, which ironically discolors the skin. Many pregnant women also choose to skip the use of hydroquinone as many doctors say it’s unsafe. But the biggest issue we’ve seen with hydroquinone is that it has been ruled a carcinogenic by the FDA. A carcinogenic is anything that promotes carcinogenesis, or the formation of cancer. 
Benefits of Arbutin
Hyperpigmentation, age spots and acne scars are some of the most common—yet troublesome—skin conditions we can experience. While there are numerous products available that promise to lighten, brighten and even out skin tones and textures, if you have sensitive skin, these products may not work for you. Arbutin is a safe and natural way to treat pigmentation and a host of other maladies including:
  • Treatment for acne scars - post-blemish redness and scars will be effectively lightened and smoothed.
  • Gentle on sensitive skin - because arbutin’s active component is released slowly, rather than all at once, it isn’t as harsh or irritating as other skin lighteners.  
  • Can be used with other products - arbutin is gentle and natural, therefore it’s an effective product to use with your other skincare essentials. It works especially well with vitamin C and AHA’s. 
  • Can be used in the sun - because it doesn’t react with the sun, arbutin is safe to use in the summer.
  • Prevents and treats - this powerful molecule does double duty, effectively preventing new dark spots from appearing and lightening current ones.
How to Use Arbutin
Adding arbutin into your current skincare routine is easy because it works well for all skin types and tones. Because it is gentle, our experts recommend using arbutin two times a day, once in the morning and once at night, preferably before your moisturizer. Pairing it with a vitamin C based product or an AHA can further boost its benefits and even help improve absorption. Arbutin can be found in many products including creams, serums, moisturizers, and night creams so it’s really up to you on how you’d like to use it.
If you’re looking for a safe and gentle way to fade dark spots, pigmentation, and acne scars, arbutin may be right for you. It’s always advisable to speak with your dermatologist before starting any new skincare product. It’s also important to remember that fading any type of pigmentation, smoothing unevenness, or diminishing the appearance of dark spots can take time. With daily use and a little patience, you’ll begin to see a brighter, lighter, and more even skin tone! Have you tried the safe alternative to hydroquinone, arbutin?  
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