Alpha Arbutin

Alpha Arbutin

Arbutin is a botanically derived compound found in certain plant species such as cranberries, blueberries, wheat and pears. The primary source of arbutin is a small evergreen bush called bearberry. Arbutin is derived from the leaves of this bush. Bearberry grows over the most of the northern hemisphere.


Arbutin exerts two conformations, alpha and beta Arbutin. The alpha arbutin offers higher stability and efficacy when compared to the beta form. Hence alpha arbutin is used in Complexi-Light’s formulation. Alpha arbutin has been shown to work on all skin types.


Arbutin exerts its effect through controlled release of hydroquinone. This controlled release has been shown to be significantly less cytotoxic making it much safer. The mechanism of action of arbutin to inhibit melanin production is comparable to hydroquinone without the toxicity and irritation.

The reason why Arbutin is so effective at lightening skin tone is that it essentially inhibits the production of melanin on a cellular level. In order for skin cells to produce melanin, it needs to produce an enzyme called tyrosinase.

Arbutin inhibits melanosomal tyrosinase activity leading to a reduction in melanin production. Arbutin also inhibits melanosome maturation causing a decrease melanin production.

In a clinical skin-lightening study on 80 women of Chinese descent, a 1% emulsion of alpha arbutin demonstrated that the skin lightening effects were 20% greater than Kojic Acid and 60% greater than Hydroquinone.

Alpha Arbutin

Source: Alpha arbutin by Pentapharm.

85% of women reported the skin lightening effects after 90 Days

In a separate 90-day study on 26 female volunteers, a 2% Alpha-Arbutin cream was shown to effectively reduce the appearance of liver spots – with 85% of volunteers reporting lightening effects.

In another study involving Japanese women with melasma, a 3% concentration of arbutin produced good to excellent results in 71.4% of patients within three month period.