Arbutin 101: Skin Care Benefits, Side Effects, Uses, and More

You can safely use arbutin in concentrations up to 2% for face creams and 0.5% in body lotions, Chiu notes, adding that the ingredient is “safer and less aggressive than hydroquinone”. (While hydroquinone in concentrations greater than 1% has been banned in cosmetic products in the EU, Japan, Australia and several countries in Africa, arbutin is safe in the above concentrations because the hydroquinone is released slowly and the skin isn’t exposed to too much at any one time, she explains.)

You may choose to use more than one brightening ingredient in your routine. Prather suggests combining arbutin with retinol to improve skin cell turnover and improve product absorption. The good news is that arbutin works well with other ingredients, Chiu says: “There are no known interactions between it and other skincare ingredients.”

When using arbutin, she recommends applying it all over your face once or twice a day or using it as a spot treatment to target specific areas.

You should also be wary of sun exposure, as this can cause hyperpigmentation in the first place. Every day, “use a good mineral-based SPF 50 sunscreen to protect your skin from an overactive melanin pathway,” says Prather. “If you can’t use sunscreen, it’s not worth spending money on skin lightening products.”

Use arbutin for two to three months before evaluating results, says Prather. Speak to a board-certified dermatologist to help you create the best routine incorporating complementary ingredients for your skin concerns.

Patricia J. Callender