If you’ve dealt with dark spots on your skin, you’ve probably heard of alpha-arbutin. It’s like a magic wand for dark spot elimination, which is why it’s such a popular ingredient in the skincare industry. But despite its wonderful abilities, some share that it can cause purging. Is this true? Let’s find out!

What is Alpha-Arbutin?

Arbutin or α-Arbutin is often promoted as an innovative compound with amazing skin-lightening properties.

And although this may be true to some extent, the reality is that arbutin is simply a type of hydroquinone. Glycosylated hydroquinone, to be exact.

If you’re into the scientific side of things, I’ll just add that its molecule contains hydroquinone that is attached to glucose. It works through hydrolysis, where hydroquinone is released. As a result, melanin synthesis is slowed down due to the prevention of tyrosinase (an enzyme). The release is quite slow and gradual, which makes arbutin a lot safer than hydroquinone.

You don’t have to worry about skin irritations as arbutin is a lot gentler than hydroquinone. Its main role is to help fight age spots and boost skin tone.

So what about Alpha-Arbutin?

It’s mostly used at a concentration of 2%, which is higher than the standard 1%. In general, it’s a much stronger solution when compared to Arbutin or Beta-Arbutin.

So is it safe to use?

Is Alpha-Arbutin safe to use?

In short, yes, Alpha-Arbutin is safe to use and won’t cause any problems or side effects.

It’s often referred to as the safer version of hydroquinone, as I’ve already mentioned.

There’s a reasonable amount of testing and research behind the product, guaranteeing its positive effects on the skin. It’s specifically designed to ensure the slow release of hydroquinone. This means that the skin is not exposed to too much of it. And this is the main reason why Alpha Arbutin is much safer than other related ingredients.

You can also use it for long periods as part of a skin treatment regime without stressing over negative impacts.

Does Alpha Arbutin help with breakouts?

A lot of people wonder whether they can use Alpha Arbutin for breakouts. To be honest, I wouldn’t say that it can do much for your breakouts specifically.

Yes, it’s great for removing some of the consequences of years of breakouts and won’t cause any skin irritation, but it’s not a product you can count on for stopping or reducing your breakouts.

Who should avoid using Alpha-Arbutin?

In general, Alpha Arbutin is suitable for everyone, with small exceptions – it’s not advisable for pregnant or breastfeeding women.

Apart from that, it’s a suitable product for any skin type and any age.

It’s not recommended to use it in combination with retinol-based products. It’s best to stay away from Alpha-Arbutin for at least 24 hours after using a retinol formula and vice-versa.

Does Alpha-Arbutin cause purging?

Alpha Arbutin has been designed in a way that prevents purging. So in short, no, Alpha Arbutin doesn’t cause purging.

It’s also an ingredient that is friendly for beginners. You don’t have to worry about starting to use the product for the first time or preparing the skin in any special ways. However, as with any other product or ingredient, every skin is unique and everyone can have a different reaction.

Some users have shared that they’ve experienced purging after using Alpha Arbutin. This could be a result of mixing the product with other potent ingredients, a specific skin reaction, or extremely sensitive skin.

I’d highly recommend that when you start using Alpha Arbutin (and any other new product or ingredient for that matter) you first test it on a small skin area to see what your reactions are.

How long does purging last from Alpha Arbutin?

Although this question can’t be resolved with a single answer, purging from Alpha-Arbutin normally lasts up to a month. If you’re experiencing purging for longer than a month, it’s probably best to stop using the product and seek other solutions.

What ingredients to avoid if you use Alpha-Arbutin

Alpha-arbutin benefits for skin

If you want to use Alpha-Arbutin as part of your skincare routine to reduce pigmentation and spots, go for it without any worries. It can be combined with merely any product and performs excellent when mixed with other spot-fading ingredients like vitamin C, azelaic acid, kojic acid, and niacinamide.

The only exception is retinol, which you should pay close attention to when using Alpha-Arbutin. Although some suggest that it’s completely safe to use the two compounds together, others advise avoiding combining them.

Overall, keep in mind that when mixing several active ingredients and applying them at the same time, the results may not be what you expected.

I’d recommend selecting a maximum of three active ingredients that suit your skincare goals and handle your skin concerns.

How to ensure safe use of Alpha-Arbutin

By now you probably established that Alpha Arbutin is generally safe to use. But there’s always one factor that you should keep in mind – how a product reacts with certain skin types. And even if you’ve mastered your skin type and you’re sure exactly what to expect, there’s always a slight chance that your skin won’t react as expected.

A product that is a holy grail for some may be completely off the list for you.

This is why it’s vital to introduce new products to your skin one at a time. It’s also important to do patch tests so that you don’t have to suffer negative consequences. A patch test is always handy to help you find out if there are any risks for skin sensitivity and purging. This is your way to peek into the crystal ball and make the right decision.

If you’re ready to run your patch test with Alpha Arbutin or any other product, simply use a small amount of the product in a tiny area of clean skin. It’s best to choose the upper forearm.

Keep the zone dry and avoid contact with other products, chemicals, or water for 24 hours. Watch out for any skin irritation, redness, or other change in color, blistering, dryness, itching, or other reactions. If you spot any of these, it’s best to stay away from the product that you’re testing and find an alternative. If all is good, it’s safe to add it to your routine.


Alpha-Arbutin is a safe ingredient, widely spread in skincare products that aim to fight hyperpigmentation and PIH. There is a very slight chance of adverse reactions, so it’s best to patch-test your chosen product before applying it to your entire face.

So what are your experiences with this marvelous ingredient? Have you noticed any purging and other adverse reactions, or are you happy with its use? Let me know in the comments below!