Causes of Pigmentation

The skin colour is determined by the interaction of different colourants. The brown colouration results from the pigments eumelanin and phaeomelanin, which are produced in special epidermal cells called melanocytes. The enzyme tyrosinase, usually present in an inactive form, is formed in these melanocytes. Its activation by UV light triggers off melanogenesis, a complex series of enzymatic chemical reactions which finally lead to the formation of melanins, leading to undesirable discolorations on the surface of skin that typically manifests as age spots, melasma or freckles.

Hydroquinone vs Alpha Arbutin

Hydroquinone has long been considered the gold standard for the treatment of hyperpigmentation. While clinical studies report excellent depigmentation responses induced by 2% hydroquinone, it has also been shown to cause chronic adverse effects. These include exogenous ochronosis, cataract, pigmented colloid milia, sclera, and nail pigmentation, loss of elasticity of the skin, impaired wound healing and exuding an offensive fish odour. Hydroquinone can also cause DNA damage. These adverse effects limits the usage of hydroquinone.

Alpha-Arbutin has been proven to effect a superior lightening effect without the toxicity and irritations associated with hydroquinone.


A skin-brightening study on 80 Chinese descent women demonstrated that an emulsion containing 1% Alpha-Arbutin resulted in a faster and more pronounced skin brightening effect after 1 month when compared with other commonly used single components at 1 % use levels. Below shows the classification of brightening single components according to the magnitude of their specific effect after 1 month (M0 = start, M1 = after 1 month) measured by chromametric studies.


In a 3 month study1 on 26 female volunteers 2% Alpha-Arbutin in a cream formulation visibly minimises liver spots more efficiently than Beta-Arbutin.

The figure below shows satisfaction quotients relating to the evaluation of the liver spot visible reduction.