Arbutin is one of the many lightening agents used in skin care products. Hydroquinone, Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid), Kojic Acid, Azealic Acid, Retinol and many others. Most of these lightening agents interfere the production of melanin in the melanocytes (pigment cells) by inhibiting the key enzyme Tyrosinase.
Alpha-arbutin is an extract of Bearberry plant. Arbutin inhibits the formation of melanin by inhibiting tyrosinase enzyme without affecting the melanocytes. Therefore arbutin has been recognised as a safer skin whitening agent and is becoming popular in Asian cuntries. It is especially used in skin lightening treatment, to prevent age spots and to regulate melanogenesis.
It's been claimed that alpha-arbutin can be up to 10 times more effective and without the negative side effects typically found in other lightening agents like hydroquinone and kojic acid.