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The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA Review

Dark spots and hyperpigmentation are a common concern for many people, especially if you spend time in the sun or experience acne breakouts. The Ordinary offers a solution to help reduce the appearance of dark spots and brighten skin tone: The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA.

Today I’ll discuss my experience with this serum in this The Ordinary alpha arbutin review.

The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% Serum

In this article, I break down everything you need to know about The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA, including how long it takes to work, who should use it, and where you can buy it at a great price.

So if you’ve been wondering whether or not this product is suitable for your skincare needs, read on!

This The Ordinary alpha arbutin review post contains affiliate links, and any purchases made through these links will result in a commission for me at no extra cost to you. Please read my Disclosure for additional information.

Alpha Arbutin Benefits for Skin

Alpha arbutin is a compound that comes from a plant called the bearberry shrub. The compound is often used in skincare products for its skin lightening benefits. Alpha arbutin inhibits the formation of melanin (pigment) in the skin by inhibiting the enzyme tyrosinase, which is involved in melanin production.

Alpha arbutin helps to reduce hyperpigmentation, dark spots, age spots, uneven skin tone, and other discoloration.

It also helps to reduce the look of acne scars that occur as a result of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.

Alpha arbutin also has antioxidant properties that help fight free radicals caused by UV rays and protect the skin against environmental damage.

Alpha arbutin is not the same as beta arbutin (also known as arbutin). Studies conflict on which is more potent in skincare. While both can help fade skin discoloration and hyperpigmentation, alpha arbutin is said to be more stable and possibly more effective.

Alpha arbutin is an alternative to hydroquinone, an active used for skin lightening, but in recent years it has fallen out of favor because there have been safety concerns about hydroquinone related to cell toxicity.

Luckily, alpha arbutin is a low irritation active, especially when compared to other brightening actives like vitamin C, alpha hydroxy acids, retinoids, and retinol. Alpha arbutin can be used in conjunction with these actives as it has no contraindications.

To get the most out of your alpha arbutin product, it’s best used under a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF 30 or greater. Keep in mind that sun exposure causes much of the hyperpigmentation, age spots, and blotchy skin we experience in the first place.

The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA

The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% Serum

The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA is a water-based serum that contains 2% alpha arbutin. This high concentration of alpha arbutin goes to work on hyperpigmentation, age spots, and uneven skin tone. Formulated at a pH of 4.50 – 5.50, this serum comes in the form of a transparent liquid gel.

This alpha arbutin serum also contains what The Ordinary describes as a “next-generation form of Hyaluronic Acid.” This type of hyaluronic acid is called hydrolyzed sodium hyaluronate.

Also known as miniHA, this chopped-up form of hyaluronic acid, per the manufacturer, is supposed to absorb deeper into the skin and provide better anti-aging, moisturizing and antioxidant benefits.

It also helps plump up fine lines and wrinkles as it acts like a sponge binding water with the skin.

The Ordinary notes that alpha-arbutin can degrade in water if the pH of the formula isn’t ideal. The pH of this serum is designed to be the most suitable pH to minimize the degradation of alpha arbutin.

The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA Ingredients

Aqua (Water), Alpha-Arbutin, Polyacrylate Crosspolymer-6, Hydrolyzed Sodium Hyaluronate, Propanediol, Ppg-26-Buteth-26, Peg-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Lactic Acid, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Ethoxydiglycol, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin.

The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA Review

The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% Serum opened with dropper

The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA is a thick liquid gel that feels a bit tacky upon application. Once it sinks into my skin and dries, the tackiness goes away.

My skin feels slightly more hydrated after using this serum, thanks to the inclusion of hyaluronic acid. As long as I use a thin layer, it works well with other skincare products and under makeup.

I didn’t notice a dramatic improvement in the areas of hyperpigmentation and discoloration on my cheeks and forehead after using this serum for a few weeks on its own, but I wasn’t expecting to.

It can take months to see improvements when using products formulated with alpha arbutin, so patience is necessary.

I really like this serum because it can be an additional active in your arsenal of actives to treat hyperpigmentation.

You can use it in conjunction with other brightening products without any conflicts. I like to use this serum in my morning skincare routine with vitamin C products to boost my antioxidant protection and help brighten my skin.

It did not irritate my skin at all, which is a nice change for once when it comes to brightening products. So this alpha arbutin serum should be suitable for all skin types.

Still, since everyone’s skin is unique, The Ordinary recommends patch testing for any new products before introducing them into your skincare routine.

Who’s It For?

This serum would be ideal for oily and acne-prone skin that experiences dark spots or acne scarring. It’s also suitable for aging and mature skin dealing with age spots, sun spots, and an uneven skin tone, or anyone will dull skin looking for a brighter complexion.

How to Use The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA

Apply a few drops of The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin on your face in your morning and/or evening skincare routine. This is a water-based serum, so apply it after cleansing and toning your skin.

If you are using it with other water-based serums with a thinner consistency, apply this serum after those products with a thinner texture.

Apply a few drops of this alpha arbutin serum onto your face in gentle patting motions until it has been fully absorbed into your skin.

Be sure to apply a moisturizer afterward to seal everything in and a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher in your morning skincare regimen.

The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA Conflicts

The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA does not conflict with other actives.

Alternatives to Alpha Arbutin

If you are looking for alternatives to alpha arbutin for brightening dull skin or for boosting the effects of alpha arbutin, consider these skincare actives:

Vitamin C

Also known as ascorbic acid or l-ascorbic acid, vitamin C is one of the best over-the-counter actives that can help brighten your skin. It also has antioxidant properties and can boost collagen production for firmer skin.

The Ordinary Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2%

The Ordinary pairs 8% ascorbic acid with 2% alpha arbutin in The Ordinary Ascorbic Acid 8% + Alpha Arbutin 2%, so you get both active ingredients in one serum! See my complete review here.


Retinol is a type of retinoid that increases cell turnover to fade dark spots, discoloration, and sun damage to reveal a more even skin tone with continued use. It’s an over-the-counter active that has been extensively studied for its anti-aging benefits.

The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane

The Ordinary has a great selection of retinol and retinoid products, including their strongest retinol: The Ordinary Retinol 1% in Squalane.


Niacinamide is an effective over-the-counter brightening active. Rather than inhibiting the enzyme in melanin production, it inhibits melanosome transfer to reduce pigmentation. Niacinamide also has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-aging benefits.

The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%

You can’t beat the low price of The Ordinary Niacinamide 10% + Zinc 1%. It targets skin congestion, textural irregularities, and sebum (oil) production while brightening your complexion.

Azelaic Acid

Derived from cereal grains like wheat, rye, and barley, azelaic acid is a naturally occurring organic compound that works as a multi-functional brightening agent for your skin. It’s also an anti-inflammatory and offers benefits for oily and acne-prone skin.

The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10%

The Ordinary Azelaic Acid Suspension 10% targets skin congestion, visible signs of aging, dullness, and uneven skin tone.

Alpha Hydroxy Acids

Alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) are a family of exfoliating acids that include glycolic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid, and others. AHAs exfoliate the skin’s outer surface for a brighter, more even, and radiant appearance.

Alpha hydroxy acids can help fade dark spots, discolorations caused by sun damage, age spots, and acne scarring.

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution

The Ordinary Glycolic Acid 7% Toning Solution contains 7% glycolic acid to sweep away dead skin cells and improve pore congestion, brighten dark spots and uneven skin tone, and smooth the look of fine lines and wrinkles.

Tranexamic Acid

Tranexamic acid is a skin brightening ingredient that fights the leading causes of hyperpigmentation. It inhibits melanin production and breaks up the existing pigment to fade dark spots and diminish the appearance of uneven skin tone.

The Inkey List Tranexamic Acid Night Hyperpigmentation Treatment

The Inkey List Tranexamic Acid Night Hyperpigmentation Treatment is all about brightening your skin overnight while you sleep. The lightweight gel contains multiple actives to target dark spots and hyperpigmentation:

  • 2% Tranexamic Acid 2%
  • 2% Acai Berry Extract
  • 2% Ascorbyl Glucoside (Vitamin C Derivative)

Related Post: Best Tranexamic Acid Serums


Glutathione is another skin brightener and antioxidant that reduces melanin production by interfering with the activity of the enzyme tyrosinase.

It helps to reduce the look of dark spots, sun spots, hyperpigmentation, and blotchy skin tone.

Paula's Choice Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum

Find glutathione and several other potent antioxidants in Paula’s Choice Super Antioxidant Concentrate Serum. Perfect for dry, dehydrated, sun-damaged skin.

Licorice Root Extract

A powerful antioxidant, licorice root is a natural skin brightener that inhibits melanin production to reduce the appearance of dark spots. Licorice root extract also has anti-inflammatory properties that help soothe the skin and reduce redness.

Kojic Acid

Kojic acid is a by-product of the fermentation process that produces sake or rice wine. It inhibits tyrosinase activity, which helps to reduce melanin (pigment) formation and fade dark spots and other discolorations.

Final Thoughts The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA Review

While I didn’t see a drastic improvement in my hyperpigmentation after using The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA, I am keeping it in my skincare regimen to complement the other brightening actives that I use.

I make sure to use sun protection every day to reduce the formation of excess pigmentation in my skin.

For the incredibly low price, this alpha arbutin serum from The Ordinary is a no-brainer if you struggle with hyperpigmentation and uneven skin tone. You won’t find another product like this on the market today at such an affordable price point.

Thanks for reading!

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Beverly Weaver

Saturday 4th of February 2023

I’m very excited to try The Ordinary Aloha Aubutin 2% & HA ! I am 58 yrs old with dark spots , uneven skin tone . So we’ll see what happens!


Sunday 5th of February 2023

Good luck, hope you see some positive results! Just be sure to be consistent and give it some time.