Alpha arbutin and azelaic acid are common ingredients in skin care products, especially for hyperpigmentation. You can find them in almost all of the treatments for hyperpigmentation. Sometimes they are used in combination with other active ingredients. 

In this blog, we will discuss what azelaic acid and alpha arbutin are and what the difference is between the two. You will also learn how to use both products on your skin and their side effects. 

What is Alpha Arbutin?

Alpha arbutin, also called Hydroquinone β-D-glucopyranoside, is a naturally occurring antioxidant found in the cranberry, blueberry, and bearberry plants. It reduces melanin formation and soothes age spots, freckles, melasma, and post-inflammatory pigmentation. It also brightens your skin [1].

What is Azelaic Acid?

Azelaic acid is a medication that is also called dicarboxylic acid. Azelaic acid is a natural skin care ingredient used to treat hyperpigmentation and acne. It is present in wheat, barley, and rye plants. 

It is effective on over-pigmented skin parts and has little effect on normal skin, freckles, nevi, and senile lentigines. It decreases the swelling and redness of hyperpigmented skin. It kills the acne bacteria that infect pores and reduces the production of keratin which causes acne in the long term.

Alpha Arbutin and Azelaic Acid Together

Can you use alpha arbutin and azelaic acid together? Yes. It is safe to use alpha-arbutin and azelaic acid at the same time. Until now, no medical evidence indicates any reaction between alpha-arbutin and other skincare ingredients.

Alpha Arbutin and Azelaic Acid can help brighten the skin. Even skin tone and texture reduce acne scars and many types of hyperpigmentation.

Using alpha arbutin and azelaic acid together can help hyperpigmentation from multiple angles and give better results. Since they both prevent melanin synthesis in different ways, using them together targets pigmentation at its root cause for more effective results.

How to Apply it Together

If you want to apply them simultaneously in separate products, follow the thinnest to thickest rule. For example, if you have alpha arbutin serum and an azelaic acid cream, you should use the serum first and then layer it with the cream.

Is Alpha Arbutin or Azelaic Acid Better for Hyperpigmentation?

Currently available studies show that azelaic acid is a better option to correct hyperpigmentation.

In a clinical study of different melasma treatments done on 160 participants, researchers found azelaic acid cream to be 20% more effective than arbutin. Compared to hydroquinone, azelaic acid is skincare’s most effective skin-brightening agent [2].

How to Use Azelaic Acid and Alpha Arbutin

You can use alpha arbutin and azelaic acid twice daily. Use your alpha-arbutin product after toner and exfoliant, layer your azelaic acid-containing product, and apply a moisturizer [4].

How to Use Alpha Arbutin for Hyperpigmentation

Dermatologists prescribe alpha arbutin as a topical skin-lightening agent for treating hyperpigmentation. The AMA categorizes alpha arbutin as a plant extract [3].

Do Patch Testing

Start applying the arbutin product in small amounts on the forehead for testing because it has the thickest skin on the face. If there is no sensation or irritation within 24hrs, apply the product as a spot treatment to your skin every night. If there’s no irritation in a week and you want more results with the product, begin applying the arbutin product two times a day.

Apply on the Affected Areas of the Face

You can also apply alpha arbutin directly to the areas on your face affected by hyperpigmentation. Use your product on your entire face while avoiding the eyes, lips, and mouth. Other areas that hyperpigmentation can also afflict are your face, chest, and hands. Therefore, you can also apply arbutin to your hands and chest.

Use Moisturizer

After applying alpha arbutin:

  1. Don’t forget to hydrate your skin.
  2. Moisturize your skin twice a day.
  3. Ensure the arbutin cream or serum is fully dry before applying moisturizer.

Moisturizer is necessary because it will give the arbutin a higher chance of absorbing into your skin and working its magic.

Apply Sunblock

Sometimes, arbutin will make your skin sensitive to sunburn and sharp UV rays. If you’re trying to lighten your hyperpigmentation and not wearing sunscreen, it can cause age spots and sun spots.

Bottomline: Azelaic Acid vs. Alpha Arbutin

Azelaic Acids are more effective skin care products for hyperpigmentation, which work differently. Alpha Arbutin is effective for lightening dark spots and improving your skin tone. Azelaic Acid is better for reducing acne breakouts. You can use them together as they have a very amazing lot of effects on the skin. When used together, they can help to reduce hyperpigmentation more effectively. Both are good sources of skin nourishment.

You just have to check the skin sensitivity before using it and use sunblock after applying it.

Disclaimer: This article is only a guide. It does not substitute the advice given by your healthcare professional. Before making any health-related decision, consult your healthcare professional.

Editorial References And Fact-Checking

  • Chakraborty AK, Funasaka Y, Komoto M, Ichihashi M. Effect of arbutin on melanogenic proteins in human melanocytes. Pigment Cell Res. 1998;11(4):206–212.
  • Farshi S. Comparative study of therapeutic effects of 20% azelaic acid and hydroquinone 4% cream in the treatment of melasma. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2011;10(4):282–287.
  • Xingtong Zhu , Yuqing Tian , Wenli Zhang , Tao Zhang , Cuie Guang , Wan Meng Mu         Recent progress on biological production of α-arbutinPMID: 3003243, DOI: 10.1007/s00253-018-9241-9
  • Kircik LH. Efficacy and safety of azelaic acid (AzA) gel 15% in the treatment of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation and acne: a 16-week, baseline-controlled study. J Drugs Dermatol. 2011;10(6):586–590,


  • Farah Jassawalla

    Farah is a veteran writer, season journalist, and copywriting expert with over six years of professional experience in the content creation field. Her forte lies in translating medical jargon and complicated health terms into easy-to-understand language for readers who may not have a medical background. LinkedIn


Farah is a veteran writer, season journalist, and copywriting expert with over six years of professional experience in the content creation field. Her forte lies in translating medical jargon and complicated health terms into easy-to-understand language for readers who may not have a medical background. LinkedIn