I Tested The Ordinary's Alpha Arbutin Serum and My Skin Glowed

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The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA

the ordinary alpha arbutin 2% + HA

 Byrdie / Bianca Lambert

What We Like
  • Budget-friendly

  • Hydrating

  • Good for sensitive skin 

  • Helps fade hyperpigmentation

  • Absorbs quickly

What We Don't Like
  • Initially feels tacky on skin

Anyone with uneven skin can benefit from adding The Ordinary's Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA to their skincare routine. The ingredients are impactful and work without irritating the skin.


The Ordinary Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA

the ordinary alpha arbutin 2% + HA

 Byrdie / Bianca Lambert

We put The Ordinary's Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA to the test after receiving a complimentary sample from the brand. Keep reading for our full product review.

Skincare is now a form of self-care for me. There was a time when I looked at caring for my skin as a road to perfection. But, I realize there is no such thing as perfect skin—and that trying to reach that milestone frankly isn't healthy. Coming to this realization has taken years, especially as someone who is continuously dealing with hyperpigmentation. Seeing tiny dark spots covering my face has made me feel unpretty and used to make me hide because I was too embarrassed for anyone to see me as a mere mortal. Instead of hiding, I now challenge myself to leave the house without makeup, and even from time to time post pictures on social media sans makeup. Taking these steps makes me feel like I'm controlling my own beauty narrative instead of letting other people tell me what's beautiful.  

As I search for new products to add to my routine, it's not about what can give me the fastest results. I want to know a product is effective and made with good ingredients. The Ordinary has long been a part of my skincare routine for that very reason. As I continue to care for my skin as a point of caring for myself, I was on the hunt for a serum that will boost my current hyperpigmentation-fighting routine without irritating my skin. The Ordinary's Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA comes highly recommended by reviewers, so I thought I'd give it a try.

Keep reading to see how my skin reacted to this new addition.

the ordinary alpha arbutin 2% + HA

Best for: All skin types, especially those with dark spots and hyperpigmentation

Uses: Treatment for uneven skin tone and dark spots

Potential Allergens: None

Active Ingredients: Alpha arbutin, hyaluronic acid, and lactic acid

Byrdie Clean?: Yes

Price: $9 

About the brand: The Ordinary is a cult-favorite skincare brand known for formulating effective products at budget-friendly prices.

About My Skin: Combination, hormonal breakout-prone with hyperpigmentation 

My skin is a character, but I'm starting to learn all of its intricacies. For starters, my skin doesn't like foam cleansers, physical exfoliants, fragrances, too many ingredients, and anything harsh. With those nos in mind, I've put together a simple routine with a cream cleanser, toner (use once daily), vitamin C (morning), retinol (night), a chemical exfoliant (twice a week), and a clay mask (bi-monthly). Since simplifying my routine, I have fewer breakouts. Unfortunately, I still have a ton of dark spots leftover from over-exfoliating, irritating product mishaps. 

The Feel: Lightweight and gooey

If you've ever used a solo hyaluronic acid serum, you know that the texture can feel slick, weighted, and sometimes tacky once applied. This product's texture was similar; however, once applied, there was no sticky feeling on my skin. I made sure to apply four drops of the serum to wet skin since hyaluronic acid typically penetrates the skin better that way. 

the ordinary alpha arbutin 2% + HA
Byrdie / Bianca Lambert 

The Packaging: A compact glass bottle with a dropper

I have always loved The Ordinary's packaging. It's compact, minimalistic, and the dropper makes it easy to control how much of the product you apply to the skin. 

the ordinary alpha arbutin 2% + HA
 Byrdie / Bianca Lambert

Ingredients: A hydrating formula that evens the skin tone

The Ordinary is known for its simple and minimalist ingredient lists. This particular serum has 2% alpha arbutin, 1% hyaluronic acid, and lactic acid.

Alpha arbutin (Hydroquinone β-D-glucopyranoside) is a skin brightener that is typically derived from the bearberry plant. Due to its ability to prevent melanin from forming, the antioxidant powerhouse helps fade scars and hyperpigmentation. Because alpha arbutin does release hydroquinone, you may be wondering how safe it is to use on the skin. I had the same question. The good news is that alpha arbutin, unlike hydroquinone, doesn't have the same toxicity. Alpha arbutin does release hydroquinone, but it is released slower, so the skin isn't taking in too much of it at a time. 

My skin is hydrated, clearer, and the serum hasn't caused any irritation.

Hyaluronic acid is a polysaccharide our bodies naturally produce. When used topically, the humectant draws moisture from the air and can hold 1000 times its own weight in water. 

Lactic acid is the seventh ingredient in this serum. Since skincare ingredients are listed in the order of their concentrations, the amount of the AHAs in this serum is likely limited. However, the impact of the chemical exfoliant is always welcome. Lactic acid is best known for exfoliating the top layer of skin—reducing hyperpigmentation, wrinkles, and acne. 

the ordinary alpha arbutin 2% + HA
 Byrdie / Bianca Lambert

The Results: Smoother, hydrated skin with zero irritation 

I'm always skeptical of adding anything new to my skincare routine—even if the item is from a company I am familiar with—because my skin is prone to product-induced breakouts. I started this on a night that I used a chemical exfoliator. Looking back on that decision, that may not have been the best idea, but lucky for me applying the serum didn't irritate my skin one bit. 

As I pressed the serum into my skin, it felt a little tacky, but once absorbed, my skin felt hydrated without any stickiness. To integrate this into my routine, I started applying it every other night without layering it with retinol to ensure I didn't end up accidentally irritating my skin. Because I have been using this serum in conjunction with a twice-a-week chemical exfoliator, I can't say this serum is solely responsible for fading my hyperpigmentation. But, my skin is hydrated, clearer, and the serum hasn't caused any irritation. 

the ordinary alpha arbutin 2% + HA
Byrdie / Bianca Lambert 

The Value: You can't beat it

The Ordinary does an excellent job of making effective skincare accessible for all. The alpha arbutin serum is no different. $9 for a serum that helps reveal healthier, glowing skin is a win in my book. 

Similar Products: Great ingredients at a higher price point 

Naturium Alpha Arbutin Serum 2% ($20): This powerhouse serum is formulated with 2% alpha arbutin, niacinamide, and lemon to help fade dark spots. 

SkinCeuticals Phyto+ ($87): This gel formula is made with cucumber and thyme botanical extracts, arbutin, kojic acid, and hyaluronic acid to hydrate and reveal glowy skin. 

Obagi Clinical Vitamin C+ Arbutin Brightening Serum ($90): This Obagi serum has a dynamic duo antioxidant-rich ingredients with exfoliating power—10% L-ascorbic acid (vitamin C) and arbutin— that address signs of aging and dark spots. 

Final Verdict

The Ordinary's Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA is a game-changer for hyperpigmentation, especially when used with a cohesive skincare routine. This serum is now a part of my skincare dream team.


  • Product Name Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA
  • Product Brand The Ordinary
  • UPC 714983263924
  • Price $9.00
  • Weight 1.06 oz.
  • 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.

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