Bearberry Is the Buzzy Brightening Ingredient Experts Say Rivals Vitamin C and Retinol

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Move over, vitamin C (or at least scooch to share the spotlight): There's an—*ahem*— bear-y good new skin-brightening ingredient that's having its moment.

Since the beginning of the year, Bearberry extract (which is also known as Uva Ursi), has made its way into our routines with new launches from brands like Hyper Skin and Herbivore Botanicals. Its promise? A radiant, even complexion.

What is bearberry?

Bearberry is an antioxidant-rich red berry that's found in the mountains of Jackson Hole, Wyoming and is—get this—named after the bears who like to snack on it.

"Like many aesthetic ingredients, it has properties that can improve skin health," says Jeffrey Fromowitz, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist in Boca Raton, Florida. "It's thought to contain derivates of arbutin and hydroquinone, both of which improve pigment irregularities in the skin and can lighten dark spots."

Experts In This Article

As a reminder, hydroquinone is a pharmaceutical that reduces melanin production in the skin to help fade discoloration. Kendra Kolb Butler, founder of Wyoming-based skin-care brand Alpyn Beauty (which just launched a Bearberry serum back in February) calls bearberry "nature's alternative to hydroquinone, because of how effective it is at brightening, and it also helps even out skin tone and correct dark spots."

Not only does the ingredient fade existing discoloration, but it can also keep future dark spots from showing up at all. "Bearberry also helps prevent skin from developing new spots and scars," says Simran Sethi, MD, an internal medicine physician and founder of RenewMD Beauty and Wellness. "[It's] especially beneficial for darker skin tones. It has more gentle effects on melanin production and helps keep the skin barrier intact by preventing inflammation that causes increased pigmentation in darker skin tones."

From a texture standpoint, bearberry offers softening and smoothing benefits that diminish the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles, and other textural irregularities. "Bearberry promotes skin cell renewal much like stabilized vitamin C and retinol," says Dr. Sethi. "Not only does it improve skin tone and dark spots, but it also improves skin texture, and you should not have one skin benefit without the other."

It's safe for all skin types, including sensitive skin, and generally plays well with others. Dr. Sethi recommends using combining bearberry with a lipid-rich retinol formula (which will fortify your skin barrier while stimulating cell turnover) and a full-spectrum sunblock. "The trifecta of these products produce a strong, protected skin barrier for flawless texture and tone," she says. "

Bear-y good bearberry products to stock on your shelves

Alpyn Beauty, Bearberry & Vitamin C Glow Serum — $59.00

This skin-loving serum from Alpyn Beauty is illumination in a bottle. Its key ingredients are vitamin C, bearberry, and licorice root, which work together to smooth skin and give it a brightening boost. You can use it morning and night, underneath other products or on its own—the serum is so hydrating, you might not even need to top it off with moisturizer.


Herbivore Botanicals, NOVA 15% Vitamin C + Turmeric Brightening Serum — $64.00

If you’re serious about toning dark spots and giving skin some TLC, get this stuff. True to Herbivore’s ethos, it’s made entirely with active naturals that put your face to work. Think: 15 percent THD vitamin C (for brightening), turmeric (to even and smooth), and arbutin, which is derived from bearberry to fade dark spots and circles. Between the pretty glass votive, gingery scent, and proven results, it deserves a place on everyone’s shelf.

Hyper Skin, Fade & Glow AHA Mask — $48.00

Our editors love this juicy mask, which they liken to a fruit smoothie for your skin. It’s loaded with goodness, including two types of AHAs to exfoliate and wake up the skin, tone-evening niacinamide, and of course, bearberry. Use it a few times a week to refresh your face, and you’ll feel brighter in minutes.

Eminence, Bearberry Eye Repair Cream — $70.00

If the skin around your eyes is looking a little tired, a dab of this dreamy eye cream can do the trick. Each jar is jam-packed with antioxidants from organic naturals, including red clover extract, parsley seed extract, and vitamin C ester. Together, they work to firm skin and reduce inflammation, resulting in an “I swear I got 8 hours of sleep” look.

Paula's Choice, Radiance Renewal Mask — $30.00

Give your skin a good night’s sleep with this overnight mask from Paula’s Choice, designed to wake you up on the right side of the bed. It’s hydrating, brightening, and ultra-nourishing, all in one bottle. Talk about getting your beauty sleep…

The Ordinary, Alpha Arbutin 2% + HA — $10.00

As we mentioned, arbutin is an ingredient derived from the bearberry plant that has similar benefits: it smooths skin, evens out dark spots, and leaves your complexion luminous. Squeeze a few drops of this water-based serum onto your fingertips or into your favorite moisturizer, and your skin will just slurp it up. That’s thanks to the hyaluronic acid in the formula, which enhances delivery.

EFFACÉ, Glow Up Brightening Pads — $124.00

Want to give your skin a glow-up? Add these pads to your cart. They’re soaked in a blend of botanicals bursting with goodness to freshen your face in every swipe. Between the bearberry and arbutin (so really, two types of bearberry), green tea extract, licorice root extract, and vitamin C, and your skin will thank you.

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Our editors independently select these products. Making a purchase through our links may earn Well+Good a commission.

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