Those seeking a natural alternative to harsh beauty products aimed at evening out skin tone should look no further than bearberry– a hydroquinone-rich super plant that is found in almost every climate. Like bakuchiol (a naturally-occurring antioxidant that is being used as a natural alternative to retinol,) Bearberry is making a name for itself in the natural beauty sphere because of its gentle but effective skin-enhancing properties.
According Sydney-based celebrity facialist Melanie Grant (and the American Academy of Dermatology,) brightening products that contain vitamin C and bearberry are a consumers best bet for fading dark spots without laser intervention.
Bearberries come from a dwarf shrub in the genus Arctostaphylos, which is found all across North America, Asia, Europe, and Central America. The scientific genus name comes from the Greek arctos, meaning bear, and staphyle, meaning bunch of grapes– a coincidence given that bearberries are adapted to arctic climates and are also a favorite food for most bears.
While bearberry fruit is edible for humans, the leaves are more commonly used for their internal and external benefits as medicine. Distillations made from bearberry leaves act as a diuretic, and thus have been used to treat everything from urinary tract infections to headache, while salves can be used to treat burns, wounds, bruises, and other inflammation-inducing injuries.
Because it is rich in hydroquinones, bearberry is most commonly used as a skin brightener, as it helps reduce hyper-pigmentation and fade dark spots on the surface of the skin. Most commonly, it is administered by way of an infusion (created by soaking the leaves in hot oil) or in tincture form– but there are a number of ready-made natural products that already harness the color-fading properties of the plant.
For those looking to fade dark spots or dark circles in the eye area, Eminence Bearberry Eye Repair Cream contains regenerative red clover extract along with anti-inflammatory eyebright and bioflavanoid-rich parsley. In this formulation, bearberry acts as a powerful antioxidant that fights free radicals in the fragile eye contour. Zatik Bearberry Bilberry Organic Elixir, meanwhile, is specifically targeted at improving the appearance of uneven pigmentation and dark spots due to aging anywhere on the face. This raw, herbal elixir can be applied day and night as a targeted treatment on dark problem areas.
For those who just want to experience the brightening effects of bearberry but don’t have any specific problem areas, The Little Alchemist’s Kyella Rose Antioxidant Hydrate mist (and their Wild Apple + Mint Hydrate mist) are both formulated with precious Bulgarian rose and bearberry extract– key anti-oxidizing agents that help nourish skin at the source.
Like all face mists, its best to use these after cleansing and before applying a serum or moisturizer. You can also mist face throughout the day to rehydrate skin and ward off environmental aggressors for a dewy glow. (These mists are also formulated with Indian superherb gotu kola, which is also used to help fade scars.)
For those seeking an even more targeted, glow-enhancing formula, Derma e’s Evenly Radiant Brightening Toner is formulated with bearberry and Vitamin C– a one-two punch for even, clean toning. It can be applied to face with a cotton ball or poured into a spray bottle for easy misting.
Don’t see bearberry on the label? Have no fear. When in doubt, the American Academy of Dermatology suggests looking for products that contain 3% concentrations of arbutin (a natural derivative of hydroquinone derived from plants, including bearberry, blueberry, and cranberry,) which studies show can significantly lighten skin.
Interested in more all-natural skin hacks? Check out these 5 botanical remedies for acne or read about the best herbs for preventing and relieving spider veins.
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