3 Skin Benefits of Uva Ursi (Bearberry)

Shelia Swartz

Updated on:

Beauty Pickup is ads and reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. Learn more.

Have you heard of uva ursi (bearberry)?


Well, lucky for you, you are about to hear all about it now!

This shrub grows in North America, Europe, and Asia, and its Latin name, uva ursi, literally means “bear grape” in English. This is also not a coincidence: it seems that bears actually love the little red berries from this plant!

It also has several different names, such as mealberry, sandberry, mountain-box, fox-plum, hog-cranberry, and barren myrtle.

Ready to find out more about the skin benefits of uva ursi?

1. It Contains a Naturally Occurring Skin Brightener

The reason uva ursi has so many benefits for the skin? A chemical called arbutin. The leaves of the bearberry shrubs are very rich on arbutin, containing around 5-17% of the chemical – which is a naturally occurring form of hydroquinone.

What is hydroquinone famous for?

This chemical – hydroquinone – can help brighten the skin because it blocks a specific enzyme called tyrosinase, responsible for producing melanin (which darkens the skin). Traditionally, melanin naturally protects us against the sun, but scars, UV rays, and hormonal changes often lead to an overproduction of it, causing dark spots. Other conditions, like hyperpigmentation or melasma, can also cause them as well.

The solution? Arbutin (and its naturally occurring hydroquinone). It can stop the overproduction of melanin and give your skin bright new cells that could even out your skin tone and lighten your complexion.

In fact, when it comes to hyperpigmentation, a study found out that four out of six participants had their levels of pigmentation inhibited after using a topical application of uva ursi.

2. Uva Ursi Has Lots of Tannins

This herb also has lots of tannins (up to 15%), which help reduce inflammation and fight infections in the body. Generally speaking, uva ursi is packed with antioxidants that protect us from UV rays damage and prevent showing signs of aging, such as collagen loss and wrinkles.

3. Uva Ursi Has Anti-Aging Properties

This plant is full of polyphenols, which are particularly important when it comes to lipid oxidation (aka collagen loss) and biological aging of tissues, according to the ‘Study of the Properties of Bearberry Leaf Extract as a Natural Antioxidant in Model Foods.’ 

The same study also concluded that the extract of uva ursi leaves could also decrease the speed of free radical reactions.

Meaning: it’s anti-aging!

But that’s not the only amazing chemical present in the bearberry plant. 

Do you want a full list?

Here we go! 

Uva ursi leaves also contain methylarbutin (up to 4%), small quantities of the free aglycones, ursolic acid, tannic acid, gallic acid, p-coumaric acid, syringic acid, galloylarbutin, gallo-tannins, flavonoids, and polyphenols.

What Are the Overall Benefits of Uva Ursi?

So you’re trying a new skincare product with uva ursi leaf extract. Here are the other results you should expect:

  • brightening the skin
  • evening out the complexion
  • minimize the appearance of pores
  • reduce puffiness (and general inflammation)
  • natural protection against environmental stressors (UV rays and pollution)
  • smoother, firmer skin

Sounds amazing, but…

Is Uva Ursi Safe? Are there any Side-Effects?

Applied topically through skincare products (up to 2% in face creams and up to 0.5% in body lotions), uva ursi has proved to be safe, and so far there are no reported negative side-effects.

However, be careful when consuming uva ursi leaf extract supplements.

When it comes to side-effects, ingesting its capsules can result in fastened heart rate, insomnia, irritability, nausea, and even vomiting, and it’s not recommended for prolonged use (up to one month only, according to WebMD). 

WebMD also states that high doses of uva ursi leaf extract are possibly unsafe if you take them longer than a month. It can cause liver damage, breathing problems, convulsions, and, if taken for a long time, it might increase the risk of cancer.

Always speak to your doctor before trying out new supplements!

Tips When Looking for Uva Ursi Skin Products

Different types of research have shown that the more natural the extract, the better the result and effectiveness of uva ursi in skincare. If you want to make sure your products are indeed natural, keep an eye out for these words:

  • preservative-free
  • organic products
  • natural solvents
  • eco-certifications like non-GMO and fairtrade
  • free of petrolatum 

And get ready for brighter, more even skin! 

Have you tried skincare products with uva ursi before? If yes, what were the benefits, and how long did it take for you to notice them? Tell us everything in the comments!

Photo of author

Shelia Swartz

Combination Skin Type | Shelia is part of the editorial team over at Beautypickup. She got into skincare because of acne, like most of us. She is super outgoing, she enjoys backpacking and adventuring in the wilds and loves surfing during the summer!

Leave a Comment