Arbutin, a practically used skin-lightening agent, has been reported to possess a weak antioxidant activity compared to that of its precursor, hydroquinone. However, its antioxidant activity has not been systematically evaluated. Hence, this study reassessed its activity using five assay systems. Assays were first performed using model radicals, DPPH radical and ABTS(*+). Arbutin showed weak DPPH radical-scavenging activity compared to that of hydroquinone, but showed strong ABTS(*+)-scavenging activity. Its activity by ORAC assay was then evaluated using a physiologically relevant peroxyl radical. Arbutin exerted weak but long-lasting radical-scavenging activity and showed totally the same antioxidant activity as that of hydroquinone. Finally, it was shown that, in two cell-based antioxidant assays using erythrocytes and skin fibroblasts, arbutin exerted strong antioxidant activity comparable or even superior to that of hydroquinone. These findings indicate that the antioxidant activity of arbutin may have been under-estimated and suggest that it acts as a potent antioxidant in the skin.