If you ever get curious about the active ingredients in skin lightening creams, you will find that Kojic acid is commonly used as a skin whitening or depigmentating agent in concentrations of 1%. It is commonly used in leave-on creams, anti-aging creams and lotions, around-eye creams, facial cleansers, which are generally applied to the face, but can also be used in body moisturizers and sunscreens.
Because so many people are suffering from melasma, I figured I would offer you more information on an ingredient that’s known to treat it more effectively than hydroquinone. We’ll get into the fact of the matter and understand the Kojic Acid structure, as well as the relation between Kojic Acid and melasma.
Afterwards, I’ll leave you with informative facts about what to look for in Kojic acid skin care products and offer you some recommendations on Kojic Acid creams and Kojic acid Soaps. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you’ll figure out if this ingredient is the right skin lightening solution for you, or the interactions and possible side effect outweigh the benefits.
Kojic acid structure
Kojic acid is a by-product in the fermentation process of malting rice, for use in the manufacturing of sake, the Japanese rice wine. It is a fungal metabolite commonly produced by many species of Aspergillus, Acetobacter and Penicillium, and has been shown to act as a competitive and reversible inhibitor of animal and plant polyphenol oxidases, that catalyzes the conversion of tyrosine to melanin. Kojic acid inhibits melonasis by interfering with the uptake of oxygen required for enzymatic browning.
Kojic acid in skin care products
What this means is that kojic acid in skin care products has the main purpose is to treat hyperpigmentation, which occurs when areas of the skin develop too much melanin. To understand its effects, it is necessary to process some information about how the skin gets its color.
The body naturally produces a pigment known as melanin through specialized cells known as melanocytes. Our genes produce the same amount of melanin, but how much of it gets processed determines our skin color. In people with fair skin, only small amounts of melanin are processed by melanocytes, while larger amount of the pigment are made by the cells of those with dark complexions.
Moreover, the production of melanin does not occur in fixed amounts. The production is increased in response to environmental or internal conditions such as: sun exposure (causing the skin to tan), inflammations (common among acne sufferers) and pregnancy.
Repeated exposure to the sun can result in a permanent increase in melanin production in spots on the skin, causing small freckles and larger sun or age spots to form. And here is where the Kojic acid comes in handy.
Kojic acid and melasma
When kojic acid is applied to the skin in concentrated amounts, the chemicals in the ingredient work on the melanocytes, interfering with the production of melanin.
In addition to its skin-lightening abilities, kojic acid is classified as an antioxidant. This class of nutrients has the ability to counteract the effects of particles in the air called free radicals, which have the potential to cause oxidative damage to the skin cells.
By limiting the effects of free radicals, kojic acid helps to prevent the formation of signs of aging that occur when the cells that produce the skin’s vital structural proteins become damaged.
Kojic acid creams
Kojic acid is also an antibacterial agent, meaning that it interferes with the processes that bacteria cells must perform to thrive and reproduce. By disrupting these processes, kojic acid causes the death of bacteria.
Some dermatologists recommend the use of mild concentrations of kojic acid for addressing acne blemishes, which are often caused by bacterial infections in the pores.
Cape Fear Naturals Kojic Acid Cream
This Kojic Acid cream is a powerful, high quality, skin lightener, that evens skin tone, diminishes freckles, age spots and hyperpigmentations caused by sun damage by 50% in just two weeks. It is highly effective with long term use.
Timeless Arbutin Vitamin C Kojic Acid Skin Lightening Cream
Unlike other peels and hydroquinone creams that simply work by exfoliation, are harsh and irritating, and don’t address the underlying problem, this formula lightens gradually over the period of several months, preventing melanin formation. The Timeless skin lightening cream contains Arbutin, a natural alternative to hydroquinone, that inhibits melanin synthesis, Vitamin C, an antioxidant that evens skin tone and helps build collagen and Hyaluronic Acid – one of the most powerful hydrating and moisturizing ingredients on the market today.
Swanson L-Glutathione Cream with Setria
Looking for a skin cream that actually nourishes while providing moisturizing comfort and support? This formula stabilized the unique ingredient Setria(R) glutathione to create this one-of-a-kind cream. This skin cream contains no parabens and includes an exclusive botanical preservative system to protect the delicate ingredients that soothe, moisturize, nourish and protect your skin. I recommend this for those with mature skin, who are looking for a skin lightening cream that has an effect on wrinkles and makes skin dewy and smooth.
Procelain Skin Whitening Serum
Porcelain Skin Whitening Serum is professionally formulated for melasma and hyperpigmentation. Its formula contains multiple effective ingredients that provide synergetic effects, exfoliate and penetrate skin more effectively than hydroquinone alone. The effective ingredients include hydroquinone (2%), kojic acid, glycolic acid, vitamin C, licorice root extract. Procelain Skin whitening serum has immensely soothing anti-inflammatory properties, which are perfect for sensitive skin.
Perfect Image Lactic Acid 50% Gel Peel
Enriched with Kojic Acid & Bearberry Extract, this gel peel is formulated to even skin tone and effectively lighten pigmentation by inhibiting the enzyme responsible for producing excess melanin. Lactic Acid has been well-known to reduce the appearance of scars, age spots, sunspots, and discoloration associated with acne or photo-damaged skin. Lactic also promotes stimulation of collagen production, while increasing cell turn over rate, for a more brightened and balanced texture.
Lumi Essence Organic Advanced Brightening Repair Treatment
Kojic Acid Soap
Many people chose to use regular face wash products, that may be less powerful than kojic acid creams and serums, yet have the benefit of gradually brightening the complexion day by day. The regular use of a kojic acid soap will prevent dark pigments from appearing and will also help your skin look brighter, flawless and younger-looking.
Diana Stalder Papaya Kojic Acid Skin Whitening Soap
This kojic acis soap is one of the most popular products of this genre. It is a combination of Kojic Acid and Papain, both of which are very effective skin lighteners and it prohibits the formation of melanin. This soap also promises to be effective when it comes to treating common skin problems like dark spots, melasma, hyper pigmentation, psoriasis, freckles, pimple/acne scars.
Kojie San Skin Lightening Soap
Since the skin lightening benefits of Kojic Acid were discovered in Japan, we should find this soap from Kojie San super efficient to diminish hyperpigmentation. Kojie San has an all-natural kojic acid formula that helps lighten dark spots due to acne, age spots, freckles, sun-damaged skin, and other skin pigmentation.
Premium Maximum Whitening/Peeling Soap
This soap is formulated to reverse signs of aging, maintain skin suppleness and reduce wrinkles. It nourishes your skin to let its natural beauty shine through! It also removes the appearance of skin blemishes and begins whitening your skin in just one week. This product also works as a keratolytic and comedolytic agent. as it causes the cells of the epidermis to shed more readily, opening clogged pores and neutralizing bacteria within, preventing pores from clogging up again by constricting pore diameter, and allowing room for new cell growth.
Kojic acid in combination with hydroquinone, retin-a and other ingredients
Since the discovery of kojic acid, conflicting studies have been reported about the long-term safety of the ingredient. Upon re-examination of the available data for Kojic Acid, its use as a whitening agent at a concentration of 1.0 % in leave-on creams, when applied to face or body is safe for the consumer.
It should, however, be noticed that whenever human skin barrier is disturbed, as is for example the case after peelings, or application to larger skin surfaces are involved, the use of Kojic Acid is not considered to be safe.
As far as the derivatives of Kojic Acid are concerned (e.g. esters of Kojic Acid, Kojic Acid dipalmitate, Kojic Acid isopalmitate and chloro-Kojic Acid),), the SCCS did not receive any data, meaning that no conclusion can be drawn on the safety of the derivatives.
However, it is known that there are products on the market containing Kojic acid at concentrations higher than 1%, therefore should you use skin care products that inform you about the containing amount, you should be aware of the risks:
- Skin irritation
Skin irritation is the most common kojic acid side effect. However, the amount of kojic acid in skincare products is usually not enough to trigger irritation, unless the user has especially sensitive skin. Furthermore, some kojic acid products contain topical corticosteroids to counter any potential irritation.
- Allergic Contact Dermatitis
Even if kojic acid does not initially irritate the skin, there’s a danger of developing allergic contact dermatitis with continued regular use. You should discontinue use if you note side effects such as red rash or bumps, itching, pain, blisters and dry, red patches of skin.
Do you prefer Kojic acid to hydroquinone? Tell me your thoughts on this in the comment section below.