Kojic acid – treatment for dark spots, acne and freckles


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.

Kojic acid vs. dark spots

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 brightens complexions

Kojic acid brightens complexions

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

Lumi Essence visibly corrects dark spots and helps even skin tone that might appear on your body because of hormonal changes or sun damage. It contains Kojic Acid, that helps lighten and reduce the appearance of dark spots and Alpha-Arbutin, derived from the leaves of cranberry, blueberry and bearberry shrubs. Papaya and Pineapple extracts provide intense exfoliation to help reduce the size and color intensity of dark spots and help even skin tone and Niacinamides have an inhibitory effect on the transfer of melanosomes to skin cells, thus it can interrupt the process that causes irregular pigmentation to form.

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.

You can purchase your favorite Kojic Acid Soap from here.

Kojic acid vs. freckles

Kojic acid vs. freckles

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.

About the author /

As a professional make-up artist and beauty enthusiast, Luiza's expertise has become highly prized over the years. As owner of this site, she set her mind to create a publication for those who are focused not just on beauty trends and popular brands, but also on the industry's most well-kept secrets.

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  1. akshay

    hey luiza
    can i use kojic acid 1%
    just before that im also using some lightning cream
    so plz tell me that is it really works for reduces skin rashes
    an dark spots

    • Luiza

      Hi Akshay,

      You can use kojic acid cream to reduce or even treat dark spots on your face, but it’s not safe to use if you have skin rashes – allow and help them heal first, by using drugs or lotions recommended by your doctor.

      • Nandan`

        hi my face is very dark sopts and pmipals ,,,i will try more crems but not work for that crems pls tel sper solution

  2. siman

    I am a dark coloured guy with the ageof 26. I have used pandrum plus for last 2yrs. At the beginning my face became white. Then it stated get pimples like reddish in colour then gadually becomes very dark spot. And it spread to my total face so I left using pandrum plus. So my skin became more darker than before….
    And face is looking like black colour is painted.
    Shall I use kojic skin lightning cream for the solution of it?

  3. imaan khan

    hi i m imaan from pakistan m 28 yrz old i hav alot of light brown moles uneven skin tone does kojic acid cream and face eash help me out to get rid of theze problems

  4. Sneha

    Hey Luizo,

    Thanks for the great info on Kojic acid…this was very informative however I do have obe concern..

    My arms are more tanned than the rest of my body…I am trying to get them even….I have just order Kojic acid soap…but I am still scared to use it.
    I am indian with golden skin tone…so will it be safer for me to use?
    Does this acid completely destroy the melanin?

    Will I always have to use sunscreen? even if I stop using it?
    And last one if I stop using it will my sskin turn black? Or anyothrr effect?

    Thank you so much

  5. Rose


    I have a upper-lip pigmentation, what can i use? This makes me look like if i have a beard.

  6. grace

    Hello, could u pls prescribe a body cream or lotion together with a soap that doesn’t contain ‘hydrquinone, steroids and mercury’ please… but will visibly brigthen and give one an even skin tone. And where can one get it. Thanks! Shouldn’t be too pricey…

  7. Sasori

    Hi can i use kojic acid soap? i’m 15 years old i have dark spots on my face what are the effect when i use this soap ? please reply :)

  8. maha

    Please help me i am in the age if 32 i am sufering in acne problems and blemishes in around cheaks and chin areas i consult skin specialist bt medicine nit effect plz help me my complextion is fair so i am feeling imbalancing kindly help me

  9. Miguel

    Hello. Can i use toner and moistizer after i used kojic acid soap?

  10. charlotte mcdonald

    hi im CHARLOTTE 21 from England. im a very self conscious girl who hates her freckles! its came to the fact I wont leave my room without makeup on yet as the day goes on my makeup comes off and freckles are on view! hate hate hate them! im looking at’ Lactic Acid Whitening Lotion Remove Freckles Pigmentation Melasma Sun Spots ‘
    do you think this will be okay for me to use aswell as im starting sunbeds and ino this brings them out more but will it keep my freckles from returning ? thanks

  11. erlinda

    In t 1st week I did using kojic papaya soap its my acnes hv a more n keep cming out so thats its good sign or should I stop to use that product?????thanks..

  12. narendar

    Hi, luiza
    Hope u r well.. any way i wanna ask the best cream for the fairness with no side effects i it should give perfect fairness and its for face and neck it should not give any pimples and dark spots… give me the cream name white u r experienced and thankyeww alot

  13. izuaje Gloria

    Please where can I get Kojic Papaya soup in Nigeria, I really need it

  14. 45 and aging

    I have the La Roche Posay Mela D serum and concentrate. I’m confused as to where I should incorporate this into my routine of hyalronic acid, vitamin c (morning) and retina (evening)

  15. nazakat

    hii luiza……um 23 …..i hav freckles n melasma on my face…..can i use kojic skin lightening cream to get rid of sch problems….if so, how and when to apply it i mean mornibg or evening…

  16. Yvonne

    I am 25 , but my have back mark from hydroquinone wat to use to remove it .

  17. Bharatesh Kumar

    I have tanned skin. lots of black spots on the face. it started around one year back.
    until than i ahd a good wheatish skin. before this i never had any face problem.

    my doctor has presribed by sunscream of SPF -40 (sungrace from Glenmark) and kojic acid in the night time.

    i heard Lemon juice also helps in reducing tanned skin. can i use the lime juice as well twice a day. or is it a bad combination along with Kojic acid…?

  18. lara

    Hi luzia,
    I am lara. I hope ur fyn.I am 17yrs old and i am havng black spots on my face,so can i use kojic san soap, if i can thn do u have any idea where i can get it in qatar.

  19. akika

    Hello Luiza,

    How are you? I was impressed when I read all your blogs and the way you answered those question are even helpful. I got a problem too. I got some tiny holes in my cheeks cause by severe acne before and I want to get rid of it. Can I use kojic acid soap? Do you it will help to get rid of it? Thank you so much!

  20. Reykes

    I’m a 19 year old man with dark complexion and very dry skin. My forehead and my neck is way darker than the surrounding areas. Please just me the precise cream/soap.

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