Skin care

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.

Published on November 4, 2013 in Skin care .
Tags: , , , , ,


  1. Swathi


    Which are the best creams with Kojic acid (which have within prescribed below 1% concentration od Kojic acid)?


  2. Hi Swathi,

    I think the best creams with this active ingredient are the ones specially prepared in pharmacies (drugstores). Get a prescription from your dermatologist and the pharmacist will make you one with the exact concentration you desire.

    If you’d rather use a familiar brand, you can try one of these:

    Palmer’s Skin Success Eventone Ultra Fade Serum With Kojic Dipalmitate Complex


    La Roche Posay Mela-D Range – Dark Spots Moisturizer SPF 15, Pigment Control and Serum (the last of which contains 1% kojic acid)

    Best of luck,

  3. Lovy

    can a 15 yr. old girl use a kojic acid soap ? and i note some side effects like itching should i discontinue using the kojie san saop ?

    • Hi Lovy,

      Age isn’t a factor here, however your sensitive skin and how it reacts to the Kojic Acid soap is.

      As I said in the article, “you should discontinue use if you note side effects such as red rash or bumps, ITCHING, pain, blisters and dry, red patches of skin”.

      If you tell me more about the skin condition you were trying to improve by using Kojic acid, I might be able to recommend an alternative that is more suitable for you. If not, I suggest you go to a dermatologist and let them prescribe smth for you.

      Let me know,

  4. sowmya

    hi, i am sowmya, i am 28yrs.having 2 kids. i have lot of dark spots, pimple and pores. i am feeling much to face the society. all r hurting me by asking about my skin. i undergoes some medical treatment also.moderate color.kindly reccomended the best bb cream.too oil skin. best powder, cream , face wash. pl suggest me. waiting for reply

    • Hi Sowmya,

      If you are looking for a BB cream, BRTC Aqua Rush Water Drop BB Cream should be perfect for you as it provides excellent coverage and uses AHA and BHA to exfoliate dead skin cells. This should work not only to cover imperfections and pigmentation, but also treat them.

      An even better option coverge wise would be Diorsnow BB Creme White Reveal UV Protection. This evens the complexion and brightens the skin by reducing the appearance of dark spots.

      I also recommend Vichy ProEVEN mineral BB Cream, a product that not only covers dark spots with its medium coverage formula, but also promises to even out skin tone in four weeks.

      All these products are available here:

      Powder wise, I’ll be posting soon enough a review of the best CC Powders on the market, so make sure you visit again :) I’ll be sure to update this comment and give you the link to that post, once I upload it.

      Regarding your skin care regime, I would suggest you try some of the new products recently launched by Boots Botanics. I’m using the All Bright face cream and the Shine Away ionic face mask to mattify my skin and I am very pleased with the products. Read more about them here:

      Hope these work for you! Let me know!

  5. manohar

    can i use both of it

  6. hi.i m ume.want to ask you is it safe if i use 2% kojic acid cream with lemon juice and rose water for skin lightening……kindly tell me …

  7. Alexis

    Hi I have sensitive skin with slight eczema problems but not on my face. I have dark skin with pigmentation problems on my face. Will kojic acid work for me? I plan on going to my dermatologist next week and I want something to clear up my PIH.

  8. Hunnam

    Does kojie san remove genetic freckles

  9. peter

    hi am a black and a male and having a light skin but not fair,, i want to ask for the best skin care product that contains kojic acid of 1 percent to help remove black spots on my face and also a body lotion product to help give me a slightly lighter skin uniformly and which does NOT bleaches

    • Hi Peter,

      IMO, removing black spots does not require such a drastic treatment as kojic acid and since you have dark skin, this regime might not be the best solution for you. I promise I will write a post about getting rid of black spots soon, but in relation to slightly lightening your skin, I would strongly recommend visiting a dermatologist to take cautious actions, instead of following an online recipe. Please consider :)

  10. Asfandyar

    Can I absorb kojic acid whitening cream into my skin…does it harm…

  11. Nafisa

    Hi Luiza, this was a helpful read thank you! I was wondering I am an Indian woman so is 4% Kojic acid safe for me? Also you mentioned creams such as Cape Fear Naturals Kojic Acid Cream – is this a cream that you know to be an effective one (personally) or was it just an example for the article? Is there any cream containing 4% Kojic acid that you would recommend?

    • Hi Nafisa,

      My advice would be to increase the kojic acid concentration gradually and see how your skin reacts. As I mentioned in the article, there is the possibility of skin irritation..

      I asked my mom to try out the Cape Fear Naturals Cream and it actually helped her a lot. It’s your decision if you want to start by using a 4% cream from the beginning, however I recommend you precaution :)



    • Hi, Momi,

      You can definitely use it if you want to get rid of your dark spots and freckles. You should also try skin care treatments for your acne and black heads. Best of luck!

      • SALMA


        • Kojic acid is a popular treatment for dark spots and freckles and you should definitely try a face cream and/or soap to get rid of those, however acne marks or black heads will require another form of treatment.

  13. Najjud

    Hi. My name is Naj . A guy who live somewhere in asia.
    Just wondering if you can suggest me some skin care products.

    Im having some trouble handling my acne that keep on growing on my jaw part. Before my face was just fine. But when i started using cleanser, toner and moisturiser, as people said it will make my face more briliant and clean. I started to have these kind of problem, acne on my jaw and i can,t get rid of it. Stubborn pimple.

    i undergo some facial treatment at the beauty salon, and they recommend me to use their product which is Kojic papaya soap. It really did tighten my skin , but im not sure either it helps to solve my acne on my jaw.

    So i went to the pharmacy and they gave me antibiotic tablets and suggest me to use T3 Mycin clindamycin gel 1%.

    Please help me :(

    • Hi, Naj,

      I haven’t heard anything about your age and skin type, if it’s oily, combination, dry or sensitive and I also don’t know if your skin problems are so great that you are required to take antibiotic tablets. This action will further affect your body’s resilience to bacteria and germs.

      My first thought is that you chose the wrong skin care products, that triggered the acne problems. I’m talking the whole regime – cleanser, toner and especially the moisturizer. The tightening sensation you experience from using the Kojic acid soap is normal, yet it is not likely to solve your acne problems. A more powerful course of action is needed and I suggest you see your dermatologist and work out a skin care plan.

      The T3 gel you were recommended at the pharmacy contains antibiotics, which is a popular and usually effective treatment for acne vulgaris. I’m not saying it will do harm, but I strongly think that this is a phase that you have to overcome with the help of your dermatologist.

      • Najjud

        Thank you very much for your feedback and advices. I really appreciate it. Anyway my age is 22 years old. I have an oily type of skin especially at the nose part. Really annoyed me. Thanks again. I think I will make an effort to see the dermatologist.

  14. Angelica

    Hi. Is it natural effect if using kojic soap, having pimples at first use? Im using it for the first time time. And i have noticed that my pimples multipliying on my forehead.

  15. Sdu

    can an 8 yr old girl use these products to lighten her body skin?

  16. mubarakh

    Hi Luiza. I’m 23 years old. And I have oily face type of skin. Im having a problem where my acne is very hard to settle down and keep on attacking my jaw and my cheek.

    At the moment I am having a facial treatment where they prick my acne out. It hurts so much. Im not sure if its the best solution as the scar is really worse however they told me that it will only lasts for a few months. Help me with this

  17. Hi, Mubarkh,

    From my knowledge, acne is best dealt with a proper medication, not facials that may cause tissue damage and scar you for life. Have you considers seeing a dermatologist? They could prescribe a better treatment for you and even suggest some skin care options that are would work for you. Best of luck!

  18. Isha

    Hi Luiza,
    I am of Indian background, and I’d say I’m of medium brown complexion. I’m currently using a 2% hydroquinone cream to even out and brighten my skin tone so I can confidently go out wearing only sunscreen on my face – as opposed to a face full of foundation.
    I am concerned about whether using hydroquinone is dangerous if I only plan on using it for 2 months maximum?
    I’m kind of thinking about switching to cape fears 4% kojic acid – do you know whether I’d be able to even out and brighten my skin tone to the same/similar degree using kojic acid instead of hydroquinone? If your answer is yes than I’d rather stop using hydroquinone and start on the kojic acid. Any advice would be appreciated

    • Using hydroquinone for a smaller period of time isn’t an issue, however everyone says kojic acid is better, so if you were already planning on going through wit the switch, I strongly encourage it :) Best of luck!

  19. Rabia khan

    Hi luiza how are you?I hope you are fine.You are sooooo Beautiful and pretty Keep smiling:-)well i want to ask you that if i discontinue using kojie san soap will my skin become more darker or it will remain my normal skin color…I mean if we stop using kojic acid soap will our skin become darker.Thanks alot for replying.Stay Blessed.Takecare.Regards.

    • Hi, Rabia,

      I’m great, thanks for asking! Feeling particularly happy because of your cute compliments and comment. Now to answer your question, if you discontinue using the soap, your skin won’t get darker and you will continue to see the results that you got from this treatment for a while.

      However, I recommend you use sun factor protection from then on daily and follow other suggestions I mentioned in the article.

      Have a great day! Hugs

  20. Rabia khan

    Hi Luiza I wanted to thank you soooo much for replying:-)Honestly Speaking Iam not buttering really You have got such a sweet cute Personality.You are sooo beautiful.May God bless you in every step of your life.Ameen.Keep smiling:-)Takecare.Regards.

  21. i am muhammad asif from Lahore Pakistan. i am using whiting creams since six year ago. but now my face is red and pink i want to stop using skin whiting cream. because my body color is white and face color is red and pink. when i stop using cream black spot appear on my face and my color is getting black what can i do for my face … my skin is oily and i am 24 years old boy.. tell me how to solve this problem

    • Hi, Muhammad!
      I understand the problem, unfortunately I am not qualified to answer your questions. I really think you should see a dermatologist and solve the issues :( Best of luck and take care!

  22. vivian

    Hi, I’m a 24year old girl from Nigeria. I have bin battling with pimples underneath my skin on both sides of cheeks. I have tried all sorts of clean nd clear acne cleansers and Mary Kay pimple solutions. I recently came across a dermatologist who suggested d use of kojic soap,id like to knw if u have any idea of products dt can tackle pimples. Dt

  23. Hi,
    Im 30 years old i have dark pigments in face i was using skinlite cream before now i stopped using the skinlite as im pregnant now,the problem is my face has become too dark than before kindly advice me can use Kojic Acid Soap.If yes also let me whether its available in Singapore.

  24. saheli ghosh

    mam i am a bengali girl,not speak english.i am 20 years.amr problem mukhe onek black sport dakha6e amake kojic cream deya6n.ami 1week use kore6e but kno inprove hoche na.ami ki krbo.pls tell me.i am waiting your reply.thanku

  25. Knoll

    Hi Luiza,
    I’m 40 yrs. old using kojic papaya soap for a month & I noticed that I’m having bumps/pimples & dryness of skin. what you will suggest me if should stop using this? What is better treatment for bumps/pimples that has redness? Thanks

    • Look for products that don’t have comedogenic or harmful ingredients. Use a moisturizer after you wash your face with kojic soap, if you want to continue the treatment

  26. Knoll

    Hi Luiza,
    I’m 40 yrs. old using kojic papaya soap for a month & I noticed that I’m having bumps/pimples & dryness of skin. what you will suggest me if should stop using this? What is better treatment for bumps/pimples that has redness? Thanks

  27. saima wasif

    Hi me saima from pakistan.i put glycolic on my face after microdermabrasion and i get hyperpigmentasion on my cheeks.can i use hydroquinone cream and kojic soap together.plz tel me

    • Hi Saima,
      I think you should just stick to one treatment at a time. Kojic acid is said to be better than hydroquinone for most people, but the choice is yours :)

  28. juliet

    Can I use cojic acid soap with QE1+ paris privilege cream? Its a toning body milk lotion with caviar extract

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Real Time Web Analytics