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The Benefits of Kojic Acid for Your Skin

Dr. Morrell
Medically reviewed by Dr. Robert Morrell, MD
A woman in a white bath robe is staring in a mirror, applying a skin care product with kojic acid onto her temple

What exactly is Kojic Acid? This FDA-approved skin brightening ingredient came onto the scene in 1955 but has recently surged in popularity. Derived from natural substances, it was discovered through rice wine fermentation in 1907. Why do we love it so much? It preserves and restores natural pigment in fruits, vegetables, and people too!

What is Kojic Acid and how does it work?

Kojic Acid is a fungal metabolite found within mushroom spores. It is used for the fermentation of multiple kinds of food like sake and soybean paste. It works by inhibiting tyrosinase, an enzyme responsible for stimulating melanin production.

Okay, so we know that melanin is an important factor in UV radiation protection and it determines the colour of your skin, hair, and eyes. Right? But the overproduction of melanocytes from sunlight exposure, aging, pregnancy, hormonal fluctuations, or acne, can lead to issues such as melasma or hyperpigmentation.

Melanin is produced within the innermost layers of the epidermis. Here, the tyrosinase enzyme bonds to copper ions to produce melanocytes. To prevent excess melanin production, Kojic Acid works by serving as a primary inhibitor for tyrosinase and stops melanocyte creation before it starts by capturing the copper ions and bonding itself to them. By using this method, the acid is able to slow the production of melanin with incredible efficacy — allowing the skin to naturally brighten and correct itself to a more even tone.

What skin conditions does it treat?

You may be wondering, what are the benefits of Kojic Acid and does it cause acne? What conditions does Kojic Acid help to treat? This powerful ingredient is clinically proven to treat abnormal or uneven skin tones. It also addresses a wide variety of pigment disorders such as:

  • Post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH)
  • Melasma
  • Age spots
  • Dullness
  • Hyperpigmentation

Additional Benefits of Kojic Acid

  • Proven to reduce acne scars and uneven skin tones
  • Able to stop and reverse hyperpigmentation from occurring
  • It is non-toxic
  • Works for anti-aging
  • Clinically tested to be more effective than many other skin-brightening options

A general worry for consumers is that any new treatments can worsen other conditions like acne. However, studies have proven that combining Kojic Acid with other standard acne treatments can actually increase effectiveness. Moreover, it helps to reduce and prevent acne and other resulting issues like post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. By using Kojic Acid as early as possible in your acne treatments, you can prevent scarring and excessive hyperpigmentation before they happen.

How effective is it?

So, how long does it take for Kojic Acid to brighten skin? Good question! On a cellular level, the acid suppresses hyperpigmentation in melanocytes within only a few minutes after application. However, visible results of the treatment can take anywhere from 8-35 days. It all depends on the extent of your skin issue, but continued regular use will help to increase and prolong the brightening effect.

Is Kojic Acid safe?

The main side effect of Kojic Acid is contact dermatitis. Though rare, we see this side effect most commonly seen in patients with sensitive skin. It can result in skin irritation, rashes, inflammation, and itchiness, but in the low concentrations used in our skin Brightener Serum, it has proven to be perfectly safe — especially when combined with other ingredients that help to soothe any form of inflammation.

Kojic Acid is one of the most extensively studied ingredients for skin brightening. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Expert Panel has done thorough investigations into its potential toxicity. The good news? They concluded that it showed absolutely no toxic properties.

How is it different from hydroquinone?

Hydroquinone was the industry standard for skin brightening until the last few years. Why? Because of its powerful effect on hyperpigmentation. But recently, clinicians discovered that it causes permanent damage to melanocytes. This permanently removes UV protection from your skin. This discovery caused many countries to ban it from all drug store cosmetics. Conversely, researchers have proven that Kojic Acid has the same powerful results as hydroquinone, without the risk.

Discover for yourself how useful this versatile ingredient can be. Try our gentle and exfoliating Brightener Serum, clinically proven to lighten hyperpigmentation and smooth out the surface of your skin.

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