Kojic Acid, Skin-Lightening Agent, Should You Use it?

Kojic Acid, skin-lightening agent, should you use it? Kojic Acid, skin-lightening agent, should you use it?

Kojic Acid, Skin-Lightening Agent, Should You Use it?

Before experimenting anything on your skin, it is highly important to acquire complete information about it. Hyperpigmentation, uneven skin tone, or dark/brown spots on face have become a much-talked concern these days. After running a couple of searches on Google, you might find “Kojic Acid” suggested cure for your concern. However, before deciding whether to include this skin-brightening agent into your skin care regimen, you must gain thorough knowledge about it. Let us begin with understating, what is Kojic Acid, what it does for your skin and if it safe for your skin.

What is Kojic Acid?

Kojic Acid also known as koji in Japanese, is a chemical produced from fungi Aspergillus Oryzae. It is a byproduct after the fermentation process of certain foods such as soy sauce, rice wine, and Japanese sake. One of the most commonly used ingredient in skin brightening or pigmentation removal products, Kojic Acid penetrates into deeper layers of the skin and stops melanin production. Melanin is the pigment in our body that determines the skin tone. Thereby, the skin-lightening properties of Kojic Acid are due to its melanin inhibiting action. However, it has been reported that creams or serums containing Kojic acid may have adverse effects, particularly on people who have sensitive skin.

Can Kojic Acid permanently lighten skin?

Our body makes skin pigment melanin for two reasons. Firstly, melanin levels in body are a result of your genetic material, DNA. Secondly, your body makes melanin for protection against skin damage i.e. breakouts, sunburn, skin infections or post-inflammatory hyper-pigmentation. Kojic Acid only helps to lighten the skin permanently if it has turned dark due to skin damage.

Indeed, permanent skin-lightening solutions can be enticing when you strive to lighten the skin color you are born with. However, permanent skin lightening may be an unhealthy choice for your skin. The reason behind this is that such skin-brightening or lightening agents result in cytotoxicity of melanocytes (death of cells that form melanin). Thereby, if you want to try Kojic Acid to lighten your natural complexion, consider taking an advice from your dermatologist.  Furthermore, people with specific skin conditions should avoid using such topical agents.

Is Kojic Acid better or Hydroquinone?

When looking for skincare products for pigmentation or hyperpigmentation, it becomes pertinent to understand which is best suited for your skin. Both Kojic Acid and Hydroquinone are skin-bleaching agents, which are used by people to lighten skin complexion. These ingredients destroy melanin making cells in the body. However, certain adverse effects are also associated with their application.

Use of hydroquinone can cause skin irritations and in rare cases result in ochronosis (gives blue/black spots on the skin). It has been found that application of hydroquinone on skin for prolonged duration causes its accumulation in the body. This may bring alterations in genetic composition, increase the risk of cancer and disturb the functioning of kidney. As of now, there are no clear evidences that encourage the use of hydroquinone. Similarly, use of Kojic Acid is also found responsible for causing skin irritations, rashes, redness, and allergies. An animal research study published in "International Journal of Toxicology," found the connection of Kojic Acid with cancer. Hence, from safety perspective it is hard to conclude which one is better for skin among the two.

What are the side effects of Kojic Acid on the skin?

Reportedly, there are several side effects associated with the use of this skin-whitening agent. As per skin care experts, one should discontinue the use of Kojic Acid if they experience rashes, itchiness, and redness on the skin. However, when creams with Kojic Acid are used extensively for longer period, they can cause severe skin health concerns such as:

  • Contact Dermatitis

Kojic Acid, skin-lightening agent, should you use it?_reequil

Contact dermatitis is one of the most common side effects associated with the topical application of Kojic Acid. It causes irritation to the site of application that may lead to red, swollen skin with burning sensation. According to a research study published by the American Contact Dermatitis Society, people experience contact dermatitis after the application of Kojic Acid 1% cream. Thereby, special caution is needed in patients who are susceptible to contact sensitization. To know more read here


  • Sensitivity to Sun Rays

Kojic Acid lightens the skin tone by inhibiting melanin production. Melanin is a skin pigment that protects your skin from harmful sun rays. When melanin production is blocked in the body, skin becomes more prone to sunburn and UV damage.

Is Kojic Acid bad for skin?

A wide range of food products and medicines require Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval for safety assessment and public health. Likewise, FDA monitors all cosmetic products under these two laws i. e.  Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FD&C Act) and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FPLA) External Link Disclaimer before they are put for sale in the market.

In addition, Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) also assesses the safety of chemical compounds used in cosmetic formulations. A review published related to the effects of Kojic Acid in a mice study found its connection with cancer growth, when used in high concentration. As per studies, Kojic acid used in cosmetic products should be watched carefully for safety concerns. That is why recommendations from dermatologist are emphasized before using Kojic Acid based skin care products. It is only a dermatologist or a skin care expert that can analyze the usage of specific product, which includes the right concentration of ingredient, frequency of use, and safest course of action.


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