What is Kojic Acid?

Kojic Acid is a natural skin lightener derived from a few different species of fungus but especially from Aspergillus oryzae, commonly called as koji in Japan. Hence the name of the acid is kojic acid. During rice malting process, kojic acid is extracted as a by-product of fermentation. This fermentation is done to make a very famous Japanese rice wine known as Sake. Kojic acid inhibits the formation of pigments in both animals and plants.

Kojic acid was discovered in Japan in 1989 and is a product that is used both in cosmetics and also in Japanese cuisine. But the use of kojic acid as skin lightener and as a skin care product has seen an increase in the last decade.

What is Kojic Acid Used for?

There are a lot of uses for kojic acid. Some are related with skin care issues and others are decidedly not. Some of the uses of kojic acid are as follows:

Use of Kojic Acid as Skin Lightener

Kojic acid has been known to lighten the skin tone. It can even make the skin a few shades lighter than before. Apart from this it also evens the skin tone, making the skin look smooth and flawless.

Use of Kojic Acid to Treat Melasma

Melasma is the discoloration of the skin, usually the formation of small macules to tan patches of discolored skin. It usually happens in pregnant and menopausal women or women who are taking hormonal therapy or oral contraceptives. Kojic acid has been found quite effective in treating melasma.

Use of Kojic Acid to Reduce Hyperpigmentation

Kojic acid is also quite beneficial in the treatment of hyperpigmentation and tanning. It is quite useful in removing excess melanin from the deep skin layer.

Apart from these skin care benefits, kojic acid is quite useful in other things as well. Some of them are:

Benefits of Kojic Acid in Protecting From Radiation Damage

Even though studies are still going on regarding this benefit of kojic acid but it has been found that kojic acid is quite effective in protecting from radiation induced damage. In fact when an experiment was done on mice, it was found that kojic acid increased its thirty day survival rate after it was exposed to a lethal dose of gamma radiation.

So it can be concluded that it can potentially be found quite useful in protection against harmful and lethal radiations.

Kojic Acid as a Possible Cure to Cancer

It has been found that when kojic acid is mixed with quercetin, its cytotoxic activity gets twice more effective against cancerous cells. So it is quite possible that in future it will be quite effective in treating cancer.

Kojic Acid is Used to Prevent Browning of Fruits and Seafood

Kojic acid can be used on cut fruits and vegetables to prevent them from turning brown or red due to oxidation. It may also be used to preserve the white and pinkish color of seafood.

Kojic Acid Has Antibacterial Properties

Kojic acid has also been found to possess antibacterial and antifungal properties. So, sometimes doctors prescribe a very mild concentration of kojic acid to cure acne blemishes which usually occur due to bacterial infection.

Does Kojic Acid Really Work?

Yes, kojic acid definitely works as a skin lightening agent as well as for other skin issues. It can lighten your skin tone up to a few shades. The problem with usual skin lightening creams is that they work on the surface only and as soon as you stop using them, they will cease to work. So basically if you want flawless and perfect skin, you are stuck with them. As we all know skin creams are quite expensive and most people cannot afford them indefinitely.

Well with kojic acid you do not need to use it regularly for a very long period for skin lightening. Since it stops the production of melanin, which is the pigment responsible for the dark skin tone, therefore even if you stop using the cream, the effect will last for quite some time. That is the reason why most of the companies that make skin care products are replacing hydroquinone with kojic acid.

How is Kojic Acid Used?

For skin care, kojic acid is used topically. Usually for skin problems and skin lightening, kojic acid is used as an ingredient in skin lightening and skin treatment soaps, face washes, creams, lotions and serums etc. Up to 1% concentration of kojic acid is considered safe but usually only 0.2 to 0.5% concentrations are used in most skin lightening creams etc. to reduce side effects. It is usually mixed with other products both to increase its effectiveness and to reduce its side effects.

Is Kojic Acid Safe to Use?

Well if you consider the alternative treatment chemicals such as hydroquinone; then yes, kojic acid is definitely safer. That is not to say that there are not a few side effects associated with kojic acid when used as a skin lightener and a skin care product but overall it does not have any permanent damaging properties and in most of the cases is lesser of the two evils.

In fact, The Scientific Committee on Consumer Products which is a European regulatory body did a lot of experiments and studies on kojic acid and concluded that it is not a carcinogen or a substance that causes cancer.

Which Kojic Acid Product is Better?

There is no hard and fast rule as to which product is the better option when it comes to curing skin problems and lightening skin tone. Different people can choose different products based on their preference and convenience but make sure that whichever product you are choosing, uses kojic acid in a lower concentration.

What are the Side-Effects of Kojic Acid?

Every rose has its thorns and so does kojic acid. There are some side effects associated with kojic acid use though in most of the cases it is quite safe to use especially in concentrations lower than 1%. But different people respond to products quite differently, therefore everyone who is planning on using or currently using kojic acid should be aware of the side effects. Some of the side effects are:

Increased Sensitivity

Use of kojic acid can lead to an increased sensitivity of skin. This can lead to the development of allergies and other adverse reactions.

Contact Dermatitis

When kojic acid is used as a skin lightener, a type of inflammation of the skin may occur in which the skin becomes red, swollen and rashes appear on it. This is known as contact dermatitis. However, this inflammation is most likely to occur if your use of kojic acid is above the concentration of 1%.

Delayed Dermatitis

Even if you do not get sensitized or develop dermatitis immediately after starting to use kojic acid, there is a possibility that you can develop this allergic condition after using kojic acid for a few months ranging from 2-12 months. This delayed development of dermatitis is also one of the side effects of regular kojic acid use.

Precautions of Using Kojic Acid

If you are starting to use kojic acid, you should take following precautions:

  • Do not start using kojic acid or any skin lightening or skin care products which contain kojic acid without consulting your doctor.
  • Use of kojic acid with other natural soothing substances such as aloe vera can minimize the risk of skin sensitivity.
  • Adding topical corticosteroids to kojic acid creams can decrease the risk of contact dermatitis.
  • Do not use products which contain hydroquinone along with kojic acid in them.
  • If you experience any of the side effects, immediately stop the use of kojic acid products and consult your doctor.
  • If you follow all these precautions there is no reason why you cannot enjoy the benefits of kojic acid and flaunt you perfect skin.

Also Read:

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: July 4, 2017

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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