Kojic Acid: A Skin Expert Explains What It Is And How To Use It

Reviewed by Dr. Parul Khot

Dermatologist | DNB, MBBS

Written by Sumona BoseSep 16, 2023
Kojic acid: a skin expert explains what it is and how to use it

If you seek to improve the look of discolouration on your skin caused by sun damage, melasma and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation that occurs after a blemish, kojic acid can be the answer you are looking for. Especially if your skin struggles to tolerate hydroquinone, a strong lightening agent, this ingredient will be a godsend to you. It is sourced from different types of fungi, like aspergillus oryzae, which has the Japanese common name of ‘koji’. Kojic acid is also a byproduct when certain fermented foods like soy sauce, rice wine are prepared. A trendy additive found in many serums and depigmentation creams, let a skin expert detail everything you need to know about kojic acid.

FAQs about kojic acid

According to Dr. Parul Khot, dermatologist and cosmetologist, Mumbai, “Kojic acid is a skin brightening compound found naturally in nature. It has been proven to be of high efficacy for lightening spot pigmentation and is a prominent ingredient in many lightening creams. The ingredient was first used in skincare in 1989, and has received a lot of popularity since then.”


1. Benefits of kojic acid for skin

FAQs about kojic acid

Here are some of the major benefits of kojic acid, elaborated:

i) Fades spots:

Kojic acid is known to block tyrosinase, the compound responsible for melanin production, and in turn, inhibits the production of excess pigment. This results in lightening sunspots, pigmentation, and marks left over by acne scars or pimples.

ii) Brightens skin:

Kojic acid is also UV protective in nature, thus keeping your skin safe from sun damage related dullness, revealing brighter skin underneath.

iii) Treats melasma:

Melasma is a common issue related to pregnancy in women and shows up as dark patches on the face and body. Kojic acid may be helpful in dealing with the melasma of the skin.

iv) Inhibits future appearance of scars:

While kojic acid will not be too helpful for thick scar tissue, it will definitely work on the superficial appearance of scars and prevent future resurgence.

v) Has antibacterial and antifungal properties:

Kojic acid can help deal with bacterial skin infections like acne and fungal skin infections like athlete's foot, ringworm and yeast infections on the skin.


2. Recommended dosage of kojic acid for skin

FAQs about kojic acid

Dr. Khot revealed, “Kojic acid is available in the form of creams, serums and soaps. The safety concept is 1-4 % in concentration, but 1-2 % is the starter limit for first-time users. This brightening powerhouse is available as a solo product or in combination with vitamin C, retinol, glycolic acid, arbutin, etc. The frequency of use that I would recommend is twice a day, followed by sunscreen, mandatorily. Kojic acid takes at least four weeks to show results, so starting with that timeline in mind is a good idea. Post this, kojic acid has a high safety profile, so it can be safely used for a long time, even for months at a time without any side effects.”


3. Tips on using kojic acid for the skin

FAQs about kojic acid

Here are some simple tips on how to make the most of using kojic acid for the skin:

1. When used in powdered forms, always mix the recommended quantity with water or a mild lotion.

2. Interestingly, KA soap formulations are gaining popularity in Japan, the US and now in India too. It looks like an orange semi-soft soap brick, that you can use to lather up foam and wash your face with.

3. While kojic dipalmitate can be used on its own, its benefits can be heightened by using it in combination with both AHAs like lactic acid, glycolic acid, vitamin C and arbutin.

4. When using kojic acid in the form of creams and serums, allow the product to dry out completely before layering the next step in your skincare routine.

5. Make sure to follow instructions regarding different types of KA products. For instance, moisturisers can be used daily but kojic acid-infused face masks should be indulged in occasionally.


4. Precautions to take while using kojic acid for the skin

FAQs about kojic acid

While kojic acid is considered a fairly safe ingredient to use on a variety of skin types, it can be a bit overwhelming for some people. Dr. Khot says, “On rare occasions, red rashes, irritation, itching and burning sensations are associated with KA use. This can however be remedied by adding the compound azeloglicina to soothe the irritation. Also, people with sensitive skin must use it cautiously. Never use the ingredient on broken or irritable skin, and always use sunscreen in the morning to protect the skin.”

It is best to consult a dermatologist on the right KA product for your skin type. Once you know which one to use, follow your dermat's orders to avoid overly sensitizing your skin with the ingredient. If you do notice any adverse reactions to the product, discontinue use and follow up with a consultation immediately.


5. Did you know?

FAQs about kojic acid

Kojic acid has the reputation of being a skin lightening ingredient when in reality, it only deals with dark spots and pigmentation marks that weren’t originally present in your natural skin tone. Skin darkening that is a result of sun damage, pregnancy and other hyperpigmentation issues can be targeted by kojic acid since it does not tamper with your natural skin tone. Which is why, this brightening compound can be used by dusky skin tones as well. KA-infused sheet masks or creams will not leave your glorious dusky skin tone looking ashy or chalky.

Wrapping up, Dr. Khot gave her stamp of approval in the use of kojic acid to deal with your pigmentation woes saying, “Kojic acid is an excellent brightening ingredient with high safety and tolerability profile. So, go ahead and choose a product with KA for clear, glowing, and beautiful skin!”


6. FAQs about kojic acid

FAQs about kojic acid

1) Does the combination of vitamin C and kojic acid perform better?

A. Since kojic acid also doubles up as a mild AHA, it can help give your skin the proper exfoliation needed for vitamin C to work its magic on dark spots and dullness. This combination can help fade stubborn pigmentation marks and give you an even-toned complexion with a radiant finish.

2) Are kojic acid soaps safe to be used on the face?

A. Yes, most kojic acid soaps are formulated by combining the gentle ingredient with other nourishing compounds like vitamin E and glycerin. This makes kojic acid soaps less drying, with its foaming lather cleaning your skin from within.

3) Can I use kojic acid on my lips?

A. Yes, kojic acid can be used to get rid of pigmentation on your lips as well. Lip balms infused with the compound should be used in combination with an SPF to help lighten lips and prevent further darkening due to factors like constant lip-licking or smoking.

4) Can I use kojic acid as an exfoliator?

A. Yes, kojic acid can function as a strong chemical exfoliator as well. In fact, many claims that it works on similar grounds as another popular chemical exfoliator, glycolic acid.

5) Can kojic acid cure melasma permanently?

A. If your goal with KA is to treat melasma, then there is a tiny disappointment in there for you. Melasma is a chronic condition and doesn’t have a cure, as of yet. While kojic acid can help deal with the occasional melasma flare-up, it won’t cure it permanently.

Sumona Bose

Written by

Sumona Bose is a writer, skincare junkie and a self-professed makeup connoisseur. Equipped with a Master's degree in Fashion Management and over 3 years of experience writing in the beauty and fashion space, her passion for learning new things has no bounds. Working closely with dermatologists, beauty excerpts, makeup artists and hairstylists, she brings you the best of all things beauty. From trending skincare ingredients to makeup looks that help you slay, she manages to bring something new (and vital!) to our readers every single time. Her hobbies include home workouts, watching foreign films and binge-watching makeover shows!


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