An Effective Skin Lightening Agent
Kojic acid is an ingredient used by individuals who want to lighten their skin to treat a number of hyperpigmentation disorders including Melasma, chloasma or post inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH). These skin disorders present as skin discolorations on the face or other parts of the body and while they generally do not come with any other symptoms, they can be emotionally upsetting.
Kojic acid is widely used as a skin lightening agent in Japan and other Asian countries due to its ability to inhibit the the enzyme tyrosinase. Tyrosinase is necessary for the synthesis of melanin, which gives skin its coloring. It comes from fungus and can also be obtained during the fermentation process used to make Japanese rice wine. In addition to its skin lightening properties when applied topically, kojic acid also has antibacterial, antifungal and antioxidant properties. It can prevent fruits from turning brown and is also used to preserve the pink and red color of seafood.
More about Kojic acid is considered to be the foremost substitute for hydroquinone in respect of its effectiveness in the skin lightening process. Some companies have used the acid in conjunction with hydroquinone and glycolic acid in safer quantities of 2% and below, and it has been reported that this combination has proved an effective treatment for Melasma, chloasma and other hyperpigmentation disorders. Kojic acid has also been commonly prepared with vitamin C, an effective natural skin whitener.
Kojic Acid’s Effectiveness
When formulated in a skin lightening preparations, kojic acid is included in concentrations ranging from 1-4%. Studies have shown that when it is combined with glycolic acid, it is as effective as a hydroquinone/glycolic acid combination in lightening skin. In a study that compared: 2% hydroquinone, 10% glycolic acid and 2% kojic acid against 2% hydroquinone and 10% glycolic acid without kojic acid, the kojic acid group showed a greater reduction in hyperpigmentation than the combination without kojic acid.
The major drawback with using kojic acid is that it can cause skin sensitivity and contact dermatitis in some individuals. Individuals may experience redness, rashes or even blisters.
The Importance Of Proper Formulation
When exposed to air or sunlight, kojic acid can break down so it must be formulated with care. Look for kojic acid preparations packaged in tubes or airless pumps to minimize exposure to light and air. Kojic dipalmitate is a more stable variety of kojic acid, but it’s thought to be less effective in inhibiting the production of melanin.
Kojic acid formulations may incorporate other skin lightening or skin brightening agents such as hydroquinone, vitamin c and other botanical lighteners. As well, since exposure to UV rays is such a trigger for hyperpigmentation, you may also find preparations that include sun protection. If the formulation does not include a sunscreen, then add a broad spectrum UVA and UVB blocking agent with a minimum of SPF 30 to ensure maximum protection from the sun’s rays.
Skin lightening is a gradual process and you may obtain best results by limiting exposure to sun and using a multi-pronged approach that incorporates a range of skin lightening agents along with vitamin C, a retinoid and sunscreen. Although hydroquinone is widely regarded as the gold standard in treating hyperpigmentation disorders, kojic acid serves well as an alternative for individuals who either don’t want to or can’t use hydroquinone. It may also be combined with hydroquinone for optimal results.