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Ingredient Focus: Kojic Acid

Ingredient Focus: Kojic Acid

In skin care products, kojic acid functions primarily as a skin-lightening agent. Popular within the celebrity culture, this powerful ingredient assists in the exfoliation of dead skin cells, removing oil, dirt, and organisms that might be thriving on the skin.

To understand the effects of skin lightening, its worth noting how your skin gets its color in the first place. Here are a few pointers:

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  • The body naturally produces a pigment known as melanin, through specialized cells known as melanocytes.
  • A person’s genes determine how much melanin the body naturally produces.
  • For fair skin, only small amounts of melanin are manufactured by the melanocytes, while copious amounts of the pigment are made by the cells of those with dark complexions.

 

Kojic Acid has been introduced into many skincare products today in order to softly lighten any darker pigments, usually in the form of serums or creams to lift dark areas:


Why Does Our Skin Darken? 

Often, our skin calls produce more melanin in response to the environment, or the internal conditions in our body. This is the start of any skin discoloration or darkening effects:

  • When the skin is exposed to ultraviolet radiation from the sun, the melanocytes increase their production activities, causing the skin to tan.
  • Repeated exposure to the sun can result in a permanent increase in melanin production in spots on the skin, causing small freckles and larger sun or age spots to form.
  • Melanin production can also increase when the skin becomes chronically inflamed. This is a common problem among acne sufferers who have prolonged discoloration of their skin after their acne blemishes heal.
  • Hormonal changes that occur in the body during pregnancy can also spur melanin production, leading to a discoloration on the face that is known as melasma or chloasma. The overproduction of melanin caused by inflammation and hormonal activity typically declines over time, resulting in a gradual fading of the darkened skin.

 


Treating Skin Discoloration

  • When kojic acid is applied to the skin in concentrated amounts, the chemicals in the ingredient work on the melanocytes, interfering with the production of melanin.
  • The exact way in which kojic acid lessens melanin production is not known, but many experts believe that the ingredient prevents an enzyme known as tyroinase from beginning the reactions in the cells that are necessary for manufacturing the pigment.
  • Prior to the discovery of kojic acid, the ingredient hydroquinone was largely the only ingredient used for skin whitening. Hydroquinone is known to cause skin irritation in many individuals, and for these people, dermatologists often recommend kojic acid as an alternative method for treating skin discoloration. Those with very sensitive skin may still develop redness or itching from the use of kojic acid, but overall, the ingredient is better tolerated than hydroquinone.
  • The effects of kojic acid have been reported as being identical to those of hydroquinone or slightly less noticeable.
  • You can find our selection of natural versions to Hyroquinone below:

Kojic Acid: A Skin-Lightener & Antioxidant

In addition to its skin-lightening abilities, kojic acid is classified as an antioxidant, which is a positive element to bring to your skin. Here’s a little science behind it:

  • This class of nutrients has the ability to counteract the effects of particles in the air called free radicals, which have the potential to cause oxidative damage to the skin cells. By limiting the effects of free radicals, kojic acid helps to prevent the formation of signs of aging that occur when the cells that produce the skin’s vital structural proteins become damaged.
  • Kojic acid is also an antibacterial agent, meaning that it interferes with the processes that bacteria cells must perform to thrive and reproduce. By disrupting these processes, kojic acid causes the death of bacteria. Some dermatologists recommend the use of mild concentrations of kojic acid for addressing acne blemishes, which are often caused by bacterial infections in the pores.
  • Kojic acid is a fine white powdery substance composed of tiny crystals. The substance has been used widely in skin care products due to its numerous benefits, where the ingredient is obtained from mushrooms that are native to Japan.
  • If you have suffered from skin darkening, either by extreme sunlight or environment changes, take a look at the products below and start looking into incorporating these into your skincare regime:


Hira Malik

Hira Malik

Resident Pharmacist

With a Masters in Pharmacy, I am here to explain the science behind the beauty. I offer expert advice on ingredients, the latest Skincare trends, lifestyle choices and any skin concerns you may have. I enjoy travelling and taking part in running events like Tough Mudder and the Color Run.