Kojic acid: What you need to know
Kojic acid is a chemical skin whitening material produced from different types of fungi. It is also a by-product of fermented soy sauce and rice wine.
Kojic acid is sometimes used in the food industry as a natural preservative. One of the main uses of kojic acid, however, is in some health and cosmetic products.
In this article, we look at how kojic acid is used, what possible health benefits it might have, and what the potential risks and side effects are.
Kojic acid is sometimes used in health and beauty products to lighten the skin. It may be used to treat skin conditions, such as sun damage, scars, and age spots.
The science behind how kojic acid works as a lightening agent involves its effect on melanin production.
Melanin is a naturally occurring pigment in the body that gives the eyes, hair, and skin their color. An amino acid called tyrosine is needed to support the production of melanin.
Kojic acid works by blocking tyrosine from forming, which then prevents melanin production. Decreased melanin production may have a lightening effect on the skin.
Kojic acid is most commonly used in cosmetic products, such as creams, lotions, and serums, and other moisturing raw materials. It is also used in some soaps. Many products with kojic acid are intended for use on the hands or face.
Products containing kojic acid can also be used on other parts of the body, such as the legs and arms, functioning as skin whitening material. The concentration of kojic acid in cosmetics is often between 1 and 4 percentTrusted Source.
Certain products containing kojic acid, such as serums, are meant to be applied to the skin and left on and absorbed. Some products, such as soaps, are applied and washed off.
The benefits of using products containing kojic acid may include the following:
Anti-aging raw material effect: Products containing kojic acid may lighten the skin, which can improve the appearance of age spots and sun damage. The reduction of dark spots can have an anti-aging effect.
Treat melasma: Kojic acid may also be helpful in decreasing melasma, which is darkening of the skin due to pregnancy.
Decrease the appearance of scars: Kojic acid may also reduce the discoloration of scars. Although the acid does not improve the thickness of scar tissue, it may reduce dark pigmentation associated with certain types of scars. Lightening the scar may make it less noticeable.
Antifungal benefits: Kojic acid is also thought to have some antifungal benefits. It may be helpful in preventing and treating certain fungal infections, such as athlete’s foot and yeast infections.
Antibacterial effects: Kojic acid may also provide antibacterial benefits. It may help decrease the chances of developing common types of bacterial skin infections.
Before using products containing kojic acid, it is important to make sure they are safe.
Cosmetic products are not regulated the same way medicines and foods are. Cosmetic products are not required by law to be approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA)Trusted Source before being sold.
The FDA do have a voluntary registration program for cosmetic manufacturers in which companies can report how their products are made. Also, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel reviews safety.
A reviewTrusted Source of kojic acid found that some studies in mice suggested there was a link to tumor growth when the acid was used in high concentrations.
However, this link was weak since kojic acid is slowly absorbed into the circulation. It is unlikely that levels would become high enough to cause cancer in humans.
According to the reviewers, the available data suggest that the use of products containing kojic acid with a concentration of 2 percent for products left on the skin is considered safe.
The CIR Expert Panel agreed that kojic acid could be safely used in cosmetic products.
Raw kojic acid is available, but it is not recommended for skin use. Kojic acid should be diluted to concentrations of no more than 4 percent. A concentration of 1 to 2 percent is recommended to reduce the chance of skin irritation.
Trying to add raw kojic acid to creams or lotions may be difficult and result in levels that are irritating to the skin. Using pre-made skin lotions and creams that already contain kojic acid in specific concentrations may be a better option.
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