What Is Kojic Acid


Kojic acid is a natural metabolite produced by certain types of fungi which acts to inhibit the production of melanin. When applied to the skin, this acid lightly exfoliates to reduce pigmentation, specifically helping stop the production of melanin. Unlike other acids that work by dissolving the bonds between the cells and exfoliating the skin, kojic acid works by inhibiting pigment production. It also has the added benefit of working well when paired with other skin-lightening ingredients.

How It Works

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. It is also used in some soaps. Many products with kojic acid are intended for use on the hands or face.

Benefits Of Kojic Acid

The pathway that leads to excess melanin or pigment is complex, but at the heart of the matter is an enzyme known as tyrosinase. Kojic acid blocks UV-activation of tyrosinase, thereby limiting the production of melanin. This means it can help lighten existing sunspots and photodamage, fade the dark marks left from acne scarring or after a pimple, and even improve melasma.

Kojic acid can help scavenge and counteract skin-damaging free radicals caused by exposure to things such as UV damage and pollution. This not only helps improve overall skin tone as well but also makes it a good general anti-aging ingredient. 

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.

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. Kojic acid may also provide antibacterial benefits. It may help decrease the chances of developing common types of bacterial skin infections.

Fun Fact

Kojic acid was discovered in Japan in 1907 when the “new” compound was isolated from a fungus called aspergillus oryzae (also known as kōji mold) – aspergillus oryzae is used in Japanese food production to saccharify steamed rice, sweet potato, and barley in the making of alcoholic beverages, and also to ferment soybeans for making soy sauce and miso.

Food Sources

Kojic acid can be found in several common items of Japanese cuisine like:

  • Miso (the main component of miso soup is dried soybean paste that you dilute in hot water. Soybean paste contains a high level of kojic acid)
  • Soy sauce (kojic acid helps to preserve the flavor and shelf life of soy sauce)
  • Sake (to make sake, kojic malt is used in the fermentation process).

Our Skincare Top Picks


Radiance gently exfoliates the skin and restores the skin’s radiance thanks to the synergy of high-performance acids and lightening agents in optimal concentrations. For dull complexion, uneven skin texture and skin tone. Fragrance free.

Active Ingredients: kojic acid, arbutin, niacinamide, salicylic and mandolin acids

Best for: homogenized complexion, reduction of pigment spots, skin luminosity

Yellow cream
Yellow Cream targets and reduces the appearance of dark spots thanks to optimally concentrated lightening agents associated with the exfoliating action of glycolic and salicylic acids. For dark spots, skin imperfections and irregular complexion. Fragrance free.

Active Ingredients: kojic acid, alpha-arbutin, licorice extract, modus alba extract, glycolic and salicylic acids

Best for: dark spots reduction, even complexion

Mela cream

Mela Cream minimizes the appearance of pigment spots, harmonizes complexion and promotes an even skin tone. Fragrance free.

Active Ingredients: niacinamide, retinol, salicylic & mandelic acids, phytic acid, licorice extract

Best for: dark spots reduction, even complexion

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