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What the Heck is Kojic Acid, Anyway?

Fighting against “Age Spots” can be maddening! So many serums, tonics, and creams promise a reversal of those ever-present polka dots reminding us of our “maturity”. So why don’t ANY of them work? As with any other product, the ingredient is the secret. Peptides, bio-peptides, collagen enhancers, and the list goes on and on but what really works? Naturally, very few ingredients will actually make a difference in those spots. Kojic acid is one that will.

So what is Kojic Acid? Surprisingly, Kojic Acid is a naturally occurring substance found in a family of fungi and is actually used in foods as a red and pink color preservative and on the human skin to lighten sun damage and other areas of hyperpigmentation as well as the skin disease melasma.

Kojic Acid is used in many cosmetic products specifically to address those spots that have been driving you crazy and in other products to lessen the effects of melasma, blemish spots, and other disorders that slowly darken the skin. The proteins forming Kojic Acid actually work as a kind of sedative for the melanosomes or pigment-producing cells within our dermis, slowing the production of tyrosine. This prevents new pigment from being formed and moving to the epidermis and hanging out there just to remind us of how many hours we spent worshipping the sun when we thought it was cute to be tan. Luckily, we have access to great cosmeceuticals to help reverse the evidence of ever having done that.

Kojic Acid is approved by the FDA as a lightening agent and has been found to be completely safe. Much of the time we are ingesting Kojic Acid in foods that it has been applied to preserve color. Even in this introduction to our bodies, Kojic Acid is completely safe and practically healthy. Ingesting it won’t have any effect on our skin though. It must be applied to the skin in order to do its magic and because of that, it can be found in gels, creams, and lotions.

Other ingredients have claimed to lighten or lessen the appearance of age spots and sun damage (which are the same thing) but only one can truly deliver. Hydroquinone. But that’s a whole other article. However, a quick comparison is worth noting here. Hydroquinone is the only ingredient that can legally be called a “BLEACHING“ agent and as such, it is certainly a strong and effective mechanism. This ingredient is synthetic and has been found to be potentially hazardous (as many synthetic chemicals have been). Kojic Acid, on the other hand, is a bit slower to the punch but is still effective and of course, can be used without worry of irritation or other side effects. It is also a less expensive option and you won’t be needing a Dr.’s prescription to get it.

So, next time you head down the aisle at the drugstore or peruse the shelf at your local day spa, ask for a product with Kojic Acid. If the person you ask has no idea what you’re talking about or tries to sell you something else for those pesky polka dots, just say thank you and keep looking!