Kojic acid is here to solve your pigmentation problems this summer


BEAUTYcrew / November 03 2020

The word 'acid' used to evoke fear when talking skincare routines, but now you'll find at least one, if not three, in most bathroom cabinets.

Glow-getters will already be strongly familiar with salicylic, glycolic and hyaluronic, but there's a new acid in town that's recently caught our attention: kojic acid.

Hailing from the AHA family, the active ingredient is a brightening powerhouse that, when used correctly, can treat the effects of sun damage and hyperpigmentation.

So if your excitement for summer goes hand-in-hand with the dread of speckled skin, here's everything you need to know about introducing kojic acid into your routine.

What is kojic acid?

Kojic acid may be an AHA, but its benefits go far beyond exfoliation. According to Bianca Estelle, Medical Aesthetician, Skin Specialist and Founder of bea Skin Care, the Japenese fungi-derived ingredient, "acts as a tyrosine suppressant, which prevents melanin production."
Melanin is a naturally occurring pigment in our skin, which tends to become more prevalent post-sun exposure. The more melanin present, the darker the skin area.
It's for this reason that kojic acid is often used in brightening products for treating sun damage and hyperpigmentation.

What does kojic acid do for the skin?

When applied to the skin, "kojic acid suppresses tyrosine, the enzyme that helps our bodies to produce melanin," Bianca tells BAZAAR. "So when its pathway is blocked, your skin will be less reactive to UV wounds and trauma.
"Kojic acid also stimulates cell renewal and when it's used in skincare, it can not only prevent pigmentation from forming but also helps to break down existing pigmentation."

Who should use products with kojic acid?

No prizes for right answers here. It's clear that those with sun damage and pigmentation, including post-inflammatory pigmentation (redness and discolouration from spots) will benefit most from a hit of kojic.
Bonus points if you're already using a glycolic acid too, as Bianca explains that kojic "works very effectively alongside papaya enzymes and other AHAs, because it boosts the exfoliation process."

Who shouldn't use products with kojic acid?

Only those with highly sensitive skin should proceed with caution. And if you are looking to adopt the ingredient into your routine, be sure to pair it with adequate sun protection.
"Sun protection should be worn year round anyway, but be particularly vigilant with AHAs to avoid exposing new skin and risking further damage," advises Bianca.

When to apply kojic acid products

Kojic acid can be found as an ingredient in both face and body products, including cleansers, serums and moisturisers.

"They can be used both morning and night, but as mentioned, if used in the morning, extra vigilance with sun protection must be taken," warns Bianca.

However you choose to get your kojic hit, consistency is key when looking to fade pigmentation. Most products should be applied daily, and diligently for the best results.

What are the best kojic acid products?

bea Skin Care Brightening Cleanser

Skinceuticals Advanced Pigment Corrector

Tracie Martyn Enzyme Exfoliant

bea Skin Care Brightening Cleanser ($75 at bea Skin Care)
This lightweight foaming cleansing combines kojic acid with mandelic acid for a serious brightening boost.

Skinceuticals Advanced Pigment Corrector ($148 at Adore Beauty)
Seeking treatment in a serum? This potent cocktail of salicylic and kojic acid could be the one.

Tracie Martyn Enzyme Exfoliant ($131.45 at Net-a-Porter)
Much loved by Lara Stone, this exfoliating mask rivals a trip to the facialist, combining pineapple enzymes with powerful AHAs for a total re-texturising and brightening experience.

Main image credit: @gigihadid