Kojic acid

What does it do?
Decreases pigment production in the skin
Antioxidant, protecting against environmental damage

What’s it used for?
Uneven skin tone
Dark spots and hyperpigmentation, including melasma and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation

How do I use it?
Apply at night, followed by moisturiser

Potential drawbacks
Can cause skin irritation

Ideal concentration

Evidence rating

Kojic acid may not be as well known as some other acids used in skincare, such as glycolic acid and salicylic acid, but it’s one worth learning about if you struggle with uneven skin tone or hyperpigmentation.

What is it and what does it do?

Kojic acid is an antioxidant, which helps reduce pigment production in the skin.

Why should I use it?

Kojic acid is useful if you’re concerned about uneven skin tone or dark areas of skin, including melasma and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. It’s an alternative to the well known skin lightening ingredient hydroquinone if you can’t use it or would prefer to avoid it, and is sometimes used in combination with hydroquinone to increase its effectiveness. 

What are the potential drawbacks?

Kojic acid can be irritating, especially at concentrations above 2.5%.

Bandyopadhyay D. Topical treatment of melasma. Indian J Dermatol. 2009;54(4):303-309.


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Spotlight on Skin was created by award-winning Melbourne-based dermatologist, Dr Julia Rhodes.

Julia knows first-hand how overwhelming the skincare world can be, and that’s with over 10 years of experience practicing dermatology. Given that even she gets overwhelmed, she appreciates how hard it can be for those of you without a scientific background to make sense of all the information available, and choose products that are right for your skin…