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What Is Kojic Acid? Creams With This Ingredient Could Help Brighten Dark Spots

What Is Kojic Acid? Creams With This Ingredient Could Help Brighten Dark Spots
Posted at 5:30 AM, May 12, 2022

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Combatting discoloration and hyperpigmentation can feel like uphill battles, leaving you feeling frustrated after buying expensive treatment creams that don’t live up to their hype. With an enormous amount of skin care products out there claiming to lighten pesky dark spots, the best weapon is knowing what ingredients have been scientifically proven to work.

If your latest skin care goal entails obtaining a more even, brighter complexion, you might want to look to mushrooms for a solution. While consuming certain fungi could work wonders, a naturally-derived ingredient that comes from mushrooms, kojic acid, could be useful for treating discoloration or hyperpigmentation and is often used in cream or serum form. It also provides antioxidant protection. Kojic acid creams can act like a godsend for anyone suffering from melasma, sun damage or those annoying marks that proclaim you once had a blemish there.

Young girl with closed eyes with clean skin puts cream on her face.

Dr Michele Farber, a board-certified dermatologist with Schweiger Dermatology Group, recently told “Today” that using kojic acid cream as a tool in your skin care arsenal when fighting against dark spots and hyperpigmentation is a great idea, but it might work best when coupled with other ingredients, and in some cases, in-office procedures.

Kojic acid doesn’t work the same way typical alpha hydroxy acids or beta hydroxy acids do in that it “treats them.” Rather, it works to prevent melanin — natural pigments that make your skin darker — from even performing in the first place.

Ingredients like glycolic acid and hydroquinone are also known to enhance the effects of kojic acid. However, Dr. Dhaval Bhanusali, a board-certified dermatologist at Hudson Dermatology and Laser Surgery, told Byrdie that kojic acid can work well on its own, too.

What’s more, the medical industry has deemed kojic acid safe to use with little known side effects.

Woman points to hyperpigmentation on face

Tips For Using Kojic Acid Cream

Start slowly just as you would when adding any other product to your beauty regimen. As with all new skin care products, perform a patch test to determine how well your skin tolerates it, especially if you have highly sensitive skin or suffer from eczema. Avoid using other exfoliants or drying products until your skin adjusts. It’ll be at least a month, or up to three, before you see a difference, so patience is key here. And, lastly, sunscreen up! The sun can rev up the pigmentation-production process, so you’ll want to be highly protected during daylight hours.

While products with kojic acid will work for a lot of people, those who have skin conditions that lighten your pigmentation, such as vitiligo or lightened scars, will want to avoid it. Here are five highly-rated skin products with kojic acid on Amazon that reviewers are raving about.

Admire My Skin Ultra-Potent Brightening Serum


This top-selling cream combines brightening powerhouses like salicylic acid, lactic acid, vitamin C, kojic acid cream and azelaic acid to correct dark spots and lighten skin tone. The company recommends using it for 60 consecutive days and then taking a break for 30 days so you don’t develop a resistance.

We like how it has a 2-year shelf life, so you can be confident you’re using a fresh supply. Reviewers have mostly been thrilled with Admire My Skin’s product, with more than 40,000 ratings adding up to an overall score of 3.9 stars out of five. You can view several before-and-after shots on the Amazon product page, like this one below.


Customers recommended going slow and using a Q-tip for precise application or washing your hands right away after using. It’s currently selling for $20.40 for a 1-ounce container.

Evagloss Dark Spot Serum


To even out skin tone on your face and body, this dark-spot corrector serum is formulated without hydroquinone, is gentle enough to use daily and sells for less than $20 per fluid ounce. It can be used on any skin type from oily to dry to combination. The serum is created with arbutin, fullerene and kojic acid to help brighten current discoloration and prevent dark spots from forming in the future. One woman said it worked within the first week on her oily skin. Several people mentioned it working so well they’ve purchased multiple bottles.

EnaSkin Dark Spot Corrector


Boasting an overall score at Amazon of 4.5 stars out of five with more than 22,000 ratings, this dark-spot corrector is formulated with four special ingredients: kojic acid, lactic acid, salicylic acid and morinda citrifolia extract. This corrector says it works with the skin’s rhythm to reduce acne pigmentation and dark spots, plus dullness and redness while improving skin tone and preventing more future discoloration. One excited reviewer claimed the $19.46 bottle worked better than the $1,500+ she’d spent on laser treatments.

Urban Skin Rx Retinol Rapid Repair and Dark Spot Treatment


Formulated with ingredients like kojic acid, retinol and niacinamide, this fast-absorbing spot treatment works to reduce the appearance of uneven skin tone while combating signs of aging. Reviewers said this cream works “crazy fast” and some said it worked for them immediately, even after thefirst night. Others noted not to use it two nights in a row.

It’s competitively priced at $22.93 and has been given the Amazon’s Choice distinction to separate it from the pack. This fragrance-free treatment is also safe to use on sensitive skin.

Kojic Acid & Papaya Body Lotion by Koji White


To create an even skin tone all over your body, you could opt for a body lotion that contains kojic acid, like this one. Developed for all skin types, this lotion is paraben-free and isn’t tested on animals, according to the brand. This two-pack gift box sells for $23.70 and contains body lotion infused with kojic acid and papaya, revealing brighter and more radiant skin.

Because it’s very hydrating, skin will also appear plumper after use. Users like its light fragrant scent and say it lightens skin tone with continuous use. One woman mentioned it also helped combat her keratosis pilaris on her upper arms and inner thighs, which are rough little bumps that appear on the skin.

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