Is kojic acid skin lightening safe?

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Right Brain reports…

Kojic acid based skin lightening products, like Meladerm, have provided benefits to many people and it’s effectiveness is supported by the American Academy of Dermatology. In Europe, it is thought to be a safer alternative to hydroquinone (an ingredient banned in Europe).

Kojic acid is also a natural by-product from the fermentation stage of sake production. Scientists believe it helps lighten the skin by blocking an enzyme crucial in the production of skin melanin. Anecdotal reports by Meladerm customers would support this view.

Overall, it seems like a great ingredient.

Or maybe not.

According to a report from the European scientific body, the Scientific Committee on Consumer Products (SCCP), kojic acid used at the maximum 1% concentration level may pose a health risk.

Kojic Acid Good news

On the plus side, the SCCP found that kojic acid is not genotoxic or carcinogenic. (It won’t cause cancer). It also did not exhibit any reproductive toxicity.

Kojic Acid Bad news

On the other hand, with patch tests on real human volunteers they found that skin exposed to kojic acid on a regular basis became more sensitive. This led them to conclude kojic acid may induce skin sensitization and they want to classify it as such. Skin sensitization is bad because it could lead to allergic contact dermatitis.

Kojic Conclusions

This report illustrates a few important points about the chemicals in cosmetics.

1. There is debate among scientists about chemical safety. Reasonable people can disagree. Regulatory agencies in Europe and the US can look at the same safety data and come to completely different conclusions (banning hydroquinone for example).

2. Animal testing of cosmetics is still done. Even in Europe.

3. There is risk when you expose yourself to any chemical even if it has a history of safe use. If you are worried about things like this, your contact with all chemicals should be minimized. It doesn’t matter if naturally derived or not since these can be skin sensitizers too.

Beauty Brains Bottom Line

Results from this report are not conclusive so more testing and data collection will be done by cosmetic makers who use kojic acid. Unfortunately, few ingredients actually provide a skin lightening benefit so if that’s what you want, you’ll have to continue to use these products. But until more data is collected, you might want to apply just a little less.