Kojic acid may have come up in your search for topical skincare solutions for melasma and dark spots. But is it right for you? Keep reading to learn more!
Kojic acid is derived from specific species of fungi, and is often used in beauty and cosmetic products to lighten the skin (Bandyopadhyay). It is a powerful antioxidant that works by inhibiting the production of tyrosinase, an enzyme necessary for the production of melanin.
Kojic acid is considered a second-line therapy for the treatment of conditions like hyperpigmentation or melasma. This means it may be a good option for you if other methods have not been effective. Concentrations of 1% kojic acid indicated an average improvement of 60%, and when used in combination with hydroquinone, nearly 72% improvement (Deo).
As with nearly all cosmetic products, kojic acid can have some side effects. These effects include:
There are other acids with properties that can help treat conditions like melasma or hyperpigmentation.
Azelaic acid is a naturally occurring acid with multiple benefits for those suffering from hyperpigmentation or melasma. It reduces inflammation, has antibacterial properties, and promotes effective skin shedding (which helps prevent blemishes). Another quality of azelaic acid that is especially effective for treating melasma is that it only affects abnormal melanin production, meaning that surrounding skin will not be affected.
Azelaic acid’s many benefits make it a favorable first-line therapy for melasma or hyperpigmentation. A study comparing azelaic acid to hydroquinone, the worldwide “gold standard” topical treatment for melasma, found that azelaic acid had a similar success rate without the negative side effects (Bandyopadhyay). It may also be found in combination therapies.
Common side effects include contact dermatitis or allergic reaction.
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Tranexamic acid is the synthetic version of lysine, an amino acid. It is available in a variety of forms. Topically, it is used for to lighten dark patches of skin, demonstrating 90% improvement in patients with melasma (Grimes). Tranexamic acid works by inhibiting melanin production.
Studies reflect that tranexamic acid has approximately the same efficacy as hydroquinone, a lightening agent considered the “gold standard” treatment for melasma (Grimes). Combination therapies including hydroquinone also showed significant improvement.
Topical side effects include contact dermatitis and increased skin sensitivity.