Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist -  Written by Aheli Sen (Fashion & Beauty Expert)  on 23rd Nov 2020

Kojic Acid Vs Vitamin C for hyperpigmentation

Kojic Acid Vs Vitamin C

Kojic Acid Vs. Vitamin C

It should be fun. A good comparison of products is always great, especially if both the products are amazing for the skin. Both kojic acid and vitamin c are considered great for the skin and are used in many skincare products. We have used natural vitamin c to brighten skin at home for the longest time, but the concept of kojic acid seems to be a bit new. Hence, today a comparison will tell us which is better than the other. 

Let us first delve into what each of these ingredients is.

What is kojic acid? 

The name kojic acid is taken from the Japanese term "koji," meaning "steamed rice."
Kojic acid is a fungi chemical. It was first discovered in the year 1907. A lot of different variants of fungi make this ingredient. However, the most prominent is the Aspergillus (a type of fungi), the strains of which make kojic acid. It can also be produced by fermenting soy sauce and rice wine. A natural preservative, kojic acid is used in the food industry at times. However, the primary use of kojic acid is here in the beauty and skincare industry.

Kojic acid is a natural metabolite that helps in lightening skin by preventing the production of tyrosine. Tyrosine is an amino acid compound that is responsible for the production of skin's pigment or melanin.

Kojic acid has also been found to be a very safe product to be used on the skin. It is not a toxicant. Chronic, acute, and reproductive studies have proven the same. It gets absorbed in the skin slowly and has never been found to reach a health risk threshold. 

Where is kojic acid used? 

Kojic acid can be used in products at a maximum concentration level of 1% or less than the Scientific Committees on Consumer Products (SCCP).

Kojic acid is part of lotions, creams, sunscreen, serums, and cleansers. Each of these products contains kojic acid at some concentration, the maximum as is ruled by the healthcare regulatory. 

Kojic Acid benefits on skin:

1.  Anti-aging –

kojic acid has an anti-aging effect on the skin. Products containing kojic acid help lighten dark spots and skin regions that have become discolored and look dull. It helps brighten the skin and reduce the appearance of age spots as well. It has an anti-aging effect. 

2. Melasma Treatment –

Darkening of the skin during pregnancy is called melasma. Kojic acid has proven to lighten and brighten skin conditions too. 

3. Antifungal Benefits –

Kojic acid is also considered to have some antifungal benefits. It helps in the treatment of fungal infection as well as curing an infection. Yeast infections can be cured by using kojic acid. 

4. Antibacterial effects –

Kojic acid has antibacterial properties that help decrease the chances of getting common bacterial infections. 

5. Lightening Scars –

 Kojic acid helps reduce the skin's discoloration and, thus, lightens scars. However, it does not improve the thickness of scar tissues. It only helps lighten the pigmentation of scars. The lightening of scars depends on the pigmentation that the scars have too. 

Tips & Tricks on Using Kojic Acid in Skincare 

Kojic acid comes in many forms like lotions, powder, serums, etc., and thus, one needs to keep the following in their mind:Kojic Acid

  • When using kojic acid with powders, it is wise to mix it with either lotion or water and abide by product instruction. 
  • Usually, kojic acid will start showing results in two weeks. If one wants to see faster results, one may add glycolic acid to the procedure. 
  • Creams and serums containing kojic acid need to be administered time to absorb into the skin thoroughly. Kojic acid gets absorbed into the skin slowly, and that is why the products containing this ingredient take time to completely get soaked into the skin. 
  • It is advised to rinse off products like soap and washes that contain kojic acid soon.
  • Use products as instructed. For example, face masks are only supposed to be used occasionally. At the same time, one can use kojic acid serums every day. 
  • Though products containing kojic acid are primarily used on the face and hands, you can use it on almost any area of your body except for private parts, in the mouth, on the eyes, and any other sensitive region. 

Side Effects and Precautions 

  • Even though kojic acid has been declared a safe ingredient for cosmetic use, few people may face mild repercussions/side effects. The most common side effect/repercussion of kojic acid is contact dermatitis. 
  • Noticeable contact dermatitis symptoms are redness, irritation, rashes, swollen skin, & discomfort. People with sensitive skin/ individuals using kojic acid more than the instructed quantity/amount, may contact a dermatologist.  
  • If you use kojic acid for a long time, your skin may get sensitive to the sun. It is always advised/recommended to wear sunscreen & protective clothing to avoid sun damage

To avoid any significant side effects, you should take the following precautions while using kojic acid products: 

  • Do not apply kojic acid on skin that is either damaged or broken. 
  • Consulting a dermat is always suggested before using any new ingredient, and the same applies to kojic acid; especially, if one might have allergies. 
  •  Following instruction, as mentioned on the manufacturer's label, is a must. A doctor's prescription is also a must. Regulate your usage as per your dermat too. 
  • If rashes or irritation occurs after using kojic acid products, discontinue use immediately and talk to your doctor about it. 

Now that we have a fair understanding of kojic acid, let us move to the topic of Vitamin C. 

So, what is vitamin C? 

Patricia Wexler, board-certified dermatologist , Says

a potent antioxidant that can neutralize free radicals, Because of its antioxidant properties, Vit C aids in your skin's natural regeneration process, which helps your body repair damaged skin cells.

Benefits of Vitamin C: 

  • It acts as a fantastic antioxidant for the skin
  • Vitamin C triggers the skin to produce more collagen and elastin to help the skin self heal due to its high acidity. 
  • It helps slow down premature aging as it can make the skin produce more collagen.
  • Vitamin C inhibits melanin production that, in turn, reduces the number of dark spots and discoloration skin that happens. 
  • Vitamin C, if used before dark spots and age spots occur, can prevent the same from forming. 
  • Vitamin C does not alter the natural skin color; it only helps fade out dark brown spots. 
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How is Vitamin C used in the skincare industry?

A variety of home remedies use lemon juice that contains vitamin c to help brighten skin and reduce hyperpigmentation. It is used to treat under dark eye circles for the same brightening property it imparts to the skin.  

Let us now look at how Vitamin C is used in skincare products 

Whenever we go to a beauty store or a stand and inquire about brightening formulations, we are often introduced to products containing vitamin c. 

Kristina Goldenberg from Goldenberg Dermatology in New York City, Says 

The key is not the vehicle that Vit C comes in, but the form of Vit C that is being applied

The word to look for is ascorbic acid (also known as L-ascorbic acid), the most stable and effective form of vitamin C that can be incorporated in skincare.

Dermatologists believe that it is best to use vitamin c products in the form of serums. These penetrate the skin the fastest and travel to the deepest layers, unlike creams and lotions, where the molecules are quite large and thus, sit on the upper skin layer longer.

Vitamin C being quite an unstable compound is best used in a format that can be absorbed by the skin faster. Otherwise, it is redundant to use such a product as vitamin c can lose its potency.  

TIP:

As a general rule, serums should be layered underneath your moisturizer

"Pure ascorbic acid has consistently been proven to be most effective at penetrating the skin barrier," Wexler says. "Vit C's effectiveness increases when combined with other antioxidants, such as vitamin E, [and] together, they can double protection against free-radical damage."

You will also notice that both forms of serum bottles are darkened on purpose. Vitamin C breaks down when exposed to light or air, so dark glass bottles help maintain its stability (and thus, its efficacy). 

Potential side effects and risks 

Although irritation is unlikely, one should always do a patch test before complete application. It is the only way to realize if your skin will react to the serum.

However, for sensitive skin, avoid products with L-ascorbic acid. Products with magnesium ascorbyl phosphate may be less likely to irritate. 

Kojic Acid VS Vitamin C – Which is better? 

Kojic Acid is more potent than Vitamin C. The reason being that kojic acid is a stable compound, unlike vitamin c. Kojic acid does not degrade upon exposure to air or light as fast as vitamin c does. It is thus potent in any form of products, be it lotions, creams, serums, powders, etc. Unlike vitamin c, that is only potent to an extent in serums. 

So, expert advice?  

Go for products that contain kojic acid over vitamin c as such products are likely to give you better results and faster.