Does Kojic Acid Cause Acne?

Skin care. Girl applying moisturizing cream
A woman applies skin lightener to her face. (Image: Voyagerix/iStock/Getty Images)

Kojic acid is most commonly used as a skin-lightening agent, thanks to its ability to interfere with the production of melanin. Those with acne-prone skin who wish to apply it to dark facial spots may worry about breakouts, but there’s no need for caution: Kojic acid is also an antibacterial agent, making it an ingredient that can be used in the treatment of acne. While skin sensitivities range from person to person and exceptions certainly exist, as a general rule, kojic acid is considered a treatment -- not a cause -- of acne.

Multipurpose Product

Because kojic acid also has antimicrobial properties, it interrupts the reproduction of bacteria. Similar in some ways to glycolic or salicylic acid for its exfoliating abilities, this ingredient works to gently slough the skin’s surface; greater cell turnover leads to clearer pores and less breakouts. Because of its many applications, kojic acid could be considered a wonder product. Not only can it be used as an acne treatment and a less-irritating alternative to the skin-bleaching agent hydroquinone, but it also is classified as an antioxidant, which works to mitigate the effects of skin-aging free radicals.

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