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Ingredients that promise brighter, hydrated skin are never in short supply. But if your skin’s Kryptonite is hyperpigmentation, kojic acid products actually lives up to the hype. According to Dr. Kenneth Howe, a dermatologist at Wexler Dermatology, kojic acid is a great skin lightening agent because it actually blocks the production of melanin, which is the main pigment of the skin.
“It does so by inhibiting tyrosinase, which is the enzyme that produces melanin,” he says. “Hyperpigmented conditions, whether it’s melasma or dark spots developing after an acne cyst, are marked by the over-production of melanin. But with kojic acid causing less melanin to be produced, the dark spots inevitably become lighter as any existing melanin continues to be broken down by natural processes.”
Simply put, kojic acid is a less-aggressive solution to hydroquinone and is available in several forms (serum, moisturizer, even face masks). Dermatologist and founder of Eighth Day, Tony Nakhla also says kojic acid works best in combination with other ingredients that have a similar effect, but a different mechanism of action to attack pesky pigment from different angles.
So as you begin to plan your spring beauty regimen, especially in you suffer within hyperpigmentation-prone areas like under the eyes and cheeks, keep kojic acid at the top of your mind and in the forefront of your cabinet.
Glytone Dark Spot Corrector
This combination of 2% hydroquinone, kojic and glycolic acids helps to lighten and brighten the skin and is well tolerated among most skin types. We love that it includes a dab-on sponge design for easy use and less mess.
$38 at Glytone
111SKIN 3 Phase Anti Blemish Booster
This booster attacks blemish-prone skin during the three stages of spot growth for clear skin. Simply apply directly onto the blemish and add 1–2 drops to your regular moisturizer.
$160 at Violet Grey
PCA Skin Perfecting Protection Broad Spectrum SPF 30
Typically kojic acid is found in serums and moisturizers, but we love that PCA Skin included it in their SPF to further help promote an even skin tone. In it you’ll also find silybin and caffeine—important antioxidants that protect the face against UV damage.
$36 at PCA Skin
SkinCeuticals Discoloration Defense
You know those super stubborn brown patches and post-acne marks that just won’t go away? Zap them with this buildable corrector that promises to evens skin tone in as early as two weeks.
$98 at SkinCeuticals
Tracie Martyn Enzyme Exfoliant
We love a good scrub and this re-texturizing face peel doesn’t disappoint. It uses natural exfoliators like pineapple enzymes and alpha-beta fruit bark acids to refine and revive dull and damaged skin, while the kojic acid aids in brightening and removing impurities.
$90 at Dermstore
Menscience Androceuticals Pigmentation Repair Formula
Women aren’t the only beneficiaries of kojic acid. Men are tapping into the craze, too. This pigmentation repair formula is especially designed for men to remove the appearance of uneven tone. It uses 1% retinol, a slew of botanicals and the smell is to die for!
$53 at Dermstore
La Roche-Posay Mela-D Pigment Control Serum
Just one drop of this trifecta of acids—glycolic, kojic, and micro-exfoliating lipo-hydroxy—goes a long way. Use it to improve skin radiance after cleansing.
$52.99 at La Roche-Posay
iS Clinical Pro-Heal Serum Advance Plus
We don’t subscribe to products being “miracle-workers,” but this antioxidant-rich serum comes pretty close. It combines time-released vitamin C with a blend of botanicals to treat acne, rosacea, contact dermatitis and yes, even insect bites.
$148 at Dermstore
One Love Organics Konjac Cleansing Sponge
We’re suckers for hearts and when it’s made of 100-percent pure konjac plant fiber, we’re all in. This cleansing sponge detoxifes pores and smoothes skin while buffing away dirt and makeup. Just be sure to occasionally disinfect the sponge by soaking it in hot (not boiling) water for 3-5 minutes to keep unwanted germs at bay.
$10 at One Love Organics
Glo Skin Beauty Brightening Polish
It’s easy to capture your glow with this polish designed to brighten, polish and refresh.
$44 at Glo Skin Beauty
Dermelect Beautone Enlightening Spot Treatment
Arbutin, kojic acid and licorice extract are effective individually, but when combined, they naturally help soothe skin and achieve a well-balanced skin tone that’s sure to be the envy of every skin care lover.
$49 at Dermelect
DCL Dermatologic Cosmetic Laboratories AHA Lightening Gel
When it comes to skin lightening, hydroquinone is a derm favorite. And when combined with kojic acid, the results are nothing less than stellar. This gel formula not only lightens dark areas, but prevents new discoloration from developing too.
$100 at DCL Skin Care
Dr. Dennis Gross Skincare Clinical Grade IPL Dark Spot Correcting Serum
If you’re in need of super-potent ingredients (read: clinical grade), then this over-the-counter dark spot correcting serum has your name all over it. This potent antioxidant protects skin against free radicals, repairs skin cells and firms skin in a flash.
$92 at Sephora
ARCONA Brightening Drops
If you just had a baby or feel hormonal (you know who you are), this powerful brightening serum is great at repairing dark spots caused by hormonal fluctuations. It’s also especially effective for clients with sun damage or acne scars.
$44 at Arcona
PCA Skin Pigment Bar
This facial cleanser contains advanced corrective ingredients like niacinamide (a form of the B vitamin that hydrates and promotes a clear, even complexion) and azelaic acid to provide an even skin tone on the face and body. And it’s gentle enough for daily use.
$41 at PCA Skin
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