Kojic Acid Side Effects

Kojic Acid is one of the most popular skin whitening agents in the world. However, there will inevitably always be some controversies surrounding kojic acid side effects. Our post on How to get lighter skin shows that demand for skin whitening products is steadily on the rise. Scepticism around skin whitening products will increase commensurately with this inflated demand.

As with all things in life, everything carries with it a certain amount of risk. It is knowing what level of risk you are are willing to take which is important. What is also important in these situations is to be able to siphon the facts from myths. Make sure that before you use a kojic acid product you are fully aware of all the inherent risks.

It is also important to note the kojic acid as a skin whitening ingredient is still relatively young. The long term effects of Kojic Acid as a skin whitening agent are therefore still unknown. The positive is that most of the short to mid-term effects are not extremely serious. Moreover many of these kojic acid side effects still remain inconclusive. None have been clinically-proven to be harmful to humans.

Below is a list of Kojic Acid side effects:

Effects on Internal Organs

According to a study by the non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG), high concentrations of kojic acid have caused liver, kidney, reproductive, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and respiratory side effects in animals. However, the EWG have also suggested further research is needed to determine whether similar dangers would be posed to humans.

Skin Sensitivity

Many people have noticed an increase in skin sensitivity after using kojic acid regularly. Users found their skin appeared and become more irritable. Cosmetic companies have altered their products to lessen these effects. However, it is still possible to develop an allergic reaction and experience some level of sensitivity with continued use.

Sunlight & UV Rays

You may know that the coloration pigment melanin protects your skin from harmful UV rays. As kojic acid reduces the amount of melanin in your skin, it weakens your skin’s natural defence. If using Kojic Acid, it’s important to remember to wear sunscreen with a high SPF value.

Other Side Effects

In a review of 165 kojic acid toxicity studies, the non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG) notes that some studies indicated the substance causes cell mutation in mammals, but that it is not likely to be a human carcinogen.

Some animal studies have shown high amounts of kojic acid to cause liver, kidney, reproductive, cardiovascular, gastrointestinal and respiratory side effects, and high doses have been shown to be toxic to the brain and nervous system in animal studies. The EWG notes that the cosmetics industry has not formed a panel to assess kojic acid’s safety in humans, and that further research is needed.


If the kojic acid side effects listed above are not to your liking,  we recommend trying other skin whitening products that do not contain Kojic Acid. However, be aware that adopting an organic approach to skin whitening may not produce the same results. The effects of skin whitening may also take considerably longer to show.

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