Organic skin lighteners are becoming ever more popular, with the consumer looking for a good hydroquinone natural alternative. Hydroquinone is one of the most controversial substances today. Its natural alternative – kojic acid, is used widely in natural skin lighteners. Both are popular ingredients in skin whitening products, but hydroquinone is under intense scrutiny from health authorities due to its negative side effects.
Both ingredients are proven to be effective in skin lightening and in solving even the most intense pigmentation problems. However, before you make the final choice, let’s examine the qualities of these two substances.
The main effect of regular hydroquinone use is to lower the production of melanin in the skin which results in a lighter and more even complexion. Melanin is a naturally occurring substance that gives skin its natural pigmentation. For many years now, this substance has figured importantly in the beauty industry as a potent skin lightening agent.
How does it work? Hydroquinone causes skin lightening because it effectively reduces melanin production. However, results have come to light which highlight one harmful effect of hydroquinone in rodent studies. It was determined that hydroquinone may cause cancer formation. This is brought about by the lowering of melanin production. When there is less melanin, the skin pigmentation becomes lighter. Thus, the skin is less protected from harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun because darker skin has better resistance to developing skin cancer. Another possibly harmful effect of hydroquinone is related to its association with ochronosis, a disease wherein skin thickens, pigmentation increases, and grey or yellow spots are formed.
These findings about hydroquinone led to its ban in Australia, Japan, and all the member nations of the European Union. Meanwhile, the United States Food and Drug Administration have proposed a ban on sales of products containing this ingredient (over the counter only) until further studies are undertaken.
- Kojic Acid
Kojic acid was discovered in Japan in the ‘90s. This relatively new beauty ingredient is sourced from certain fungi and it is also found in certain species of plants. Kojic acid is also produced when rice is fermented into sake—the famous Japanese rice wine. Kojic acid and hydroquinone have similar effects on human skin in terms of melanin production. But this substance has a deeper effect in that the part of the skin that protects the body from UV rays remains intact. Kojic acid is also the choice for skin with very dark pigmentation. It produces whiter skin with more uniform tone as well.
Nevertheless, extended use and high dosage of Kojic acid has caused contact dermatitis in some people. Manufacturers of products with this ingredient have combined this substance with creams and other natural substances to lower the risk for developing complications.
Hydroquinone is still more popular than Kojic acid when it comes to skin lightening. But the side effects have led to some hydroquinone users to switch to a natural cream to avoid experiencing the negative side effects.