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Can Soy Sauce Lighten and Brighten My Skin?

by Ella Goodman 08 Dec 2016

As nature intended: The natural way to lighten and brighten your skin

You’ve probably heard of many DIY skincare hacks that promise miracles from a cup of rolled oats and honey.

Do DIY skincare hacks work?


Do you see results?


This process may have left you feeling disillusioned with the natural world. The ingredient stories sound like a dream, but in reality you have zero skincare benefits to show.

What we’re about to share with you, will change your perception of naturals.

In fact, your kitchen cupboard contains many natural ingredients that work, they’re just not the kind you’d want to apply every night, regimentally.

Case and point - soy sauce.

Soy sauce contains a highly effective skin lightening ingredient called Kojic acid and it’s a well-kept Japanese secret.

Does Kojic acid work?


Will you see results?


Will you want to use it in the form of soy sauce?


Before you even think about submitting yourself to 3 months of routine soy sauce face masks, there’s much more you need to know and understand.

Through the course of this article, we are going to show you exactly how to benefit from the lightening and brightening abilities of Kojic acid without having to borrow from your pantry.

What is Kojic acid?

Kojic acid is a naturally sourced ingredient manufactured by Mother Nature. The production site – a mushroom or fungus. The production fuel – the earth.

This is not the most glamorous of natural ingredients but trust us, the results more than make up for its back story.

Kojic acid is predominantly produced by 3 kinds of fungus named Aspergillus, Acetobacter, and Penicillium.

When a mushroom or fungus grows, it produces ingredients called secondary metabolites. These ingredients help it to survive. While secondary metabolites are not essential to a mushrooms growth, they are essential in its competition for survival of the fittest.

Secondary metabolites are a wide reaching group of ingredients which includes several types of compounds, some of which you’d refer to as antibiotics or antioxidants.

Although not essential for a mushrooms existence, antibiotics and antioxidants help any fungus, plant or human being to exist and survive.

One such life-giving antioxidant compound produced by fungi and mold alike is called by its Japanese name, Kojic acid.

What does Kojic acid do?

This unlikely ingredient can be found in many foods you’ve probably eaten this week. From soy sauce to soybean paste, from miso soup to vegetables and even meats.

Kojic acid is a well-used ingredient because of its very effective protection against a reaction called enzymatic browning.

If you’ve ever seen a banana or apple turn brown, you’ve seen the effects of enzymatic browning.

Ingredients like Kojic acid help to stop the progress of this reaction.

When naturally present in foods, they hinder degradation and when added to foods, they do the exact same thing – they prolong shelf-life.

What does Kojic acid do for your skin?

It turns out as human beings we share a commonality with bananas and apples.

We too, turn brown via an enzyme based process.

We tan, we freckle and we play host to age spots because of enzyme based browning.

Kojic acid can prevent this process from taking place.

Kojic acid can prevent freckles, age spots, hyperpigmentation and more.

How does Kojic acid work?

Wherever your skin becomes brown, a reaction has taken place to produce and deposit a brown pigment called melanin.

Wherever your skin tans, you develop freckles, age spots or hyperpigmentation and melanin deposits have been created.

Complete absence of melanin is a medical condition referred to as albinism. However fair your skin type, unless you suffer with albinism, you will always have an amount of melanin present.

Melanin is usually distributed evenly throughout skin to create your skin tone and colorings. However in some instances melanin production can become hyper focused within just one area.

These instances can be provoked by sun exposure, age and hormonal imbalances.

They can appear as freckles, age spots and even Melasma.

Kojic acid can stop these melanin deposits from forming.

For skin to be capable of creating melanin, it requires a reaction to take place. This reaction can only occur when an enzyme called tyrosinase is present and active.

Enzymes are biological ovens that allow reactions to take place. Imagine trying to brew your morning coffee without hot water. That would be exactly like trying to produce melanin without your trusty tyrosinase enzyme.

Kojic acid can inhibit this process by inhibiting your tyrosinase enzyme. In fact you’ll often hear Kojic acid referred to as a tyrosinase inhibitor.

Kojic acid, turns off your tyrosinase enzyme. When your body tries to manufacture melanin without a tyrosinase enzyme, it’s like trying to boil water with no heat. Nothing is going to happen.

What types of pigmentation will Kojic acid lighten?

We’re very sure you’ll like the answer to this question. Kojic acid is effective at lightening and brightening all types of pigmentation.

Do you have acne induced post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation marks?

Kojic acid will help lighten them.

Have you developed age spots?

Kojic acid will help lighten them.

Are you covered in freckles from 2 weeks in the sun?

Kojic acid will help lighten them.

Kojic acid is effective at lightening all types of pigmentation because all pigmentation is created by melanin.

How can I integrate Kojic acid into my routine?

While it’s true that Kojic acid is found naturally, it doesn’t mean soy sauce should become your go-to skin lightening moisturizer. In fact we’d strongly discourage you from it.

Although DIY skincare feels wholesome, you’re not just putting Kojic acid onto your skin when using a food product like soy sauce.

There’s also the color, the smell (!) and the potential for irritation.

Just don’t do it.

Skincare products pass through regulations much more stringent than food products. There’s a reason you’re tummy possess stomach acid with a pH as low as battery acid. Your skin is not so well equipped.

Since Kojic acids skin lightening abilities were first discovered, cosmetic formulas have evolved to monopolize this ingredients benefits.

Why put yourself through the pain of using suspect smelling soy sauce, when you could enjoy the same benefits from a nourishing and brightening cream?

How to choose the most effective Kojic acid lightening creams

We all know a cupcake wouldn’t taste the same without sugar, sometimes a combination of ingredients gives better results than just one.

This is also true for Kojic acid. Your experience when using Kojic acid can be hastened and amplified just by choosing the right formula.

If you’ve researched even a little into lightening and brightening treatments you’ll have learned hydroquinone is considered the gold standard.

Hydroquinone is well studied, well researched and well examined.

If any treatment can live up to the results hydroquinone is capable of delivering, it too earns gold-standard status.

This is the exact case when lightening and brightening creams contain Kojic acid.

This is the first way you can choose a highly effective Kojic acid lightening formula.

The second way, is to choose a treatment that combines Kojic acid and hydroquinone.

Studies have shown that when used together, even conditions as stubborn as Melasma are more likely to lighten, brighten and clear.

We recommend not to mix creams containing these ingredients, instead seek products that contain these ingredients within the same formula. These products are safety tested to ensure that all ingredients work together for the sole benefit of your skin.

How should I use Kojic acid?

Now you know exactly what to look for, you may be wondering exactly how you should use it.

Kojic acid based skin lightening creams are best used in a 1 to 2 month cycling process.

This process minimizes irritation and maximizes skin benefits.

You can mimic this cycling process in 2 ways.

  1. 1-2 months of Kojic acid treatment followed by 1-2 months off.
  2. 1-2 months of Kojic acid treatment followed by 1-2 months of an alternate skin lightening active.

The higher your chosen concentration of Kojic acid is, the more effective and quickly acting it will be. This means your monthly cycling period should be nearer to 1 month than 2.

How quickly will I see results?

Kojic acid based treatments begin to take effect as soon as you begin use, however results take longer to visualize.

Skin has a natural turnover rate and even though very effective, Kojic acid cannot reverse the pigmentation that has already been deposited by your skin.

For this reason, you’ll find results will build with time and start to become visible with 4 weeks of daily treatment.

Depending on the severity of your pigmentation, some studies have shown that when combined with other brightening actives like hydroquinone, just 12 weeks of use can promise an evened, brightened skin tone.

What concentration of Kojic acid should I use?

How quickly and effectively a Kojic acid based lightening cream will work, depends on the formula and the concentration of its active ingredients.

While there are many Kojic acid creams available, only some will contain the best combination of ingredients and only some will declare their concentrations.

Want to enjoy the benefits of Kojic acid without worrying whether you’re investing in a formula that works?

Always be sure to select a formulation that contains a concentration of 1% or greater.

Above this threshold skin lightening effects are well researched, studied and documented.

Want to finally treat a stubborn age spot or area of Melasma successfully?

In these situations you may want to consider a formula more concentrated than 1%. For patches of stubborn pigmentation or results that are fast to reveal themselves, consider formulas of Kojic acid in concentrations of 2 or 3 percent.

Is Kojic acid safe to use?

Unlike several other brightening agents, Kojic acid is unique in that you’ll also commonly consume this ingredient in foods.

Your body is used to Kojic acid and it also claims a long standing history of use.

As with any ingredient the experience you have depends on your biology and the dose.

Eat too many carrots and you may overdose on vitamin A, consume too many sugary foods and you may develop diabetes, enjoy too many salt based snacks and you may experience high blood pressure.

Kojic acid and any other ingredient your body may come into contact with, is similar.

If you over use a Kojic acid treatment in a way that is too aggressive for the biology of your skin, skin may become sensitive and sensitized.

While those with sensitive skin may wish to avoid the lightening abilities of Kojic acid, those with non-sensitive skin types can happily enjoy on a cycled routine.

1 to 2 months on treatment and 1 to 2 months off.

Remember, Kojic acid is an ingredient which has a significant impact on your skin. That’s the very reason it’s regulated as a quasi-drug in Japan. A product defined as having a moderate pharmacological activity.

Kojic acid is well known to have a positive effect on areas of un-wanted pigmentation. That fact blurs the line between cosmetic and drug. 

As with any product able to benefit your body, you need to be conscious of your dose and usage – this will vary from person to person.

Kojic acid: The Bottom line

Don’t use soy sauce to lighten and brighten your skin. It’s messy, unregulated and un-proven.

Instead, benefit from nature’s own lightening and brightening ingredient by investing in a Kojic acid based treatment cream.

It’s effective, proven and able to work on all kinds of pigmentation.

For best results be sure to choose a treatment that combines Kojic acid with hydroquinone.

This Japanese beauty staple will not be a well-kept beauty secret for many years longer.

Discover how to build the most effective skincare regimen with our top selection of brightening skin products to banish dark spots and uneven skin tone.

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