Lip pigmentation, or dark lips, can be a great source of discomfort for many people. A few remedies worth exploring exist for dark lips, whether caused by smoking, hyperpigmentation, or other factors. Among such remedies is kojic acid. Read on to learn more about this famous skin-lightening agent, and how it can be used to lighten dark lips.
What is kojic acid?
Kojic acid is a naturally-derived chemical compound found in mushrooms. It can also be derived as a by-product during the fermentation of yeast found in Asian foods like rice wine and soy sauce. This chemical compound has been scientifically proven to inhibit the production of melanin in the skin, reason why it is frequently used for the treatment of skin conditions like hyperpigmentation.
Can you use kojic acid on the lips?
While lots of studies exist to back the effectiveness of kojic acid as a skin-lightening agent for parts of the body such as the face, legs and armpits, there is little to know information on the use of this compound for the lips. This however does not cancel the possibility of it being effective to lighten dark lips.
There exist several anecdotal reports of its efficacy to get rid of dark lips. A quick search on TikTok will provide a long list of aestheticians that recommend the use of kojic acid creams or serum on the lips to deal with hyperpigmentation. While this might not stand as empirical proof, it at least provides testimonials.
When it comes to the safe use of kojic acid, it is recommended to be used in leave-on skincare products at a concentration of 2%.
In addition, this compound has a low absorption rate as such there are no worries about it getting absorbed into the skin and lingering to cause any form of damage. This, therefore, means that when searching for a kojic acid-based product for your lips go for one with not more than 2% concentration to avoid possible irritation.
Potential benefits of using kojic acid on the lips
Just as with the face, you stand to get similar benefits by applying kojic acid to your dark lips:
Of course, fading discoloration on your lips will be the main benefit you will get from the consistent application of kojic acid. Kojic acid acts as a tyrosinase inhibitor to block the production of melanin which leads to hyperpigmentation.
In addition to lightening the skin, kojic acid also has significant anti-inflammatory properties that can help soothe the skin when irritated and prevent inflammations that cause the skin on the lip to darken.
Kojic acid will also help against strong fungal infections and antibacterial properties that protect the lips against such as yeast and bacterial infections.
Another great benefit of this active is its antioxidant activity which protects the lips against UV exposure by scavenging and neutralizing free radicals that trigger excess melanin production and skin inflammations.
Possible side effects of using kojic acid on the lips
The main side effect noted with kojic acid is the risk of skin irritation. Although considered safe for topical use, kojic acid remains a potent active as such should be introduced into your lip care routine with ease. The lips have the thinnest skin layer on the body as such can get more irritation than other parts of the body.
Start by using products with concentrations below 2% (but not less than 1%) and work your way up until your skin gets used to it. Kojic acid can be applied on a daily basis but only if your lips can withstand it.
There is also a risk of an allergic reaction to kojic acid so always do a patch test before applying it to your lips. In case of any reactions (stinging, burning, rash, dryness, or skin swelling) discontinue use and seek professional help.
Retinol vs Kojic acid for dark lips
For darker lips, retinol and kojic acid can both be helpful ingredients in your skincare routine.
Retinol is another skin-lightening compound that can inhibit the production of melanin in the skin. As a matter of fact, it is the most researched hyperpigmentation remedy known to the beauty industry and has a lot to show for it. Retinol acts by increasing skin cell turnover to reveal younger, brighter, and smoother skin. However great, retinol has one major drawback which is how irritating and drying it can be to the skin.
Although there exist newer and gentler formulas of retinols (retinol esters), which deliver good results and are less irritating, kojic acid remains the mildest option, especially for beginners. As such, you may want to start your skin-lightening routine with a kojic acid-based product and eventually include retinol in your lip care routine.
How to use kojic acid on lips
When it comes to kojic acid for dark lips the simplest option will be to opt for a lip treatment in the form of a balm or gloss that contains kojic acid. Apply to your lips twice a day and make sure to also use a lip balm that contains SPF to prevent further pigmentation due to sun exposure.
You can also repurpose your kojic acid facial serum, and apply it to your lips. Dab a single drop of your preferred koji acid serum with your finger or with a q-tip or cotton pad to avoid any excess. Rember a little goes a long way! Follow with a moisturizing balm to keep your lip properly moistured.
Avoid using kojic acid based soaps or any other rinse-off kojic acid-based products as these will not stay long enough on your skin to get properly absorbed.