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Which smart foods are used as medicine on your skin?

The kojic acids in rice wine (sake) decrease your skin's ability to form the type of melanin found in age spots and freckles. If you put sake on your face or use skincare products containing sake or kojic acid, you'll also find the rice wine keeps moisture in your skin. Can rice wine (sake remove freckles and age spots from your skin?

Which smart foods are used as medicine on your skin?
Photo by China Photos/Getty Images

There's a decade-old book on the market published by Jeanette Jacknin MD, a dermatologist. It's title is Smart Medicine for Your Skin (Penguin Putnam, 2001) which explains the skin-benefits of wine on your face.

Kojic acid is a by-product of the fermentation process of Japanese sake. It shows some improvement in fading dark pigmented spots on the skin because it inhibits tyrosinase. However, the ingredient is known for its instability in cosmetic formulas.

You can buy pure kojic acid online (from the Phillipines) at or use sake. Make your own rice wine if you want to work from scratch with natural products. Kojic acid derived from a mushroom also is found in Sake (Japanese rice wine) that you can buy in the USA and in many other countries.

Kojic acid is a by-product of the fermentation process for the popular Japanese rice wine, sake. Research has revealed that kojic acid is very good at inhibiting melanin production in the skin

If you're listing pros and cons, one 'pro' is that kojic acid has good skin-lightening properties. And one 'con' is that it's not stable when mixed in certain chemical formulas. For example, exposure to the sun or air will make the kojic acid turn brown and lose its effectiveness. So you need to keep it in a dark bottle or container in your unlighted pantry with the cap or cork on and away from repeated exposure to the air.

On the 'pro' side, kojic acid has antibacterial and antifungal properties. It's used on sliced fruits to prevent oxidative browning. And it's safely put into cosmetics to lighten pigment spots and skin.

Melanin content decreases from cells located in the bottom layer of the skin's epidermis when the cells are treated with kojic acid. For more information on how kojic acid, an inhibitor of melanin, removes age spots (liver spots), freckles, pregnancy marks, and other dark skin pigmentation spots from your skin, see the Kojic Acid site.

Also, vitamin C gives the skin-lightening treatment with sake (or other natural products containing kojic acid) an extra whitening boost. In 1989, the Japanese derived kojic acid from a mushroom. Kojic acid is used to lighten pigment spots and skin discoloration because it's an inhibitor for melanin. in the USA and Japan, kojic acid is used in some cosmetics for lightening freckles, spots on the skin, and 'liver' spots that appear on the hands due to a combination of sunlight and aging. It's also used to treat acne.

Kojic acid inhibits melanin

Here's how it works. According to the Kojic Acid site, "On a molecular level, melanin is produced in the body from the conversion (in several steps) of the amino acid tyrosine. The conversion requires the enzyme known as tyrosinase. Kojic acid can prevent the tyrosinase activity through synthesizing reaction with its antioxidant properties after penetrating upper skin layers and entering skin cells to inhibit the formation of pigment at the deep cells on the skin." But a lot of people want spots removed from skin, not to bleach the melanin out of their skin. The tanning cream businesses are huge, including the spray tanning and lotions formulas purchased in department, discount, and pharmaceutical stores.

Kojic acid has been used extensively in Japan and in other Asian countries. According to the SkinBright Review site, kojic acid is said to be "quite effective on Asian and black skins." It does not produce any side effects and is recommended for use by people having hypersensitive skin.

In the USA, kojic acid from sake also can be used on any color skin since those wishing to fade out freckles, dark spots appearing around menopause, pregnancy-caused melanin spots, or sunlight-induced "age spots," also called "liver spots" on the hands of mature persons, can try sake or other kojic acid products that have been researched as safe.

Skin Products versus Using Sake

You have a choice. Use one natural product such as sake or purchase kojic acid and take vitamin C as a booster to lighten pigmentation spots. Or buy skin a product. When you make your own skin products you know what's in your formula, and you can research what is safe.

Here is a list of what skin lighteners are on the market. When you make your own product from scratch, you know what goes into it and can mark a date on the bottle's label. When you buy a skin product, you don't know whether the vitamins in there are synthetic or natural or what other chemicals are put into the product. Sure, it's a lot of effort to research the ingredient, but at least you know more about the safety of what you're absorbing through your skin.

According to its website, "SkinBright is a product on the market that contains kojic acid, Vitamin A Palmitate, Lemon Extract, Aloe Vera, Willow Bark Extract, Hemp Oil and Arbutin. Kojic acid is a by-product of fermentation process of rice and is used to manufacture Japanese wine - sake. It is a brightening agent and efficiently tackles with skin discoloration on all types of skins and shades."

Alpha Arbutin is yet another powerful, gentle organic skin lightener that is extracted from Bearberry plant. It inhibits the action of tyrosinase thereby preventing the creation of melanin in skin. See the skin lightener study, which offers arbutin information.

Hydroquinone is known to cause toxicity in skin and has side effects like skin-burn. Alpha arbutin is a viable substitute of hydroquinone and has gained popularity within the cosmetics companies. Check out the site, "Skin Bleaching - Warning -‎."

Grapeseed Oil for Your Skin

Grapeseed oil is great for your skin care to create more smoothness, but it won't lighten dark spots. You can research The Grapeseed Company, which produces organic grapeseed oil skincare products. Or make your own skincare products directly from food using grapeseed oil you buy in grocery or health food stores.

Test a small patch of skin first to make sure you're not allergic to any of the ingredients, including sake. Don't use if redness appears.

You can make your own facial with food by mixing equal amounts of red wine, grapeseed oil, sake, and resveratrol, or buy any of the grapeseed oil skincare products. Or just apply a dab of rice wine (sake) by itself to your face and smooth your skin after the sake treatment with grapeseed oil. It would be the same as if you'd use any massage oil such as sesame seed oil, coconut oil, or olive oil.

The resveratrol would help your skin, if absorbed, by mixing one 100 mg capsule of resveratrol with a 1/4 cup of grapeseed oil, 1/4 cup of sake, and 1/4 cup of red wine. Use it as a facial mask for a few minutes. Leave on until it is absorbed, for about 15 minutes, and rinse off.

Look for the articles in The Journal of Antimicrobial Chemotherapy for the studies showing that resveratrol slows down the growth of the type of bacteria that causes acne. Resveratrol is good for your skin by protecting against UV damage that causes those dark spots and wrinkles from sun exposure. Resveratrol won't reverse the damage, but actually protects your skin from further damage. See article, Red Wine Resveratrol Supplement.

Red Wine as a Facial

Wine on your face is an ancient way of cleansing the skin. But today it's found in body scrubs and face masks. There's a whole line of facial products containing wine or resveratrol, an ingredient found in red wine. The skin products contain the leaves and bark of the grapevines.

In ancient and medieval times red wine for facials had been used along with olive oil. First the olive oil was put on the face to cleanse it. The oil was scraped off with an instrument used by Roman gladiators to clean their bodies, and then wine was applied to the face. In later times when soap was used only to treat skin rashes, wine and oil were the products of facial treatments.

Today, it's resveratrol from red wine that's used to treat acne and blackheads. Part of the cause of acne is that underneath a person's skin bacteria is growing. Grapeseed oil, red wine, resveratrol, and sake are all antibacterial. You want your skin to absorb a nourishing product that comes from whole foods such as an antimicrobial extract that will stop the bacteria under the skin from replicating.

People are buying grapeseed extract not only to consume as an antioxidant, but also to put on the skin. Grapeseed oil is bought as a cooking oil but also used on the face and skin. For further information on using grapeseed oil for your face and other skin areas, check out the web site for The Grapeseed Company. Or make your own facials with grapeseed oil, red wine, grapeseed extract, or rice wine (sake).

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