citric acid

Citric Acid at a Glance

  • Used in small amounts to adjust the pH of products
  • Derived from citrus fruits
  • Keeps formulas from being too alkaline
  • In certain concentrations, can exfoliate skin

Citric Acid Description

Citric acid is an extract derived from citrus fruits and is used primarily in small amounts to adjust the pH of products to prevent them from being too alkaline or basic.

Citric acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) and as such, in the right formula and concentration, it can exfoliate skin. However, research on this ability so far has looked at much higher concentrations (20%, for example) than are typically used in skincare products—not to mention there’s proportionately more research on AHAs glycolic and lactic acids. Moreover, the AHAs lactic and glycolic acid have been shown to be more effective and less likely to promote a stinging reaction on skin.

Citric Acid References

Nigerian Journal of Surgery, July-December 2020, Volume 26, Issue 2, pages 122-126
Molecules, April 2018, Volume 23, Issue 4, page 863
The Journal of Dermatology, January 2006, pages 16-22
Dermatologic Surgery, August 1997, pages 689-694
International Journal of Cosmetic Science, April 1996, pages 75-83

See citrate buffer

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Paula Begoun is the best-selling author of 20 books about skincare and makeup. She is known worldwide as The Cosmetics Cop and creator of Paula’s Choice Skincare. Paula’s expertise has led to hundreds of appearances on national and international radio, print, and television including:

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