What You Need To Know About Incorporating Citric Acid Into Your Skincare Routine

While everyone knows about the benefits of skincare ingredients such as hyaluronic acid and salicylic acid, lesser-known ingredients like citric acid can remain a mystery to many. According to Procoal London, the usage of citric acid has come a long way from its first isolation in 1893 by the chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele. Scheele first used isolated citric acid to help add flavor to food and drinks. However, since its discovery, it has become a key ingredient in almost 10,000 cosmetic products. 


While this ingredient is starting to gain traction and is being used in more products every single day, it isn't as widely talked about in the skincare industry about its benefits and uses as other acids, but this doesn't mean that it shouldn't be. So, how does a popular food ingredient become a popular skincare ingredient? To accurately use it in your skincare, you should be aware of all of its properties and precautions.

What is citric acid and is it safe to use?

While less popular, citric acid is an alpha hydroxy acid, or AHA, that derives from citric fruits. According to Skin Sei, citric acid, like other AHAs, is used to help balance the pH of skincare products and help them last longer. What makes citric acid special is that it's also an excellent antioxidant ingredient. With its antioxidant properties, citric acid can help protect the skin from stressors such as pollution or the sun.  With the right concentration, citric acid can clear the skin of dead skin cells. Skin Sei also mentions that citric acid is a great ingredient if you look to brighten your complexion and keep it from looking dull.


The Derm Review adds that while citric acid is considered an acid, it is safe for use on the skin and is also one of the gentler acids currently available. However, use it with caution as it can make your skin more susceptible to sun rays. Those with sensitive skin or issues like rosacea should refrain from using citric acid, as it can cause further problems. While anyone can use citric acid and see benefits, you should also refrain from overly consistent use, as it can irritate the skin. Because of the benefits it gives, those with oily skin will see the most overall change since citric acid will help strip some of that extra sebum without being too harsh on the skin.

How to properly use citric acid in your skincare

Thanks to the increasing popularity of this ingredient, it's very easy to find citric acid in skincare products. To properly use citric acid in your routine, BeBodywise recommends starting with a patch test. Because it can be harsh when used as an exfoliant, you want to ensure that putting citric acid on your face will not irritate it. After making sure that citric acid isn't irritating or triggering your skin, slowly incorporate it into your routine. Try adding in a citric acid product only once a day and making sure to apply SPF if you step outside during the day.


Sundree also recommends adding a citric acid product with a low concentration first so that your skin can adjust to its alpha hydroxy acid. With a low concentration, you can start to use the product around two to three times a week. Again, once your skin has become adjusted and any initial irritation subsides, you can increase the frequency. However, if you find that the irritation gets worse or doesn't go away, citric acid is most likely irritating your skin and you should seize your usage. In the end, citric acid is very similar to other AHAs and can be used similarly.