Citric Acid

Citric Acid is a common name in the food industry and is currently a "hot" ingredient in the beauty field. So, what is it, and what are its effects? In this article, Chanh Beauty will provide you with the most comprehensive information about this ingredient in cosmetics.

What is Citric Acid?

Citric Acid is a weak organic acid naturally found in various fruits such as lemons, oranges, grapefruits, etc. It has a distinctive sour taste and is widely used in both food and cosmetics. It's the main reason these fruits have their tart or sour taste. Citric acid can also be manufactured and is widely used in various industries, including food and beverages, pharmaceuticals, and personal care products.

what is citric acid
What is it?

Mechanism of Action

Citric Acid acts as a chemical exfoliant, helping to remove dead skin cells on the skin's surface, promote the regeneration of new cells, and brighten the skin. Additionally, it can regulate the skin's pH, aiding in the absorption of other skincare products.

Benefits of Citric Acid

Citric Acid, a familiar ingredient in the food industry, is now a "rising star" in the beauty sector. Thanks to its excellent properties, citric acid offers many benefits for the skin, helping you achieve a bright, healthy glow.

Effective Exfoliation:

Citric Acid acts as a gentle chemical exfoliant, removing rough, dull dead skin cells on the skin's surface. This allows the skin to breathe, promotes the regeneration of new cells, and results in a smoother, more even complexion.


Citric Acid stimulates collagen production, an important protein that helps maintain skin elasticity and firmness. This reduces wrinkles and other signs of aging such as sagging and lack of firmness.

Acne Treatment:

Citric Acid helps unclog pores, preventing blockages that lead to acne. It also has anti-inflammatory properties, reducing swollen pimples and aiding in skin recovery post-acne.

Skin Brightening:

Citric Acid helps minimize dark spots, freckles, and hyperpigmentation, improving uneven skin tone and making the skin look brighter and more radiant.

Antioxidant Properties:

Citric Acid is a powerful antioxidant, protecting the skin from damage caused by free radicals, which are the main cause of skin aging. This keeps the skin youthful and healthy.

pH Regulation:

Citric Acid helps balance the skin's pH, creating an ideal environment for healthy skin functioning. This makes it easier for the skin to absorb nutrients from other skincare products.

Enhancing Other Products' Effectiveness:

Citric Acid helps other skincare products penetrate better into the skin, enhancing their effectiveness.

Side Effects of Citric Acid

While generally safe for most people, citric acid can cause some side effects, especially when used at high concentrations or if you have sensitive skin. Common side effects include:

Side Effects

Skin Irritation:

  • Symptoms: Itching, burning, redness, peeling, tingling, or warmth.
  • Cause: Citric Acid can strip away the protective layer of skin, making it more susceptible to irritation.


  • Symptoms: Tight, flaky, rough, itchy skin.
  • Cause: Citric Acid can strip the skin of its natural moisture.

Sun Sensitivity:

  • Symptoms: Sunburn, redness, itching when exposed to sunlight.
  • Cause: Citric Acid can thin the skin's protective layer, making it more vulnerable to UV damage.

Eye Irritation:

  • Symptoms: Burning, itching, redness, tearing.
  • Cause: Citric Acid can irritate the eyes if it accidentally gets into them.

Usage Tips for Beginners

Citric Acid is an excellent ingredient in cosmetics with many benefits such as exfoliating, brightening the skin, and treating acne. However, if you are new to using citric acid, you need to consider the following tips to avoid skin irritation:

Choose the Right Product:

  • Concentration: Start with a low concentration of 0.5% to 1%. Sensitive skin should opt for 0.5%.
  • Product Type: Opt for serums or toners as they are easier to absorb and less likely to cause irritation than moisturizers.
  • Ingredients: Choose products containing moisturizing ingredients like HA, Glycerin to balance skin pH.

Test the Product Before Use:

  • Apply a small amount to the skin behind your ear or on your wrist.
  • Wait 24 hours to see if any irritation occurs.
  • If there is no reaction, you can use the product on your face.

Proper Usage:

  • Cleanse your face before application.
  • Apply the product evenly, avoiding the eye and lip areas.
  • Use a moisturizer after applying the product.
  • Use 2-3 times a week, not daily.


  • Avoid sun exposure after using the product as your skin will be more sensitive.
  • Discontinue use if any irritation occurs, such as itching, burning, or redness.
  • Store the product in a cool, dry place.

Useful Tips:

  • Combine citric acid with other moisturizing products to avoid dryness.
  • Use a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher daily to protect your skin from UV damage.
  • Consult a dermatologist if you have any concerns about using citric acid.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is it necessary to use sunscreen when using products containing citric acid?

Yes, because citric acid can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight, so daily sunscreen use is essential to protect your skin from UV damage.

2. Can citric acid brighten the skin?

Yes, citric acid can help brighten the skin by removing dead cells and stimulating the regeneration of new cells.

3. Can citric acid be used on all skin types?

Citric acid is suitable for most skin types, but those with sensitive skin should start with a low concentration to avoid irritation.


4. Are there any side effects of using citric acid?

Side effects may include skin irritation, redness, and dryness if used at high concentrations or if the skin is too sensitive. Always follow usage instructions and monitor your skin's reaction.

5. Can citric acid be combined with other ingredients in cosmetics?

Yes, citric acid can be combined with various other ingredients in cosmetics to create more effective products that cater to diverse skincare needs. It is often combined with ingredients like hyaluronic acid for moisture, vitamin C for brightening and antioxidant protection, and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) like salicylic acid for exfoliation and pore cleansing. However, attention must be paid to the proportions and combinations to avoid adverse effects on the skin.

6. What other applications does citric acid have besides cosmetics?

Citric Acid has numerous applications including:

  • Food: Enhancing flavor, preserving food, and adding color to soft drinks, fruit juices, candies, jams, ice cream, cheese, and canned goods. It also acts as a disinfectant in food processing.
  • Pharmaceuticals: Used in cough syrups, digestive aids, and diuretics. It also acts as a chelating agent helping the body absorb minerals like iron, zinc, and calcium, and serves as an antioxidant and disinfectant.
  • Industrial: Used in dyeing and softening fabrics, producing other chemicals like acetone and acrylic acid, and manufacturing cleaners and disinfectants.
  • Agriculture: Adjusting soil and irrigation water pH, controlling mold and bacteria, and aiding plant mineral absorption.
  • Household: Used as a natural cleaner, descaling kettles and coffee machines, and softening hard water.

7. When should citric acid be used during the day?

The appropriate time to use citric acid depends on the product type and purpose:

  • Exfoliants: Use in the evening before bedtime to avoid sun exposure. Follow with an SPF 30+ sunscreen the next day.
  • Skincare Products: Can be used in the morning or evening. If used in the morning, follow with an SPF 30+ sunscreen.
  • Acne Treatments: Can be used twice daily, morning and evening. Avoid direct sunlight post-application.

8. Is citric acid safe for pregnant women?

Citric Acid is generally considered safe for pregnant women when used in low concentrations in skincare and food. However, it is best to consult a dermatologist before using any product containing citric acid during pregnancy. A dermatologist can assess your skin condition and recommend suitable products.

In conclusion, citric acid is a versatile ingredient in cosmetics, offering numerous skin benefits such as cleansing, exfoliating, pH regulation, and brightening. Its presence in skincare products can significantly improve the appearance and health of the skin. However, proper use is essential to avoid irritation, especially for sensitive skin. With its outstanding benefits, citric acid deserves to be a critical component of your daily skincare routine.