Despite its sinister-sounding name, the word malic acid comes from the Latin word “malum,” which means apple. Malic acid was first isolated from apple juice in 1785, and it’s what gives some foods and drinks a tart taste. If you’re a fan of slightly acidic wine, malic acid probably played a role.
It’s also a common ingredient in many hair and skin care products, including:
- body lotions
- nail treatments
- acne and anti-aging products
Malic acid is one of a family of fruit acids, called alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs). AHAs stimulate exfoliation by interfering with how your skin cells bond. As a result, dull skin is removed to make way for newer skin.
Skin care products containing malic acid can provide benefits that include:
- skin hydration
- exfoliation, or the removal of dead skin cells
- improved skin smoothness and tone
- reduction in wrinkles
Malic acid is also an important substance in the process your body uses to derive energy from the food you eat.
Keep reading to discover why malic acid is one ingredient you’ll want to keep an eye out for when shopping for skin care products.
Malic acid in skin care products is celebrated for its ability to brighten the skin and smooth its texture. That’s why it’s a common ingredient in anti-aging creams.
pH balance and hydration
Malic acid is known as a humectant and may help your skin stay hydrated.
Malic acid is also
Anti-aging and scar lightening
AHAs promote a high skin cell turnover rate. This means your skin cells are renewed more quickly and can result in:
- fewer fine lines and wrinkles
- more even skin tone
- smoother skin texture
- fewer blemishes
AHAs, like malic acid,
“Malic acid at higher concentrations can also penetrate into lower levels of the skin to bring about new collagen formation,” said dermatologist Dr. Annie Chiu, founder of the Derm Institute in California.
Collagen is a protein that helps build and repair cells. It supports the skin and other body tissues’ strength and flexibility and prevents sagging. Collagen production slows down as you age, which is partly why skin loses its elasticity and firmness the older you get.
According to a
Whether it’s in a lotion, cleanser, or light peeling agent, malic acid
When the skin’s pores get clogged with dead skin cells and the skin’s natural oil (sebum), blackheads can form. Bacterial infections can also develop and cause breakouts.
“Malic acid breaks down the ‘glue’ that holds the dead skin cells together on the outer layer of the skin,” said Chiu. When these dead skin cells are swept away, “Your skin looks less dull and when your pores are unclogged, it helps reduce the formation of acne bumps and the discoloration that’s often associated with acne.”
Chiu recommends sticking to low doses of malic acid found in nonprescription skin care products that are designed to fight breakouts or sagging skin. Higher doses, such as supplements, should only be taken if recommended by a healthcare professional.
Fibromyalgia is a complex disorder that causes muscle pain, sleep problems, fatigue, and mood disturbances. While we don’t yet understand the causes of fibromyalgia, some researchers have suspected low levels of malic acid, with its essential role in energy production, could contribute to the symptoms of fibromyalgia.
In a small
However, in a later
More research is needed to determine whether malic acid helps relieve symptoms of fibromyalgia.
Unless a healthcare professional recommends malic acid supplements, aim to get all the malic acid your body needs from a nutritious diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables.
Although malic acid may be less irritating on the skin than other AHAs, it should still be used with caution.
Malic acid can cause redness, itching, and swelling, and
Be sure to patch test a product containing AHAs before applying it to a wider area of your skin.
To patch test, swab a small amount of product on your wrist or behind your ear. Then, wait 24 hours to see how your skin reacts. If your skin begins to burn, wash off the product immediately. Seek medical attention if the irritation doesn’t go away after washing.
Malic acid is an AHA found in fruits, vegetables, and wine. Our bodies also produce malic acid naturally when converting carbohydrates into energy.
Many cosmetic companies use malic acid to adjust the pH levels of their products and as a mild skin exfoliant.
Including products with malic acid in your skin care routine may help with skin concerns like aging, pigmentation, acne, or dryness. Remember to patch test when trying out new products, as malic acid can irritate the skin, especially around the eyes.