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Succinic Acid: What Is It, Cosmetic Uses & Side Effects

Priya Singh
Fact-Checker: Priya Singh
This article was last updated on: July 26, 2023
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Skincare and cosmetics are a labyrinth of science-meets-beauty, a world where scientific names are as much a part of the vernacular as toner and mascara. The back of your favorite product can often end up reading like a complex chemistry textbook—full of strange, unpronounceable words that leave you scratching your head in confusion.

One such ingredient, often tucked away within the ingredient list of cosmetic products, is Succinic Acid. Yes, you heard it right, ‘Succinic Acid’. Its name might sound more at home in a high school chemistry lab than in your favorite skincare serum, but don’t let that intimidate you.

This article is all about dissecting and demystifying Succinic Acid—unfolding its layers, understanding its purpose, and highlighting its role in cosmetic products.

What is Succinic Acid?

Succinic Acid, also known under its scientific name, ‘Butanedioic acid’, is a naturally occurring organic acid. It’s a bio-based compound found in everything from amber to, surprisingly, fermented items like wine and beer. When it comes to the world of cosmetics, Succinic Acid serves as a versatile ingredient, performing a range of roles due to its acidic and microbial properties.

Primarily, it functions as a buffer and a fragrance in formulations, helping to control the pH of the product while adding a faint, pleasing aroma. The beauty of this ingredient is in its ability to dissolve in water and alcohol, allowing it to disperse evenly throughout a product. This ensures that every application is as beneficial as the last.

Succinic Acid often comes as part of a broader formulation, incorporated at a safe concentration to ensure efficacy without irritating the skin.

Who Can Use Succinic Acid?

Succinic Acid is one of those rare ingredients that have a broad appeal. It’s suitable for all skin types—yes, even those with sensitive skin—due to its mild nature and potential for pH control.

Furthermore, it poses no issues for those leading a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, as its sources are non-animal derived.

Speaking of lifestyle, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding might be wondering whether Succinic Acid is safe for them. The good news is, this ingredient is generally considered safe for topical use in cosmetics during pregnancy and while breastfeeding. However, it’s always a good practice to discuss any skincare changes with a healthcare provider during these sensitive times to ensure safety for both mother and child.

Succinic Acid’s Cosmetic Uses

Succinic Acid proves to be a versatile ingredient in cosmetics, offering a host of benefits that extend beyond its intriguing scientific name. Here’s an exploration into the excellent uses of Succinic Acid in your cosmetic products:

  • pH Balancer and Buffering Agent: Succinic Acid lends stability to cosmetic products by acting as a pH balancer and buffering agent. The pH level of a product can greatly influence its efficiency and shelf life, and Succinic Acid helps maintain this delicate balance. Its presence ensures that the product remains within the optimal pH range, preventing bacterial growth and maintaining the integrity of other ingredients in the formulation. The result? A smooth, stabilized product that works exactly as intended every single time you use it.
  • Fragrance Enhancer: Believe it or not, the science-sounding Succinic Acid can add a faint, pleasing aroma to your beauty products. As a fragrance ingredient, it subtly enhances the overall sensorial experience of using the product. When you uncap that bottle of lotion or cleanser, the pleasant scent you encounter could very well be courtesy of this hardworking ingredient. Plus, its ability to dissolve in both water and alcohol ensures the fragrance is evenly dispersed, providing a consistent olfactory experience from the first to the last use.

Succinic Acid’s uses are indeed multifaceted and beneficial, revealing how it’s not just a jumble of letters but a vital ingredient that uplifts your beauty regimen.

Succinic Acid Potential Side Effects

While Succinic Acid is generally recognized as a safe and effective ingredient in cosmetics, it’s important to remember that skin responses can vary widely from individual to individual. This variance is mainly due to our unique skin types and how they interact with specific ingredients. A comprehensive understanding of your own skin can help you navigate your skincare journey effectively. If you’re unsure of your skin type, this article can help you determine it.

That being said, let’s delve into some potential side effects and interactions of Succinic Acid:

  • Skin Irritation: Like any ingredient, Succinic Acid could potentially cause skin irritation for some people, resulting in redness, itching, or stinging.
  • Allergic Reactions: Although rare, a hypersensitive reaction to Succinic Acid could cause hives, difficulty breathing, or swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

In the event of experiencing any of these side effects, immediate discontinuation of the product is advised. Seek medical attention if the symptoms persist or worsen over time.

However, it’s crucial to bear in mind that adverse reactions to Succinic Acid are relatively rare. In general, this ingredient is considered safe and effective for use in cosmetic products. Yet, it’s this very uniqueness of our skin that underscores the importance of patch-testing any new product before full use. Conducting a patch test can help you identify how your skin will react to a particular ingredient, thereby minimizing the risk of adverse reactions. For a detailed patch testing guide, you can refer to this article.

Understanding ingredients, potential side effects, and the importance of personalized skincare can help you navigate the beauty aisle with confidence and grace, making your skincare routine a truly nurturing experience.

Comedogenic Rating

In terms of its comedogenic rating, Succinic Acid garners a pleasing score of 0. This rating means it’s non-comedogenic, i.e., it does not clog pores— a critical factor when considering skin health. This low rating is primarily due to its water and alcohol solubility, which allows it to be easily absorbed and prevents it from building up on the skin’s surface.

So, for those with acne-prone or breakout-sensitive skin, Succinic Acid emerges as a suitable choice. Its non-comedogenic nature helps ensure that your skincare products nurture your skin without adding to your breakout woes.

Conclusion

Not every ingredient in your skincare arsenal is a headline performer. Some are the unsung heroes, silently supporting the overall formulation, ensuring your product delivers optimum performance every time you use it. Succinic Acid falls into this category— it’s a non-active ingredient that plays a vital role in maintaining the product’s pH and enhancing the fragrance.

Despite its beneficial properties, Succinic Acid isn’t often splashed across the front of product labels or relentlessly hyped by beauty influencers. Yet, its humble presence in countless formulations indicates its irreplaceable role in the beauty industry. Its unusual name and low-profile existence should not deter one from acknowledging its importance.

If you’ve been scanning the ingredient list of your favorite product and stumbled upon ‘Succinic Acid’ with a hint of apprehension, fret not. Its scientific name masks a versatile ingredient that’s largely safe, non-irritating, and beneficial to the overall formulation of your cosmetic products. So next time you spot ‘Succinic Acid’, know that it’s there not just to confuse you, but to enhance your beauty experience.

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