Citric Acid


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Citric acid is a naturally occurring acid which is found in large quantities in fruits – notably citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons and certain berries. It is a relatively weak acid and has a distinct, sour taste. It is an integral part of the Krebs cycle and therefore plays an essential role in the metabolism of all living things. The acid was first produced from citrus fruits but this technique was inefficient and only produced small quantities. Today, specific strains of the mold Aspergillus niger are used in the industrial production of the citric acid via a fermentation process. The acid can be found in both liquid and powder (anhydrous) form.

Citric acid: It’s one of the most common food additives found in our food supply today, yet for many of us it remains a mysterious ingredient. In some countries, citric acid has been used as an additive in foods, cosmetics and many other products for more than 100 years, mostly as a preservative and flavor enhancer.

Citric acid is commonly used in food and beverages, detergents, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, toiletries and other industries.

Uses in cosmetics

Citric Acid helps with pH adjustment

The pH level of skincare formulations is an extremely vital factor deciding both quality and safety. An ideal pH enables products to become more safe, pleasant, and less irritating to use. In addition, the performance of some actives, colorants, thickeners, and other ingredients can also be dependent on the pH level; deviations can result in undesired outcomes such as discoloration, changes in viscosity, and poor product performance. If the formula ends up becoming too alkaline, Citric Acid can be added to lower the pH to a desired level.

Citric Acid contributes to product stability and life-span

By helping to stabilize the pH of formulations, Citric Acid can boost the longevity of cosmetic products. The pH can be a critical factor affecting how some preservatives work, and so its use ensures optimal stability for a safe-to-use product. Citric Acid is also known to have chelating properties; it binds (sequesters) to trace metal ions and thereby boosts the efficacy of added preservatives and antioxidants. This chelating action in useful in soap products as it binds to metal ions in water to help prevent rancidity and the creation of soap scum.

Citric Acid delivers skin cleansing and anti-aging benefits

In skincare, Citric Acid acts primarily as an exfoliant and an antioxidant. It is an AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid) and can be used in exfoliating formulations to help remove dead skin cells and dirt to reveal fresh, softer, smoother skin. AHAs are commonly used in cosmetic chemical peels and acne therapies for this reason. They can also reduce the appearance of scars, spots, and other pigmentation issues, thereby improving one’s complexion. As a protective antioxidant, Citric Acid protects the skin against the effects of free radical damage and also contributes to the toning and firming of the skin.

Citric Acid is often used in shampoo formulations to bring the pH levels down, which improves the hair’s appearance and manageability by reducing frizz. It can also be used in rinses to help lift or fade colors out of the hair.

Citric Acid helps produce effervescence (fizzing) in bath bombs

Fizzing reactions are used in cosmetics to create delightful, spa-like experiences with bath bombs and other bath fizzes. By far, the most popular acidic ingredient incorporated in bath bombs is Citric Acid. When such products are dropped into bathwater, the acid reacts with Baking Soda (Sodium Bicarbonate) to release bubbles of carbon dioxide, which is observable as effervescence (fizzing).

How to use in formulations

Citric Acid can be added to creams, lotions, serums, cleansers, shampoos, conditioners, bath products, and many other cosmetics.

1.To adjust pH:

A Citric Acid solution (50%) can be made by weighing an equal amount of Distilled Water and Citric Acid Raw Material. Gently add the Citric Acid into the water and stir well to mix. This solution can be stored in the desired container and used as needed; ensure the mixture is at room temperature before using. Add the solution drop by drop, mixing and closely monitoring the pH change until it reaches the desired level.

  1. To make bath bombs:

Simply add the Citric Acid in its dry state along with the rest of your dry ingredients to create the bath bomb mixture and shape using the desired mold. The ratio of Citric Acid and Baking Soda used is typically 1:2.

Citric Acid helps formulators elevate the performance, stability, and end experience of cosmetic products. It is soluble in water and therefore can be added to potentially any cosmetic that incorporates water; it cannot be used in anhydrous products such as body butters.

When added to these kinds of formultions:

1.Creams, lotions, serums, gels, cleansers, toners, shampoos, conditioners

Citric Acid functions as a(n):

  • pH adjuster
  • Antioxidant
  • Stabilizer
  • Exfoliant
  • Chelating agent

It helps to:

  • Decrease the pH level to reflect the skin’s natural acid mantle, helping to reduce potential irritations and prevent disruption to the natural barrier.
  • Enhance or optimize the actions of preservatives and antioxidants, thereby prolonging the shelf-life of products.
  • Stabilize or optimize the function of various actives, colorants, and thickeners, contributing to the overall performance of products.
  • Assist with skin exfoliation, renewal, and brightening.
  • Assist in hair manageability and reduces frizzing.
  • Assist with protection against free radical damage.

The recommended maximum dosage is 0.5%.


  1. Soap products and detergents

Citric Acid functions as a(n):

  • Chelating agent
  • Antioxidant
  • Exfoliant

It helps to:

  • Reduce the rate of oxidation leading to issues of discoloration such as ‘Dreaded Orange Spots’.
  • Boost the soap’s lathering and cleaning properties.
  • Extend the soap’s shelf life.

The recommended maximum dosage is 1%.

  1. Bath bombs, bath fizzies, and bath salts

Citric Acid functions as a(n):

  • Acidic reagent
  • Antioxidant
  • Exfoliant

It helps to:

  • React with Baking Soda to create fizzing and elevate the experience of bath products.
  • Assist with skin exfoliation, renewal, and brightening
  • Assist with protection against free radical damage.

The recommended maximum dosage is 30%.

Possible side effects:

Citric Acid has the potential to cause skin irritations, particularly for those with sensitive skin or with extended contact. Prior to using topical formulations containing Citric Acid Raw Material, a skin test is recommended. This can be done by applying a dime-size amount of the final formulation to a small area of skin that is not sensitive. Citric Acid must never be used near the eyes, inner nose and ears, or on any other particularly sensitive areas of skin. Potential side effects of Citric Acid include itching, burning, swelling, rashes, redness, sunburn, and other forms of irritation. In the event of an allergic reaction, discontinue use of the product and see a doctor, pharmacist, or allergist immediately for a health assessment and appropriate remedial action. To prevent side effects, consult with a medical professional prior to use.




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