If you think succinic acid is the last thing you want to slather on your cheeks, we don’t blame you. Phonetics aside, however, this multi-tasking wonder can do a lot for your skin: minimize fine lines, boost hydration, provide antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and so much more. Below, we dig deeper into the why, what, and how of the new name to know in skincare.
First things first: what is succinic acid?
“Succinic acid is a substance naturally present in sugar cane but also in amber”, explains Dr. Sophie Shotter, aesthetic doctor and skin specialist. “It has been exploited by the skincare industry and synthetic versions are now more readily available.” She keeps. That would be through biotechnology (the process of biology and chemistry) reinventing synthetic ingredients – like succinic acid – in a lab.
Think of it less as an exfoliating acid, and more in the same “acidic” camp as hyaluronic acid, says Dr. Kemi Fabusiwa. In short, it’s the kind of acid that cleans pores, soothes skin, and adds hydration, making it a great choice if you have oily skin.
What are the benefits of using succinic acid on your face?
It targets fine lines
“Succinic acid helps boost your cell turnover, which means it helps improve the functioning of your skin cells,” says Dr. Shotter. “It’s also a powerful antioxidant, helping to fight oxidative stress in the skin.” The former promotes skin rejuvenation leaving your complexion firm, and the latter protects the skin and keeps it glowing.
It helps acne-prone skin
Acne-prone skin? “Succinic acid also helps control sebum (oil) production and bacteria levels in the skin, which makes it useful for those who suffer from rashes,” says Dr. Shotter.
It gets rid of blackheads
Succinic acid is an effective anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial ingredient that helps inhibit the growth of bacteria, says Dr. Fab. “For this reason, it is a fantastic ingredient for blemishes, blackheads and inflammatory lesions; helping to fight acne without compromising the skin barrier.’ The skin barrier: in other words, the glue that holds everything together; the outermost layer of the skin.
It boosts hydration
Although succinic acid is best known for its ability to control sebum (oil) production, it is also an excellent moisturizer. Indeed, its structure is similar to that of the lipids (or fats) of our skin.
It’s gentle on the skin
Another pro? It is much milder than other care acids. So if your skin is acne-prone and sensitive, this major multitasking is unlikely to cause your skin to react.
What skin types can use it?
Succinic acid is a great ingredient for just about anyone, but especially for people with breakout-prone (mild to moderate acne) or oily skin. It can also be a great choice for people with sensitive skin and aging issues who want to treat fine lines and wrinkles but are often prone to irritation.
“Succinic acid is great for those who are prone to breakouts due to oily skin, as it helps to reduce excess oil on our skin and reduce the size of our pores,” agrees Dr. Fab. “If you have acne that has formed nodules or cysts or leaves hyperpigmentation, it may be worth talking to your GP about getting prescription medicines that can be used with succinic acid.” For example, you can use succinic acid in the morning and prescription retinol in the evening, she continues.
As mentioned, it is also suitable for people with sensitive skin. “It’s a great ingredient for even the most sensitive skin because it’s gentle on the skin but still effective,” says Dr. Fab.
Are there any ingredients to avoid with succinic acid?
Unlike retinol, the vitamin C AHA, this gentle ingredient has no enemy in skin care. But that doesn’t mean you can liberally apply every ingredient under the sun. “Although it is a gentle treatment, it is still advisable not to combine it with other powerful active ingredients in the same routine but rather to use it with ingredients such as hyaluronic acid to hydrate the skin barrier,” advises Dr. Fab.
Dr. Shotter also advises using it at the serum stage of your routine (after your cleanser) because it’s a small molecule and won’t soak through heavy creams.
Are there any side effects to using it?
Not usually, says Dr. Shotter, because it’s a very well-tolerated ingredient. “But if you have particularly sensitive or reactive skin, maybe introduce it slowly.”
What are the best succinic acid skin care formulas to try?
Scientia Pure Clarity PHA Purifying Toner 100ml
Zelens Hyaluron Intense Hydro-Plumping Serum 30ml
Scientia Pure Clarity PHA Purifying Toning Lotion
The INKEY List Succinic Acid Blemish Treatment 15ml
Selfless by Hyram Salicylic Acid and Sea Kelp Pore Clearing and Oil Control Serum 40ml
Dermalogica Awaken Peptide Eye Gel 15ml