Cosmetic ingredient – Malic acid what you need to know

Malic acid, is a versatile ingredient that is gaining popularity in the skin care world. It is a naturally occurring acid found in several plants and fruits, including apples, grapes, pears, cherries and citrus fruits. In this dermatology blog, we dive deeper into the world of malic acid, explore how it is produced and discover the many skin benefits this ingredient has to offer.

Malic Acid From Various Fruits

Production of Malic Acid

It has a natural origin, which makes it attractive to lovers of natural and herbal skin care products. It is often extracted from apples and other fruits, making it a sustainable and environmentally friendly ingredient.

Description of the production process:

  1. Extraction: The process begins with selecting ripe apples or other fruits that contain high levels of it. The fruits are crushed and subjected to an extraction process, in which the malic acid is isolated from the pulp and skin.
  2. Purification: After extraction, the obtained juice or extract is purified to remove impurities and other components. This ensures that the resulting malic acid is of high quality and suitable for use in skin care products.
  3. Formulation: The purified malic acid can then be used as an ingredient in various skin care products, such as toners, serums, and exfoliants. It is often combined with other ingredients to improve effectiveness and stability.

Fun fact!

It is a natural acid produced in the human body . It plays an important role in the citric acid cycle, where it produces energy along with other compounds that power our cells. This process is known as metabolism and is essential for a variety of bodily functions. Malic acid is a key molecule that helps maintain our energy and the functioning of our cells.


The active substance of malic acid is the molecule itself. It is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) and is known for its exfoliating properties, allowing it to effectively remove dead skin cells and renew the skin.

The acidity varies depending on the concentration in a product. In general, it has a pH level between 3 and 3.5, which makes it considered mild compared to some other AHAs. This means that it gently exfoliates and can be suitable for different skin types, including sensitive skin. However, it is still important to follow the recommended concentrations and frequency of use to avoid any potential skin irritation.

What does it do on the skin?

Malic acid is an excellent ingredient for its exfoliating properties, which give the skin a real boost. By gently removing dead skin cells from the skin’s surface, it stimulates skin renewal and provides a radiant, healthier complexion. This gentle exfoliation also helps to improve skin texture, tighten pores and reduce fine lines, resulting in smoother, more youthful-looking skin.

In addition, it has a moisturizing effect on the skin. It helps the skin to retain moisture, which can reduce dryness and leave the skin looking soft and supple. This makes it not only suitable for exfoliation, but also as a moisturizing ingredient to nourish the skin and keep it hydrated. This dual action makes it a valuable addition to your skincare routine, especially if you’re looking for smooth, hydrated and radiant skin.

Different concentrations

Low concentrations (1-2%): Gentle exfoliation: In low concentrations can help remove dead skin cells from the skin’s surface, providing a smoother and brighter complexion. Improved texture: Regular use of products with a low concentration of malic acid can improve the overall texture of the skin, making it look smoother and more even.

Medium concentrations (5-10%): Increased exfoliation: Malic acid in medium concentrations can exfoliate more deeply, clearing clogged pores and reducing the appearance of acne and blackheads. Improved Skin Renewal: By promoting cell turnover, malic acid may help reduce fine lines, wrinkles and hyperpigmentation, resulting in a more youthful-looking complexion. Improved hydration: Malic acid can also help to better hydrate the skin by retaining moisture.

High concentrations (10-30%): Intensive exfoliation: Treatments with a high concentration of malic acid, such as chemical peels, can provide more intensive exfoliation by targeting deeper layers of the skin. These treatments are usually performed by professionals and can help with more serious skin problems, such as deep wrinkles, acne scars and uneven skin tone.

It is important to note that the effects of malic acid can vary depending on individual skin types and sensitivities.

Pros and Cons

The use of malic acid in skin care offers many benefits, including improved skin texture, complexion brightening and hydration. It is a mild exfoliant, making it suitable for most skin types. For those who have sensitive skin, malic acid provides gentle exfoliation without irritating the skin. This makes it an excellent choice for people who are sensitive to other exfoliating acids such as glycolic acid or salicylic acid. More about 5 fruit acids, the differences and for which skin types

However, caution should be exercised when using products containing malic acid. Excessive use can lead to skin irritation and redness. It is essential to follow the recommended concentrations and frequency of use, and to always use a sunscreen, as the skin may be more sensitive to the sun after exfoliation.

While malic acid is generally considered safe, it’s important to note that its suitability for specific skin conditions may vary.

Here is an overview of the possible effects of malic acid on various skin conditions:

  1. Acne: Malic acid can be beneficial in treating acne due to its exfoliating properties. It can help remove dead skin cells and unclog pores, which can reduce acne breakouts. However, it can also be irritating to sensitive skin, so it’s important to limit its use and test it on a small area of ​​skin before applying to the entire face.
  2. Rosacea: Is a chronic skin condition characterized by redness, blood vessels, and inflammation. While malic acid is not a direct treatment for rosacea, its exfoliating effect can help remove dead skin cells and improve skin texture. It’s important to be careful, though, because malic acid can irritate and exacerbate redness in people with rosacea.
  3. Psoriasis: While there is no specific research on the effects of malic acid on psoriasis, its exfoliating effect may help remove flakes and improve skin texture. However, it is important to be careful because malic acid can irritate psoriasis skin.
  4. Eczema: Is an inflammatory condition of the skin that is accompanied by itching, redness and dryness. The acid can irritate sensitive skin and exacerbate eczema symptoms. It is generally not recommended to use on active eczema patches. It is important to protect and moisturize the skin barrier with appropriate products.

Wide scope of application

It can be found in various skin care products, such as toners, serums and exfoliants. It is an excellent choice for those seeking gentle, yet effective exfoliation, as well as hydration and skin brightening.

In other words

Malic acid is a valuable ingredient in skin care, which can rejuvenate, hydrate and give the skin a healthy glow. It is important to remember that every skin type can react differently to malic acid, so it is recommended that you do a patch test and observe your skin’s reaction before applying it all over the face. With the right approach, malic acid can help you achieve beautiful, glowing skin.

Iconic Elements

The Iconic Elements Targeted Pigment Serum contains, among other things, malic acid, an ingredient that provides a mild exfoliation of the skin. This allows unwanted pigment spots to be removed from the skin more quickly. The serum helps improve skin texture and provides a more even complexion by reducing hyperpigmentation. Due to the exfoliating effect of the malic acid, dead skin cells are gently removed, so that the skin is renewed and rejuvenated.

Malic Acid Pigment Reduction Arbutin Niacinamide
Iconic Elements Selection
Picture of Dr. Francis Wu

Dr. Francis Wu

Dr. Francis Wu, een vooraanstaande dermatoloog, is de drijvende kracht achter Iconic Elements. Hij heeft sinds 2004 zijn expertise ingezet om een veilige en effectieve huidverzorgingslijn te creëren, geschikt voor zowel gezonde huid als huidproblemen. Iconic Elements, opgericht in 2016, is de eerste brede skincare lijn in Nederland ontwikkeld door een dermatoloog. Als medisch specialist streeft Dr. Wu naar het bevorderen van het welzijn van mensen door hoogwaardige en effectieve huidverzorgingsproducten te bieden. De proefdiervrije en vegan producten vermijden schadelijke chemicaliën en bevatten natuurlijke ingrediënten.
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