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Succinic Acid For Acne Treatment: A More Gentle Skincare Ingredient

We’re all familiar with acids in our skincare. Alpha hydroxy acids (AHA’s) like glycolic acid and beta hydroxy acids (BHA’s) like salicylic acid are often used in products targeted to clarify skin and help exfoliate it. Different acids, like hyaluronic acid, help hydrate and soften the skin.

However, there’s a new acid on the skincare block, and you probably haven’t heard much about it. Succinic acid is a natural, plant-based acid that is a rising star in skincare, and at Rael, we wanted all in. 

We researched and have everything you need to know about what succinic acid is, what it does, and who can use it. We also formulated a product with succinic acid as the start ingredient so that you can grab all the benefits in a gentle, holistic formula like only the skincare team at Rael can deliver. 

What Is Succinic Acid?

Succinic acid is an organic acid derived from certain plants and even from amber, a naturally occurring gemstone. Succinic acid is found in sugar beets, rhubarb, broccoli, and even meats and cheeses. You can also find it hanging out in fermented foods like sauerkraut and apple cider vinegar.

Although succinic acid can be synthetic, the type you find in skincare products is usually derived from sugarcane or amber. 

Succinic acid is like a wildcard among skincare acids. Like salicylic acid in its ability to gently remove dead skin cells from the skin’s surface, the mechanism it uses to do so is easier on your skin, which makes it perfect for sensitive skin types. 

Like hyaluronic acid, succinic acid is hydrating, but the molecules are smaller, which means it can penetrate your skin more deeply. 

Here’s a closer look at how it works. 

Benefits of Succinic Acid

If we had to guess, we’d wager you’re going to be seeing a lot more of this multitasking acid showing up in your skincare products. It offers numerous skin benefits with virtually zero side effects, making it the solution for anyone who’s never had luck with AHAs or BHAs. Here’s a rundown of its benefits. 

Disinfectant Properties

Disinfecting properties help succinic acid clear away bacteria and fungi that could feed acne and cause breakouts. Salicylic acid has some disinfectant properties, but succinic acid has been proven to be more effective in eliminating the germs that grow P. acnes. 

The best part? Succinic acid is powerful against bad germs, but it doesn’t interfere with the good germs that make up your skin’s microbiome. Interfering with the healthy bacteria on your skin can irritate and make blemishes and breakouts worse. 

Succinic acid clears away the bad while protecting the good—kind of like a little skin security guard. 

Skin Soother

Irritated skin can be hard to treat. No matter what you use, your skin feels uncomfortable, itchy, dry, or like it’s on fire. 

Succinic acid is a soothing, gentle acid that works well for skin that is tormented by large, under-the-skin bumps, areas of swelling, or irritation. 

Succinic acid helps calm the skin and even offers some analgesic effects, helping relieve discomfort caused by bumps and blemishes. 

Hydrates

Even if you have oily skin, it’s probably dehydrated. In fact, oily skin is often the result of skin that is seriously dry. When your skin is dry, your sebaceous glands start clocking over time to produce more sebum to compensate. The result is skin that is excessively oily and usually blemish-prone. 

Succinic acid is an excellent skin hydrator that closely resembles our skin’s natural oil. Much like jojoba oil, its chemical structure is so similar to sebum that our skin naturally absorbs it quickly and more efficiently than other oils or acids. 

Succinic acid also works as an emollient to help condition and soften your skin and as a humectant to draw moisture in and lock it inside for ultimate hydration. 

Antioxidant Properties

Free radicals are unbalanced molecules that attack your skin and cause premature aging. They come from sources like ultraviolet sun rays, pollution, cigarette smoke, and industrial cleaning products. Basically, they’re everywhere. 

You can protect your skin against free radicals by dosing it with antioxidants. Antioxidants shield your skin from free radicals and help you avoid skin damage associated with it. Succinic acid is a natural antioxidant, similar to vitamin C. 

Exfoliating Properties

Exfoliating refers to removing the top layer of dead skin cells, dirt, and oil from the surface of your skin. There’s a whole host of benefits associated with exfoliating, like preventing blemishes, keeping your skin texture smooth and even, and giving you an amazing glow. 

Some exfoliants, like AHA’s, can cause skin sensitivity. AHAs actually cause skin wounding by causing the first layers of your skin cells to die. 

Succinic acid works differently. Instead of damaging your skin cells, succinic acid binds to dead skin cells and gently peels them away from the living cells on your skin. This makes exfoliating accessible to even people with the most sensitive types of skin. 

Who Can Use Succinic Acid?

Because succinic acid is so gentle, it’s workable for every skin type. If you have blemish-prone skin, you’ll benefit from the mild exfoliating and pore-cleansing antimicrobial effects of succinic acid. 

For dry skin, succinic acid hydrates without clogging pores and helps restore your skin’s natural moisture balance. 

If you have sensitive skin, succinic acid may be the solution you’ve been searching for. You can use it for exfoliation and deep cleansing without developing irritation like you would if you used an AHA or BHA-based exfoliant.  

Succinic Acid In Products

You might find succinic acid paired with other acids in skincare products. Although it’s pretty new to the scene, it’s already partnering with salicylic acid to help combat bumps and blemishes. However, if you have a sensitivity to salicylic acid, you’ll want to use a succinic acid-only product. 

Hyaluronic acid also works well with succinic acid to keep skin properly hydrated and smooth. If you have particularly dry skin, or if you’re in desperate need of balancing your skin’s natural moisture level, a product with succinic and hyaluronic would be an ideal fit. 

Side Effects of Succinic Acid

Succinic acid is powerfully effective, but it’s so gentle on your skin that no reported side effects are known. Unlike most AHA’s and BHA’s that carry some risk of skin sensitivity, succinic acid is so mild, even if the most sensitive skin types can use it without worrying about developing irritation. 

It goes without saying that anytime you try a new skincare product, you should always spot test it on an inconspicuous area of your skin to make sure you don’t have an allergy to it. 

How To Use It

Succinic acid works best in cleansers and serums. Succinic acid’s molecular structure is really small, and it’s easy for it to penetrate your skin.

However, if you pair succinic acid with large molecules (like the kind you find in moisturizers or heavy creams), it can become impossible for the succinic acid to penetrate. The larger molecules from the moisturizer will block succinic acid’s ability to penetrate.

To grab the most of succinic acid’s exfoliating properties, a cleanser is your best option. And of course, you know Rael has you covered. 

Get Rael

It’s no secret; we love succinic acid. We wanted to include an exfoliating cleanser in our product lineup for a long time, but we just weren’t happy with the options available for exfoliating ingredients. 

At Rael, our skincare is based on K-beauty technology, which treats the skin with gentle, effective ingredients that don’t cause irritation or clog your pores. For the full skincare experience, our Miracle product line is here to help.

The antimicrobial properties of succinic acid pair with its gentle skin-peeling abilities to deep clean your skin and exfoliate without leaving your skin red, raw, or uncomfortable. The best news, it’s safe to use every day. 

For skin that is seriously clarified, smooth, ultra-hydrated, and glowing, grab our Miracle Clear Exfoliating Cleanser, and don’t forget about the rest of our clean, cruelty-free skincare. Designed to naturally keep your skin balanced and beautiful, you can trust our skincare to leave your skin looking radiant without the use of chemicals that could harm you or the environment. 


Sources:

Succinic Acid - an overview | Science Direct 

Succinic Acid and Acne | NCBI 

Antioxidant Effects of Succinic Acid | Springer 

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