Citric Acid For Skin: Benefits, Uses, And Side Effects

Written by Arshiya Syeda

Citric acid is well known for various household uses and is a common ingredient in many natural products. It is often used in different beauty treatments, DIY personal care products, and various homemade cleaners.

In this post, we will learn everything about the use of citric acid in skin care. We will explore its benefits, ways of use, and its potential side effects. Take a look.

What Is Citric Acid?

Citric acid is a member of the exfoliating alpha hydroxy acid family. This organic acid is found in citric fruits like lemons, oranges, grapefruit, and berries. It may help improve the appearance of aged skin, boost skin firmness, improve skin elasticity, and help exfoliate skin.

Citric acid is also a common ingredient in preservatives, foods, and other household cleaners.

As discussed, citric acid functions as an alpha hydroxy acid. AHAs are a class of chemical compounds that are either naturally derived from citrus fruits or synthetically produced.

Is Citric Acid Good For Your Skin?

As a member of the alpha hydroxy acid family, citric acid offers various skin benefits. It can chemically exfoliate the face and promote new skin cell growth. It is usually considered safe for all skin types, except for those with known allergies or sensitive skin. Individuals with oily skin can also benefit from citric acid.

It is important to understand if citric acid is the best AHA for your skin type. The following benefits of citric acid for skin can help you with the same.

Benefits Of Citric Acid For The Skin

Citric acid is a great exfoliant that helps brighten a dull complexion. But unlike many other acids from the same family, citric acid is unique as it also possesses antioxidant properties. It may help fight against external aggressors like UV rays, pollutants, etc.

Given below are the benefits of citric acid in more detail.

  • May Brighten Your Skin 

Citric acid is known to exfoliate the skin and remove dead skin cells. Studies have shown that AHAs protect the skin against DNA breakage that is caused by external aggressors. In low concentrations, AHAs like citric acid are beneficial to the skin and fight the ill effects of reactive oxygen species.

Citrus fruits, in general, are very popular skin care ingredients. For instance, lemon rind is commonly used as a scrub to lighten the dark parts of the body (like underarms and dark scars).

  • Possesses Astringent Properties 

Citric acid is a natural astringent. It may help clear away excess skin oils and leaves skin feeling clean and vibrant. It also helps even out your skin tone.

  • May Help Soothe Acne

Oily and acne-prone skin can especially benefit from the mild exfoliating properties of citric acid. Harsh chemical peels use ingredients that may inflame acne breakouts. They can strip away the essential oils from acne-prone skin and deplete skin moisture levels. Citric acid works gently. Diluting it with some water and milk makes for a great remedy for acne-prone skin.

  • May Help Unclog Pores 

Skin pores usually get clogged with dirt, dead skin cells, and bacteria. These clogged pores lead to breakouts. Most skin care products use harsh exfoliants that may further scrape the skin to unclog pores. Citric acid, on the contrary, acts more gently by disintegrating the glue that closely binds dead skin cells. It may unclog pores gently without causing any adverse effects. However, more research is warranted to further understand this mechanism.

  • May Help Maintain Your Skin’s pH Balance

Citric acid is also used to adjust skin care formulas to prevent too much alkalinity. The normal pH of skin is mildly acidic and ranges between 4 and 6. While using a highly acidic skin care product can cause a stinging sensation, using a product too alkaline can deprive your skin of the natural lipids. Citric acid may help balance such skin care formulas as it keeps products from becoming too alkaline.

  • May Help Reduce Skin Wrinkles

In studies, treatments using AHAs were found to help increase collagen production in the skin.

Collagen is present under the skin and is responsible for keeping the skin firm and smooth. While aging reduces the production of collagen over time, citric acid may stimulate collagen production and help fade wrinkles and fine lines.

  • Is Rich In Antioxidant Properties

Citric acid has antioxidant properties that help protect the skin’s barrier from everyday aggressors. It may protect the skin against pollution, environmental factors, and toxins that may otherwise lead to breakouts and premature aging. More research on the antioxidant properties of citric acid are warranted.

Now that you know the benefits of citric acid for skin, let us understand how you can use it for skin care.

How To Use Citric Acid For Skin Care

Although the market is full of skin care products with citric acid, there are several home recipes that you can use. These include:

  • Citric Acid Scrub

Citric acid can be used as an exfoliant by preparing a scrub. Mix 1 tablespoon of citric acid with ¼ of a cup of yogurt and 2 tablespoons of oats. Stir the mixture until you get a smooth paste.

Gently apply this scrub to your skin in circular motions for about two minutes and wash with cool water.

This scrub can help remove dead cells, unclog pores, and leave your skin soft, vibrant, and rejuvenated.

  • Citric Acid Milk Mask

This mask uses a mix of citric and lactic acids to remove dead skin cells and fade any facial marks. Mix 2 tablespoons of citric acid with ¼ cup of low-fat milk and ¼ cup of water. Gently apply this paste to your face and let it sit for 10 to 15 minutes. Wash with warm water.

You also may add lemon slices or lemon powder to your bathwater to keep your skin fresh and rejuvenated. It also may offer certain other benefits:

  • Reduces wrinkles and fine lines
  • Improves body odor
  • Reduces acne breakouts by unclogging pores and flushing out impurities

How To Introduce Citric Acid Into Your Routine

Do a patch test before using citric acid for the first time. Wait for a few hours and observe how your skin reacts to it. Stop use and consult a dermatologist if you notice any abnormal changes in your skin texture, rashes, redness, etc.

But if your skin is largely unaffected by the acid, you may introduce it slowly into your skin care routine.

What Does Citric Acid Work Well With?

Citric acid works well with formulators to elevate the stability, performance, and overall experience of different cosmetic products.

It is easily soluble in water and can be added to almost any product that incorporates it. However, it cannot be used in anhydrous products like body butters.

Who Should Avoid Using Citric Acid?

While citric acid is a safe option for most users, you must ensure its concentration in your daily skin care regimen suits your specific skin type.

Individuals with oily skin may probably tolerate higher concentrations of citric acid than those with dry or sensitive skin. People with hypersensitive skin, on the contrary, are not recommended to use citric acid.

Citric acid may cause certain other side effects. We will explore them in the next section.

Side Effects Of Citric Acid

Although citric acid in its natural form is generally considered safe on skin, many of its supplements are known for their side effects. Among the major side effects of citric acid are irritation and redness, which are more prevalent in those with sensitive skin.

Refrain from consuming citric acid supplements if you have kidney issues or congestive heart disease. Citric acid may also make your skin more susceptible to the sun – hence, wear a good SPF sunscreen lotion after using citric acid.

Bottom Line

Citric acid is a well-known ingredient that acts as a great exfoliating agent. It also promotes skin brightness, and plays an essential role in helping reduce fine lines, dark spots, and wrinkles.

Unlike other acids, citric acid possesses beneficial antioxidant properties that protect your skin against harmful environmental factors. While you can start using citric acid in your skin care routine, be cautious about its potential adverse effects too.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does citric acid cause photosensitivity?

Yes, there are chances of increased photosensitivity when you exfoliate your skin with citric acid. It may make your skin more prone to sun damage. But you can prevent this by wearing a good SPF.


Articles on StyleCraze are backed by verified information from peer-reviewed and academic research papers, reputed organizations, research institutions, and medical associations to ensure accuracy and relevance. Check out our editorial policy for further details.

  1. Dual Effects of Alpha-Hydroxy Acids on the Skin
  2. Astringency of organic acids is related to pH
  3. A antiaging skincare system containing alpha hydroxy acids and vitamins improves the biochemical parameters of facial skin
  4. Use of organic acids in acne and skin discolorations therapy

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Arshiya Syeda is an editor and certified counselor. Ever the lover of the written word, she served on the editorial boards of her school and college newsletters. Writing articles on hairstyles, hair care, and nutrition helped her combine her love for reading, writing, and research. As an editor, she helps her team members deliver polished and meticulously researched content. Arshiya is fluent in English, Urdu, and Hindi and aims to become a multilinguist by learning German and teaching herself American Sign Language (ASL).