1. Health 360°
  2. Beauty
  3. Skincare

Flo Fact-Checking Standards

Every piece of content at Flo Health adheres to the highest editorial standards for language, style, and medical accuracy. To learn what we do to deliver the best health and lifestyle insights to you, check out our content review principles.

Malic Acid: Surprising Skin Care Benefits

Malic acid is a chemical compound in certain fruits and wines. Malic acid is taken as a supplement and is found in some skin creams and facial treatments. Read on for everything you should know about this compound.

Malic acid is an alpha-hydroxy carboxylic acid. These are weaker acids that naturally occur in certain foods and milk sugars. Alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) are often active ingredients in skin care products.

Malic acid is a skin care ingredient that can be found in anti-aging creams, chemical peels, and acne treatments

AHAs work on the top layers of skin and also penetrate deeper into the dermal layers. They facilitate exfoliation of dead skin cells and gently peel off the top layer of skin. At the top layers of skin, exfoliation can reduce the appearance of light wrinkles, sunspots, and dull skin, all effects of aging. At the deeper dermal layers, malic acid and other AHAs promote regrowth of skin tissue and enhance elasticity and fullness.

In the 1970s, scientists researched what malic acid does for the skin. They found that AHAs could have a positive effect on skin conditions related to keratinization. These can include dermatitis and certain kinds of acne, as well as patches of red, bumpy skin.

Clinical studies have proven the effectiveness of using malic acid on your skin. Malic acid and other AHAs have the following skin care benefits:

  • Exfoliate dead skin cells
  • Reduce the appearance of fine lines and soften the appearance of deeper wrinkles
  • Eliminate or lighten age spots
  • Treat and reduce the severity of acne
  • Brighten sun-damaged skin
  • Promote collagen production for plumper, fuller skin
  • Promote blood flow to the skin and increase the delivery of vital nutrients to skin cells
  • Minimize discoloration and create more even pigmentation
  • Reduce the severity of and heal body acne
  • Improve product absorption by exfoliating the dead skin layer, which won’t absorb moisturizer, and revealing fresh skin
  • May eliminate small shallow scars and reduce the appearance of larger scars
  • Slow the development of thick skin

The effectiveness of malic acid for your skin condition will vary. For the best results, consult with a professional dermatologist.

Some people claim that pears can prevent kidney stones because of the presence of malic acid. The malic and citric acids in certain kinds of fruits may prevent and reduce the frequency and size of kidney stones. AHAs raise the pH level of your urine. This helps keep calcium deposits from turning into kidney stones in your kidneys and bladder.

Pears have an especially high concentration of malic acid. When eaten regularly, pears can make it harder for kidney stones to form. However, if you already have kidney stones or don’t like eating pears, you can talk to your health care provider about taking a malic acid supplement. Your health care provider or urologist can help determine the specific dosage that’s right for you.

Malic acid may also be beneficial for people with fibromyalgia, a condition characterized by chronic joint and muscle pain, fatigue, and inflammation. Combined with magnesium supplements, malic acid has been shown to reduce inflammation all over the body, which can make it easier for people with fibromyalgia to move around and resume daily activities.

If you’ve been diagnosed with fibromyalgia, don’t start taking magnesium and/or malic acid powder supplements without talking to a health care provider first. Your health care provider can work with you to determine if it’s a good course of treatment and find a brand and dosage that’s right for you.

More concentrated malic acid treatments, specifically those used as a chemical peel to treat acne, can cause redness and irritation after application. This is due in part to the skin cells shedding and the irritation that the new skin has from environmental elements. However, new forms of AHA treatments include glycolic acid, which creates a time-release system of the alpha-hydroxy acid and lessens the amount of irritation.

The concentration of malic acid formula in over-the-counter products or prescriptions that you use at home is typically less than 10 percent with a pH of 3.5 or more (a less harsh acid). These lower-concentration AHAs are created to reduce the sun sensitivity of your skin after use and are gentle enough for daily use. It’s still important to use sunscreen or a moisturizer with sunscreen.

Stronger AHA treatments (those with a concentration of 30 percent or more and pH levels as low as 3.0) should only be applied by trained professionals in a sterile, medical setting. This ensures that the treatment is administered safely and that you can be cared for if you have a severe reaction during the process.

AHAs may have a negative effect on phototoxicity and your skin’s photoprotection. Some studies indicate that prolonged use of AHAs or concentrated malic acid can increase your skin’s sensitivity to the sun.

If you notice continuing redness and irritation or itchy skin when you’re in the sun when you’re using topical AHAs, stop using them and speak with your health care provider. For chemical peels and acne treatment, malic acid has some side effects. Your health care provider or dermatologist will go over these with you. It’s important to follow your aftercare instructions to ensure that the treatment is as successful as possible and reduce irritation as your skin heals.

Dietary supplements are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) like medications are. Medications have to follow strict guidelines for testing and safety. FDA-approved medications are required to do what they say they can do.

Because they’re not regulated by the FDA, supplements aren’t required to back up their manufacturer’s claims. Topical malic acid is generally safe if used as directed. FDA-approved skin care products containing AHAs are required to meet certain guidelines. However, malic acid powder as a dietary supplement does not have to meet these standards and may or may not be safe or effective.

The FDA recommends that you only use topical products with less than 10 percent malic acid and other AHAs combined. A higher concentration may increase the risk of side effects. Overusing products with AHAs may also increase the risk and severity of side effects.

You can use malic acid in a skin cream with other anti-aging vitamins and compounds such as vitamin E, nicotinamide (an active form of vitamin B3), ascorbyl tetraisopalmitate (a form of vitamin C), and sun protection.

When you’re using malic acid for skin care, make sure to wash your face first. Many people like using micellar water or rose water because it’s gentle on the skin. Apply the treatment, wait for it to absorb, then apply your usual sunscreen and moisturizer.

If your health care provider has told you to take a malic acid supplement for kidney stones or fibromyalgia, then follow the directions on the package and drink plenty of water to help the acid absorb better.

You can buy skin care products containing malic acid and AHAs anywhere skin care products are sold, including pharmacies or supermarkets. You can buy the supplements at a nutrition or vitamin store, most pharmacies, or supermarkets. You can also buy these products online.

When used on your skin, malic acid can help with many different kinds of conditions and give you healthier, more youthful-looking skin. It can also treat severe cases of acne, easing the physical irritation and pain and helping to improve self-confidence. Malic acid is also used as a supplement in an effort to treat other health conditions. As with any type of new medication or supplement, make sure to talk to your health care provider before taking it. 


Read this next