Medically reviewed by Minimalist Health Specialist -  Written by Sritama Dutta (Medical Science)  on 06th Oct 2020

Malic Acid- The Secret To Healthy Skin

Malic Acid For Healthy Skin

Do you love the tangy, sour taste in your foods and drinks?

It's a compound called 'Malic Acid' that gives your food the sour taste. You might have missed noticing, but Malic acid has been present around us for centuries. It has been in our diet since the beginning of humanity.

Not only is Malic Acid found in fruits and vegetables, but it is also naturally produced in our body too. It plays a significant role in improving our natural immune system, promoting oral health, and it also maintains our internal pH balance.

Thanks to its amazing properties, malic acid has found its way into the cosmetic industry. If you are not familiar with the fundamentals of malic acid and its mechanism of action, this article will help you know more about it. Keep scrolling to know more what is malic acid and how it is beneficial for your wellbeing! 

What is Malic Acid?

Malic acid is a dicarboxylic acid generated in the cells of all living organisms as a part of their metabolism. This organic compound, responsible for the sour taste of fruits, is classified among the Alpha Hydroxy Acids.  

Did You Know?

The name "Malic Acid" originated from the Latin word 'Malum' meaning 'Apple.'  

Apart from being available in apples, it is also found in various other fruits such as apricots, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, grapes, peaches, pears and plums. Malic acid is also present in fruit wines in high concentrations. It is one of the major components in apple cider vinegar.

Malic acid has been incorporated in several skincare and hair products like shampoos, body lotions, creams, anti-acne remedies and serums. Let's discover how malic acid affects your skin and hair's health and what difference it brings to your beauty regime.  

How Does Malic Acid Work? 

Malic acid works like any other Alpha Hydroxy Acids. For any topically applied product to work effectively, it requires penetrating the epidermal layer to reach the cells in the inner dermis. Malic acid passes the outer layers of the skin and performs directly on the living cells of the dermis.

In the epidermis, the acid affects the process of keratinization by diminishing the cellular cohesion between the corneocytes at the lowest levels of the stratum corneum. It promotes the formation of new layers of the stratum corneum.

In the underlying dermal level, malic acid has shown improvement in collagen production, which causes an increase in skin resiliency and strength.  

How is Malic Acid Beneficial?

Malic acid has various positive effects on your overall health. It is often taken in combination with creatine supplements as it helps in better absorption of creatine in the blood. Malic acid also improves your body's exercise endurance and promotes energy production, and reduces muscle fatigue. Malic acid is beneficial in treating fibromyalgia.

Now let's see how malic acid is good for your skin and scalp health.  

How is Malic Acid Beneficial?

1. Helps In Skin Hydration and Maintain pH Balance

Malic acid acts as a humectant that helps retain the moisture in your skin and keeps it hydrated. It leaves your skin soft and supple.

Sebum secreted by the sebaceous gland mixes with sweat and forms an Acid Mantle on the skin's surface. This acid mantle is a thin film that acts as a protective barrier against bacteria, viruses, and external contaminants that might penetrate your skin.

While the other AHA acids disrupt the acid mantle, malic acid helps to restore it. Thanks to its buffering capacity, Malic acid helps maintain your skin's natural acid-base balance around 4.5 to 6.5 pH.  

2. Cleanses and Improves Skin Tone 

The malic acid in skincare products can penetrate underneath the epidermis and help clean your skin at the deepest level. It promotes collagen production and slowly sloughs up the outer skin, which helps to evens out the skin tone and gives you a brighter looking skin.  

3. Aids in Reduction of Acne and Dark Spots

The dead cell peeling property of malic acid also helps in preventing acne formation too. It penetrates deep into the skin and unclogs the blocked pores to promote sebum drainage. It helps to reduce skin breakouts and bumps. Also, improvement in cell turnover helps to get rid of acne scars and dark spots.  

4. Acts as an Exfoliating Agent

The mild acidic activity of Malic acid helps in stimulating the slow exfoliation of old dull skin layers. It breaks the cohesive bond between the dead dermal cells and the healthy newer cells and reveals the underlying fresh skin layer. Regular use of malic acid leaves your skin feeling fresh and rejuvenated. 

5. Has an Anti-aging Property 

Malic acid also improves skin cell turnover, which means it promotes the formation of new cells rapidly. This property of malic acid helps in reducing the signs of aging. It helps in minimizing fine lines and wrinkles and also gives a smoother skin texture. Its ability to promote collagen formation, which makes your skin look younger and improves its resiliency.  

How is Malic Acid Good for Your Hair?

1. Helps Get Rid of Greasy Hair 

Apart from giving you flawless, radiant skin, malic acid can also give you gorgeous hair. If you find that your hair has lost its natural bounce and has become greasy, it might be because of product accumulation on your scalp. Continuous use of any hair care product like leave-on creams and serums can leave a residue on your scalp and hair strands, making it appear dull, oily and sticky. Acid washes with a mild concentration of malic acid, once in a while, can help to wash out the product residue and bring back your hair's natural shine.  

2. Maintain pH Balance of the Scalp 

Malic acid helps in maintaining the acid-base equilibrium of your scalp and uphold an optimum pH. This, in turn, keeps the hair follicles nourished and your hair smooth and lustrous by locking the moisture. Malic acid can also clear clogged hair follicles to drain out sebum.  

3. Acts as a Hair Conditioner 

Malic acid can also act as a Hair conditioner. Washing your hair twice a week with a mild concentration of malic acid can give you soft and silky hair that you always wanted. 

4. Acts as an Anti-dandruff Agent 

Malic acid can help you get rid of dandruff from your scalp. Its property to exfoliate and slough off dead skin cells is useful in your scalp layer too. Regular use of Malic acid can fight dandruff and prevent it from coming back again. 

5. Improved Hair Growth

Malic acid's role in the improvement of collagen formation also helps in strengthening hair and its roots. It prevents hair thinning by minimizing the damage to hair follicles. As malic acid also promotes new cell generation, it helps to boost hair growth. 

What are the Potential Side-effects of Malic Acid?

Malic acid is milder and less irritating to the skin than other Alpha hydroxy acids. Nevertheless, it must be used with caution.

Some people have reported an allergic reaction to malic acid on the skin. It is recommended to do a patch test of any product containing malic acid before a complete application. 

How to do a patch test? 

Apply a small swab of the product on a small area on the inside of your wrist or back of your ear. Cover the area with a gauge piece. Wait for a day to see how your skin reacts to it. Wash off the product if your skin burns or itches. Consult your dermatologist if the irritation persists or aggravates.

Malic acid can also cause your skin to redden. It can cause itching or burns. Precaution must be taken so that the acid does not enter your eyes or the skin around your eyes.

Inhalation of malic acid fumes can trigger certain side effects such as nausea, headaches and diarrhea, though there is no sufficient research data behind this fact.

There are only a few studies until now regarding the negative impact of topically applied malic acid. However, it is wise to consult with your dermatologist before using any product containing malic acid as an ingredient if you have any existing skin condition.

Some studies have shown that malic acid can interact with certain drugs too. Accumulation of Malic acid in your blood level can play a role in lowering blood pressure.

Hypertensive patients on medication like enalapril, captopril, losartan, amlodipine or furosemide that aids in lowering blood pressure are recommended to refrain from using malic acid products.

It can lower blood pressure beyond the normal limit.  

How to Use Malic Acid on Skin? 

Malic acid is found in considerable conversation in apple cider vinegar (ACV), which is safe to typically apply on the skin. It is used as a peel-off product that effectively exfoliates your skin.

Minimalist Apple Cider vinegar 2% + Glycolic Acid 10%

Apply a thick layer of ACV in 2% concentration serum once a week in your skin at night and leave it for 10 minutes. Rinse it off with warm water and apply a soft moisturizer or your favorite rejuvenating serum after washing your face.  

Expert's Advice from Minimalist:

Exfoliating with Malic acid makes the newly revealed skin to be susceptible to sun damage. It is advisable to use a broad-spectrum sunscreen with SPF 30 or above to prevent sunburns. 

To Sum It Up: 

Malic acid is widely available in fruits and vegetables. Our body tissues also produce it as a byproduct of our metabolic process. Various manufacturers are using it in cosmetic products because of its multiple beneficial effects.

If you are intrigued by the benefits of malic acid, include it in your beauty and wellness regime to get rid of the signs of aging, dullness, and pigmentation. Unleash strong and healthy skin (and hair!) today!