Succinic Acid



Succinic Acid at a glance

  • Used in cosmetics to adjust pH and mask unpleasant odors
  • Produced naturally on skin where it controls the population of C. acnes
  • Products with succinic acid may play an indirect role in improving breakouts
  • May be synthetic or obtained via fermentation

Succinic Acid description

Succinic acid is a synthetic or biofermented ingredient that’s primarily used in cosmetics to adjust pH, serve as a chelating agent, and mask unpleasant odors (although it doesn’t contain fragrance components). This ingredient is often touted for helping with acne, although such marketing claims aren’t strongly supported by scientific research. It’s helpful potential is more indirect, but more definitive research is needed. In terms of succinic acid’s connection to breakouts, research has shown that a strain of bacteria on skin known as _S. epidermidis_ produces succinic acid in order to naturally reduce the population of _C. acnes_ bacteria. However, it’s not certain if the succinic acid is working alone or in tandem with other bacteria comprising skin’s microbiome. Other research has shown succinic acid might be helpful for breakouts because it disrupts the intercellular pH of the _C. acnes_ strain; however, it’s not as potent or thorough in this regard as the gold standard acne ingredient benzoyl peroxide. Keep in mind that too much succinic acid may have a toxic effect on skin cells due to its high acidity (its natural pH hovers around 1, which is highly acidic). To counter this, it must be buffered in solution to pH 3.5 or greater. This has been the case with succinic acid-containing skin care products we’ve encountered to date. Animal research done on mice has shown topical use of fermented succinic acid reduces the inflammation triggered by acne-causing bacteria. However, other research has found that succinic acid does not have such properties, one more reason to not consider it instead of many other soothing skin care ingredients that have unanimous positive research behind them. Usage levels of succinic acid in skin care are typically 1–5%. It may be used in the same formula with salicylic acid, since the benefits of both depend on a more acidic pH range.

Succinic Acid references

  • Nature Reviews Microbiology, August 2022, ePublication
  • BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies, July 2019, pages 1–9
  • American Journal of Clinical Dermatology, June 2019, pages 335–344
  • Dermatology, May 2019, pages 287–294
  • Applied Microbiology and Technology, January 2014, pages 411–424

Peer-reviewed, substantiated scientific research is used to assess ingredients in this dictionary. Regulations regarding constraints, permitted concentration levels and availability vary by country and region.

Ingredient ratings


Proven and supported by independent studies. Outstanding active ingredient for most skin types or concerns.


Necessary to improve a formula's texture, stability, or penetration.


Generally non-irritating but may have aesthetic, stability, or other issues that limit its usefulness.


There is a likelihood of irritation. Risk increases when combined with other problematic ingredients.


May cause irritation, inflammation, dryness, etc. May offer benefit in some capability but overall, proven to do more harm than good.


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Not rated

We have not yet rated this ingredient because we have not had a chance to review the research on it.