Tartaric Acid



Tartaric Acid at a glance

  • Is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA)
  • Is one of the chief acids in wine
  • Has antioxidant properties
  • Helps maintain the pH that other AHAs need to act as exfoliants
  • Is safe as used in cosmetics

Tartaric Acid description

Tartaric acid is a naturally occurring crystalline organic acid found in many plants, including grapes and tamarinds. It is one of the chief acids in wine. Tartaric acid has antioxidant properties and is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), though it is not quite as well-researched when it comes to skin benefits as glycolic and lactic acids. It functions best in helping to maintain the pH range that other AHAs need to work their magic. In certain formulas, it helps provide more targeted exfoliation, as each type of AHA has its layer-by-layer benefits owing to its molecular size. Interestingly, in vitro studies have shown that when tartaric acid is broken down into derivatives known as tartramides, its chemical structure mimics that of skin’s own ceramides. In a lab setting, these tartramides were shown to successfully replace ceramides in a model of skin’s lipid matrix; however, it’s unknown if this benefit also occurs on intact skin via cosmetic products. Tartaric acid has been deemed safe as used in cosmetics.

Tartaric Acid references

  • Molecules, April 2018, ePublication; and February 2010, pages 824-833
  • Journal of the German Society of Dermatology, July 2012, pages 488-491
  • Skin Therapy Letter, November-December 2008, pages 5-9
  • Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology, April 2004, pages 76–87

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.