What is succinic acid? Derms shares its anti-acne powers| Good + Good

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Way beyond your teenage years and still deal with pesky breakouts? If conventional topicals (think salicylic acid, benzoyl peroxide, and sulfur) aren’t enough to keep blemishes at bay, maybe it’s time to add something new and very promising to your rotation. Enter: Succinic Acid, a skincare ingredient that has the potential to clarify *and* hydrate your skin, without irritation.

First of all, what is succinic acid?

“Succinic acid is a compound derived from sugar cane, among other natural sources,” says New York-based board-certified dermatologist Joshua Zeichner, MD. “It’s most commonly used in skincare for its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory benefits to the skin, which is why succinic acid is often found in products used to treat acne.” However, there are a few caveats when it comes to calling him a one-of-a-kind hero. (More on that later.)

The benefits of succinic acid

The succinic acid star is on the rise (it contains more than over 116 million TikTok views nowadays) thanks to its comprehensive benefits that include, but go far beyond, helping to clarify acne-prone skin. Michele Green, MD, a board-certified dermatologist based in New York City, gives us a master class on the benefits of succinic acid below.

1. It kills acne-causing bacteria

“Succinic acid contains antimicrobial properties that inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungi that cause acne breakouts,” says Dr. Green. Since acne is usually caused by bacteria trapped inside your pores, getting rid of those bacteria with an antimicrobial ingredient, like this one, can prevent pimples from appearing in the first place.

2. It helps with a range of inflammatory skin conditions

Given the anti-inflammatory properties of this acid, it turns out it has the potential to work its magic on skin conditions other than acne. Dr Green says it is “not only beneficial for calming acne lesions, but also for relieving symptoms associated with eczema and psoriasis”.

3. It fights shine

“Due to its similarity to the skin’s natural lipids, succinic acid also controls excess sebum production,” says Dr. Green. When you normalize sebum levels, you not only prevent a shiny complexion, but also the buildup and clogged pores that lead to breakouts.

4. It hydrates your skin

Since some acne removers can dry out your skin and make it even more sensitized, the fact that succinic acid is also extremely hydrating is a plus that makes it all the more appealing. “It provides moisture to restore the skin’s natural protective barrier, and since it’s water-soluble, the skin can easily absorb it,” notes Dr. Green.

5. It protects the skin from signs of aging

As if that didn’t sound impressive enough already, succinic acid can also be a valuable addition to your pro-aging skincare routine. “It has antioxidant properties that protect the skin from free radical damage caused by the sun’s UV rays,” says Dr. Green. “It also promotes skin cell rejuvenation and stimulates cell turnover to increase elasticity and firmness.”

6. It is safe and gentle enough for all skin types

Finally, Dr. Green adds that even people with sensitive skin should be able to tolerate succinic acid. “Although ‘acid’ is in its name, it’s more like hyaluronic acid than salicylic acid or glycolic acid in terms of the exfoliation that can cause irritation,” she explains. she. That said, if your skin is very sensitive, you’ll want to be a little more careful when incorporating succinic acid into your routine, especially if you’re applying other active ingredients like retinol, AHAs, or BHAs. It’s also a good idea to do a patch test first to assess tolerance.

Is succinic acid fully proven to treat acne?

Although it looks like succinic acid is really gaining its popularity, there are a few things to note about this outperforming ingredient. For starters, Dr. Zeichner points out that succinic acid alone is not an officially approved acne treatment (at least not yet), but rather may help other acne fighters.

“To be considered a true acne treatment, a product must comply with the FDA Acne Treatment Products Monograph and contain an ingredient such as benzoyl peroxide or salicylic acid,” explains he. However, he notes that the use of succinic acid tandem with such ingredients is always a great option for people with acne prone skin.

Dr. Green also calls out the lack of research available to date that demonstrates the safety and effectiveness of succinic acid for the skin, especially when compared to the multitude of studies confirming the benefits of retinoids, sodium peroxide benzoyl and exfoliating acids. But all that doesn’t mean you should rule it out altogether; after all, both derms always give it the green light. “Anecdotal evidence has shown positive results,” Dr. Green continues, and she predicts that succinic acid will be incorporated into more skincare products with more research and approval.

Succinic Acid Skin Care Products to Try

INKEY List Succinic Acid Treatment – $9.00

This economical treatment from the Inkey list has arguably put succinic acid on the map. “It contains 2% succinic acid, 2% sulfur and 1% salicylic acid to treat acne blemishes,” says Dr. Green. “For acne-prone skin, succinic acid can combine well with salicylic acid; just be sure to introduce it slowly into your routine to avoid irritation.

Medicube Red Acne Succinic Acid Peel – $82.00

As Dr. Zeichner noted above, succinic acid works best to banish breakouts when combined with other powerful ingredients (as long as your skin can tolerate them, of course). This K-beauty Medicube washable peel contains lactic acid to support skin cell turnover, salicylic acid to clean pores and multitasking succinic acid for greater clarity and balance skin in just 60 seconds.

Zelens Hyaluron Intense Hydro-Plumping Serum — $105.00

If you’re less concerned about clearing breakouts and more intrigued by succinic acid’s other properties, Dr. Green suggests checking out this hydrating serum. “It contains hyaluronic acid, kaempferol (an antioxidant) and succinic acid to provide anti-aging benefits and hydration to the skin,” she shares.

For more information on how to treat adult acne, watch the video below.

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