Spotlight on: Citric Acid

Citric acid is in just about everything from skincare products, to food, to floor cleaner. While lemons aren’t really something you want to be rubbing all over your face, citric acid is something very different and is actually quite beneficial!

Here is what you need to know about citric acid and how to incorporate it into your routine.

What is Citric Acid?

Citric acid is found in, you guessed it, citrus fruits, and is what gives them their acidic flavor. Citric acid was first isolated in 1784 by the Swedish chemist Carl Wilhelm Scheele, who was able to crystallize it from lemon juice.

And not long after, it started to appear in just about everything but particularly in cosmetics and skincare products. In 2016 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Voluntary Cosmetic Registration Program (VCRP) stated that citric acid was used in almost every category of cosmetic products and had over 10,000 reported uses.

It is also used as a popular flavor and preservative agent in foods, soft drinks, and candies.

What Are AHAs?

Citric acid is what’s known as an alpha hydroxy acid (or AHA) in the skincare world. The most basic definition of an HA is a carboxylic acid, which is an organic acid that has at least one carboxyl (carbon double-bonded to oxygen) group. However, that general definition includes unrelated compounds like retinoic acid, L-ascorbic acid, and azelaic acid. Therefore, further qualifications (like alpha, beta, etc) need to be identified.

AHAs are non-abrasive, leave-on exfoliators that are traditionally more effective and gentle than traditional scrubs. Sun damage and overly dry or oily skin can hinder your body’s ability to properly shed dead skin cells. These obstructions can cause skin concerns like dullness, clogged pores, milia, texture, and breakouts. Using an exfoliant can help your skin clear out the dead cells to make room for the new, healthy ones. Chemical exfoliants help to prevent breakouts and premature aging and reduce the appearance of pores.

How Can Citric Acid Benefit Your Skin?

AHAs like glycolic acid and lactic acid can be incredibly potent, and sometimes a little too much for those with sensitive skin. That is where citric acid can be helpful! It is like the training bra of AHAs: It doesn’t really do as much as its fellow acids, but it’s made for people who don’t need the support older girls do.

But what exactly are the benefits of citric acid for the skin? Citric acid (like most all AHAs) can help to brighten skin, shrink pores, treat acne, and correct dark spots and fine lines.

Before it started being added to formulas for its exfoliating abilities, citric acid used to be used to keep the pH range of skincare products in check. The pH of cosmetics and skincare products is important because the skin’s normal pH is slightly acidic. A low acidic pH can cause ingredients to be more irritating for those with sensitive skin.

Is It Safe?

The terms “citric” and “acid” are intimidating on their own but can be downright scary when used together. Especially when it comes to something that you’re putting on your face! But according to The Derm Review, it is perfectly safe to use on the skin! “The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel reviewed scientific literature and data on the safety of citric acid and its salts and ester in 2014. This data revealed that at concentrations used in cosmetics and personal care products, citric acid and its salts and esters were not eye irritants, nor did they cause skin irritation or allergic skin reactions. Thus, CIR concluded that the available scientific data showed that citric acid, its salts, and esters were safe under current conditions of use in cosmetics and personal care products.”

Some people get freaked out by citric acid because they know that lemons are highly irritating for the skin. And while, yes, you can absolutely go overboard with citric acid, it’s safe to use.

Just be cautious, especially if you have sensitive skin. The thing with citric acid is that it can be intense. Let’s put it this way: How will you know if you’re using too much? Side effects of overuse include stinging, burning, and irritation.

If you’re still unsure, always do a patch test first to see how your skin reacts. If you don’t see any irritation or redness, start to slowly introduce it into your routine. Don’t use AHAs the same night you use retinoids or physical exfoliants because that can lead to serious damage to your skin’s barrier!

Bottom Line

Citric acid can be an effective chemical exfoliant for those with sensitive skin. I don’t find it as effective as glycolic or lactic acid, however, but if you have tried those and found them to be too irritating, citric acid could be a great alternative!

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The purpose of this blog is for skin care, makeup, and wellness + health-related reviews and tips only. It is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice. Information posted should not be construed as personal medical advice. Posts are not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure disease.

Primp Tip: How to Find Your Perfect Brow Shape

Eyebrows have been a hot topic of conversation for a while now. Similar to fashion, it seems as if brow trends come and go with the seasons. When I was in high school thin, over-tweezed brows were everywhere. But now, it’s time to give the tweezers a rest! Full brows are dominating the beauty scene. And while bold is on trend, not every woman has been blessed in this department. Rather than force an unnatural shape, this post is all about learning how to enhance your natural eyebrows with minimal tools (and less plucking!). Let’s get to it…

Locating The Start And Endpoints

Begin by lining up your tweezers along the side of your nose. By doing this you should be able to see that the front of your brows should align with the upper bridge of your nose. After you do this, very minimal tweezing between your brows should be done to prevent your eyebrows from looking too far apart. My advice is to just get rid of stray hairs and nothing more.

To locate the end of your brows, align your tweezers with the outer corner of your eyes. Where your tweezers meet your brow bone is ideally where your eyebrows should end. Remember that everyone’s brows are different! Not all brows will extend to the outer corner of the eye and some will reach past this point. Similar to grooming the start of your brows, you don’t want to over-tweeze the end of your brows either. You just want to clean up stray hairs here and there.

Defining The Arch

The easiest way to define your arch is by using a white eyeliner pencil. Using a white eyeliner pencil will help you locate stray hairs that fall outside of your defined eyebrow shape. Draw a line tracing the bottom of your eyebrow. You should be following the natural arch of your eyebrow for this step, not creating a new one. Once you’ve drawn the line, tweeze whatever stray hairs fall below it.

My last bit of advice for defining your brows is to trim them. To do this, use an eyebrow spooly and comb those brows upwards. Take eyebrow scissors and trim any hairs that are longer than your actual brow shape. This step helps maintain your shape more than just using products alone.

Brow Sculpting 101

Now that you’ve enhanced the natural shape of your brows, it’s time to help them out a bit. If you’re more of a natural girl when it comes to makeup, brow gels are going to be your best friend. Clear gels will help keep your brows sculpted all day long without having to fill them in. If you have sparse brows I recommend trying your hand at brow pencils, powders or colored gels.

While drama isn’t necessarily a bad thing, remember to keep it natural when filling in your brows. Start by filling in the arches, using strokes that mimic the direction of your natural hair growth. Then, follow your arches to fill in the end of your eyebrows. Use longer strokes here but don’t go too far past the ends.

Lastly, use smaller strokes to fill in the starting points of your eyebrows. This area is where you should be filling in your brows the least. Like I mentioned earlier, use strokes that mimic your actual hairs as to avoid any over-filling. As a finishing touch, use a spooly to blend the product into your brows for the most natural effect.

Like anything else in life, practice makes perfect. If you’re still unsure about grooming your brows, here’s how to decide whether to wax, thread or tweeze. I hope this helps any brow debacles that you might be having!


What tips and tricks do you have when it comes to brows? 

I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments.

XO Lee

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