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Dangers d'une application topique d'acide tartrique.

Is tartaric acid dangerous for the skin?

Tartaric acid is present in many exfoliating skin care products. Therefore, its use in dermo-cosmetics is common. However, is tartaric acid dangerous for the skin?

A quick overview of tartaric acid, an exfoliating active ingredient.

Also known as threaric acid and 2,3-dihydroxysuccinic acid, tartaric acid is widely found in nature. It can be found in vines, grapes, and vine leaves, as well as in dandelions, sugar beets, and many fruits. In the 18th century, it was first isolated from grapes by Carl Wilhem SCHEEL, a Swedish apothecary. Since the mid-20th century, it can be produced from the residues of wine production, using sulfuric acid.

It is commonly used in the food industry to enhance the taste of candies, ice creams, and juices, among other things. Thetartaric acid has become a common ingredient in skincare products due to its keratolytic and astringent properties. It hydrates the skin, stimulates metabolism, promotes healing, and also has an anti-aging effect. It comes in the form of a crystalline powder. Being an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA), tartaric acid is water-soluble and acts on the skin's surface. Its action mainly targets signs of aging, spots, acne, as well as damage caused to the skin by the sun.

The dangers of tartaric acid on skin and hair.

Tartaric acid falls under the category of alpha-hydroxy acids. Among all AHAs, it is one of those with a gentle dermabrasive action on the skin. However, it is important to note that excessive use of tartaric acid can lead to several side effects, namely:

  • Local irritations;

  • Pain;

  • A sensation of itching;

  • Edema;

  • Redness in the treated area;

  • The hypersensitivity of the treated area.

This is not about extreme dangers, where the risks could lead to deterioration, or even skin lesions. However, the side effects of excessive use of tartaric acid can be bothersome and unpleasant. In all cases, the thing to do is to use the care products containing tartaric acid in a reasonable manner.

Tartaric acid is therefore not suitable for all skin types.While it is suitable for dry skin, it is not recommended for frequent use on sensitive skin. If you have skin that is sensitive to conditions such as psoriasis or acne, it is recommended to maximize the intervals between uses of tartaric acid-based skincare products.

Tartaric Acid, Instructions for Use.

There are several types of skincare products that contain tartaric acid in their composition (cream, serum, mask, shampoo, hair serum...). However, their use should be reasonable and limited.

  • It is advisable to use this active ingredient during the evening daily routine to minimize any risk of photosensitivity. Indeed, tartaric acid increases the skin's sensitivity to the sun, thus increasing the risk of sunburn. We also recommend consistently applying a SPF cream every morning and limiting or even avoiding prolonged sun exposure, as long as you are using a product containing tartaric acid and up to a week after its last application.

  • In the same vein, it is preferable to apply products containing tartaric acid in fall/winter, rather than in the summer period. However, it is still possible to start or continue applying tartaric acid solutions during sunny periods (spring and summer), provided of course that it is combined with a minimum SPF30 sun protection and as much as possible, sun exposure is avoided.

  • The frequency of use depends on your skin type, skin tolerance level, as well as your needs and expectations. We advise you to start atspaced intervals, such as every other night or even every third night, then increase the frequency after one to two weeks if your skin tolerates this active ingredient well. It is normal to temporarily feel a slight sensation of warmth, some tingling, or a mild dryness of the skin during the initial days. If your skin is naturally dry or if you are applying a tartaric acid-based product for the first time, start with a product with a low concentration so that your skin can adjust (around 5%).

  • It is recommended to apply a tartaric acid treatment onlyonce a day, at most, in order to avoid all the side effects mentioned above.

  • For tartaric acid to function properly on the skin, it is often combined with other acids such as glycolic acid, lactic acid, malic acid, citric acid, or mandelic acid. Therefore, it is not uncommon for several of these ingredients to be found in the same formulation. However, it is advised against pairing tartaric acid with another ingredient with a dermabrasive action like salicylic acid. Using two exfoliating treatments at the same time can affect the overall health of the skin. Therefore, it is important to check the composition of all treatments used during a beauty routine.

It should be noted that there are also hair care products containing tartaric acid, whose effect on the scalp is identical to that of tartaric acid on the skin. Therefore, the precautions for use are the same for hair products as they are for skin care treatments.


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