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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. Its use in dermo-cosmetics is therefore common. However, is tartaric acid dangerous for the skin?

Tartaric acid, a quick overview of this 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 sulphuric acid.

It is commonly used in the food industry to enhance the taste of sweets, 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-ageing 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 ageing, spots, acne, as well as damage caused to the skin by the sun.

The dangers of tartaric acid on the skin and hair.

Tartaric acid falls under the category of alpha-hydroxy acids. Of all the 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;

  • Oedemas;

  • Redness in the treated area;

  • The hypersensitivity of the treated area.

We are not discussing extreme dangers, the risks of which 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 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 maximise the intervals between uses of tartaric acid-based treatments.

Tartaric Acid, a user's guide.

There are several types of treatments containing 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 minimise any risk of photosensitivity. Indeed, tartaric acid increases the skin's sensitivity to the sun, thus the risk of sunburn. We also recommend consistently applying a SPF cream every morning and to limit or even avoid 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 autumn/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 three nights, 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 slight dryness of the skin during the first few days. If your skin is naturally dry or if you are applying a tartaric acid treatment for the first time, start with a treatment 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 effectively 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. It is therefore 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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