Tartaric acid is another one of those often-overlooked skincare ingredients that many tend to take for granted, but this small ingredient can really pack a punch.
Tartaric Acid is an Alpha-Hydroxy Acid
Belonging to the same family as glycolic and lactic acids, tartaric acid has many of the same properties as these two skincare staples: alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs). That means that it can aid in exfoliation. When added to glycolic or lactic acids (more on that later), it helps to strengthen their ability to slough the skin. By encouraging the sloughing of the skin’s outer layers, AHAs work to improve your skin’s texture and reduce the visible signs of aging.
It really tends to shine, though, when we’re talking about helping to regulate a product’s pH level. Acids can really have a tendency to alter the pH levels of certain formulas. When the pH isn’t buffered just right, you can wind up with skin irritation. Though it’s an acid, tartaric acid has the ability to help to keep things relatively stable.
In addition, tartaric acid is an antioxidant, with the ability to protect your skin from the harmful ravages of free radicals, such as those that can come from exposure to the sun’s rays.
Glycolic and salicylic acids play a stronger, more effective role, but when you add tartaric acid to the formulation, they work together to improve the product. In case you’re asking why you should need to add tartaric acid to your routine when you already know the other acids work for you, it’s about concentration. Glycolic acid, for instance, needs to be at a higher concentration to be effective. At 20%, it may have the potential to cause side effects like redness or irritation. When you combine several different acids into one formulation, they boost each other’s effectiveness without the added concern for irritation. “Rather than adding one acid at 20%, I prefer to add four acids at 5% to achieve similar results with less chance of causing redness,” explains NYC dermatologist, Dennis Gross, M.D.
Tartaric acid, itself, is considered to be low-risk and safe for use, showing less chance of side effects and irritation than other AHAs.
Where Does Tartaric Acid Come From?
Tartaric acid is naturally found in many plants like grapes. Believe it or not, it’s actually one of the primary acids responsible for wine. It also occurs naturally in many other fruits like bananas, tamarinds, and citrus. In winemaking, tartaric acid serves to lower the pH of fermenting “must” to a level where many of the undesirable “spoilage” bacteria can’t live. It also acts as a preservative after fermentation in the mouth. As I mentioned earlier, tartaric acid can be used as a buffering agent in cosmetics, taking the place of ethylenediamine tetraacetic acid (EDTA) in skincare products.
Where Can You Find Products That Incorporate Tartaric Acid?
Renee Rouleau Triple Berry Smoothing Peel
Renee Rouleau Triple Berry Smoothing Peel is a chemical peel designed to be used at home to smooth visible sun damage, lift brown sun spots, and clear clogged pores.
Ingredients: Rubus Idaeus (Raspberry) Fruit, Glycerin, Aqua (Water), Lactic Acid (L), Fragaria Vesca (Strawberry) Fruit, Xanthan Gum, Citrus Nobilis (Mandarin Orange) Fruit, Salicylic Acid, Malic Acid (L), Mandelic Acid (L), Tartaric Acid (L), Leuconostoc/Radish Root Ferment Filtrate, Lycium Barbarum (Goji Berry) Fruit Extract, Lycopene, Vitis Vinifera (Grape) Seed Extract, Citrus Sinensis (Orange) Fruit Extract, Wine Extract, Vaccinium Angustifolium (Blueberry) Fruit Extract, Bromelain, Punica Granatum (Pomegranate) Extract, Prunus Serotina (Wild Cherry) Bark Extract, Citrus Nobilis (Red Mandarin Orange) Oil, Citrus Paradisi (Pink Grapefruit) Peel Oil, Benzyl Alcohol, Natural Fragrance, Sodium Metabisulfite, Caprylhydroxamic Acid.
Tula Pro-Glycolic 10% pH Resurfacing Gel
Tula Pro-Glycolic 10% pH Resurfacing Gel is an alcohol-free toner that combines probiotics with glycolic and tartaric acids to gently exfoliate the skin.
Ingredients: Aqua/Water/Eau, Glycolic Acid, Butylene Glycol, Lactococcus Ferment Lysate, Sodium Hydroxide, Lactic Acid, Sodium Hyaluronate, Agar, Glycerin, Tremella Fuciformis Sporocarp Extract, Camellia Sinensis Leaf Extract, Vaccinium Angustifolium (Blueberry) Fruit Extract, Curcuma Longa (Turmeric) Root Extract, Cichorium Intybus (Chicory) Root Extract, Yogurt Extract, Carrageenan, Betaine, Glucose, Linum Usitatissimum (Linseed) Seed Oil, Xanthan Gum, Potassium Sorbate, Disodium Edta, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Benzoate, Polysorbate 20, Tetrasodium Edta, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol.
The Ordinary “Buffet”
The Ordinary “Buffet” is a that serum incorporates peptides, hyaluronic acid, amino acids, and tartaric acid, among other things, to target multiple signs of aging like dullness and uneven texture.
Ingredients: Water, Glycerin, Lactococcus Ferment Lysate, Acetyl Hexapeptide-8, Pentapeptide-18, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-1, Palmitoyl Tetrapeptide-7, Palmitoyl Tripeptide-38, Dipeptide Diaminobutyroyl Benzylamide Diacetate, Acetylarginyltryptophyl Diphenylglycine, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Sodium Hyaluronate, Allantoin, Glycine, Alanine, Serine, Valine, Isoleucine, Proline, Threonine, Histidine, Phenylalanine, Arginine, Aspartic Acid, Trehalose, Fructose, Glucose, Maltose, Urea, Sodium PCA, PCA, Sodium Lactate, Citric Acid, Hydroxypropyl Cyclodextrin, Sodium Chloride, Sodium Hydroxide, Butylene Glycol, Pentylene Glycol, Acacia Senegal Gum, Xanthan Gum, Carbomer, Polysorbate 20, PPG-26-Buteth-26, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, Ethoxydiglycol, Sodium Benzoate, Caprylyl Glycol, Ethylhexylglycerin, Phenoxyethanol, Chlorphenesin.