Here’s why succinic acid is the acne ingredient you should be looking out for

Written by Chloe Burcham

Do you have sensitive skin that’s prone to breakouts and blemishes? Here’s why you might benefit from adding succinic acid into your routine. 

When it comes to buying skincare, things can quickly get confusing. From ceramides and peptides to exfoliating acids and vitamin C, it can often feel like you need a chemistry A-level just to decode what’s actually going on in your bathroom cabinet. And while we’re all about simplifying skincare (this three-step routine is heralded by skin experts), it pays to be in the know about what you’re actually putting on your skin. 

Because whether it’s the hero hydrator hyaluronic acid or the glow-giving glycolic, if you understand what skincare ingredients actually do, you’ll be better placed to decide whether or not you need them within your routine. 

Enter succinic acid – 2022’s buzzword ingredient of the moment. This new kid on the block offers blemish-busting power without any of the increased sensitivity or side effects that can often come along with other potent acne formulas. Intrigued? Here’s everything you need to know…

What is succinic acid?

Succinic acid is a compound that’s found naturally in sugar cane and can be replicated synthetically – making it more readily available and sustainable. It has powerful antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, meaning it’s great for controlling the level of bacteria on the surface of your skin (that can lead to spots) while simultaneously reducing inflammation when spots are present. 

“Succinic acid is great for those who are prone to breakouts due to oily skin because it helps to reduce the excess oil on our skin and decrease the size of our pores,” explains skincare expert and junior doctor Kemi Fabusiwa. 

While the name suggests succinic acid might be an exfoliator (like glycolic, lactic and salicylic acid), succinic acid is better thought of alongside hyaluronic acid as it’s extremely hydrating – perfect for treating spots without drying out the surrounding skin. 

“Succinic acid is an effective ingredient for those with more sensitive skin types as it’s kind-to-skin, yet still effective.” 

Where would you introduce succinic acid into your routine?

If succinic acid sounds like something that your skin might benefit from trying, it’s important that you use it correctly within your routine. While you can find succinic acid in everything from cleansers to serums and on-the-spot treatments, Dr Fabusiwa suggests that it’s an ingredient that’s best used following your cleansers in order to reap the most rewards. 

Thankfully succinic acid works well alongside other ingredients, so you’re unlikely to mess up your routine if you use it alongside other actives, such as vitamin C or retinol. 

“If you have acne that has formed nodules or cysts or is leaving behind hyperpigmentation, then it might be worth speaking to your GP for prescription-strength medication that can be used alongside the succinic acid. For instance, you can use succinic acid in the morning and prescription-strength retinol at night.”

How long does it take succinic acid to work?

“This is a great ingredient for mild to moderate acne and you should hopefully see improvements in a matter of weeks,” explains Dr Fabusiwa.

  • The easiest way to try out succinic acid is with an on-the-spot blemish treatment, like this little beauty from The Inkey List. Simply apply a pea-sized amount to any blemishes (on your face or body) and let the antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties get to work. Plus, it’s super affordable which is also pleasing. 

    Shop The INKEY List Succinic Acid Blemish Treatment at Boots, £7.99

    buy now

  • If you want to control sebum production and keep blemishes at bay, this clarifying skin tonic from Scientia is a great shout. With 2.5% gluconolactone, 3% niacinamide and succinic acid, it helps to reveal your best glow with smaller-looking pores but no redness. Simply sweep over the skin a couple of times a week with a cotton pad. Simple. 

    Shop Scientia Pure Clarity Purifying PHA Skin Tonic at Cult Beauty, £24

    buy now

  • For a daily dose of succinic acid, this luxury foaming cleanser is the one. It’s a great option if you live in a polluted area (hello, London) as its clarifying blend of succinic acid, mild fruit AHAs and fermented enzymes help to effectively remove environmental pollutants, surface impurities, excess oil and all traces of make-up while respecting the skin’s moisture balance. 

    Shop Zelens Glacier Foam Renewing Cleanser at Cult Beauty, £45

    buy now

Main image credit: Getty

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