What is it?
Citric acid is naturally found in citric fruits and juices, providing the characteristic acidic taste. Most living cells produce citric acid as an intermediate during the metabolic cycle. Almost all plant and animal tissues contain citric acid.
What does it do?
Citric acid is a weak acid used to adjust the pH in our oral and personal care products and help stabilize them.
It can also be used to impart flavor (it has a characteristic ‘sour’ or acidic taste) and can also function as a chelating agent so it is sometimes used in household cleaners where, in higher concentrations, it can be effective in removing hard water stains. In our body wash formulas it will also help with foaming when used with hard water.
Citric acid is also known as an alpha hydroxyl acid and can be found in some skin care products/peels.
How is it made?
While citric acid is naturally occurring and can be extracted from lemons that process would not be environmentally or economically viable to match worldwide demand. Citric acid is produced commercially by microbial fermentation of a carbohydrate substrate (sugar from vegetables).
What are the alternatives?
In food and drink, lemon juice or vinegar can easily substitute citric acid. There are other compounds that can buffer pH in formulas.
Is this the right option for me?
Citric acid is recognized by the Food and Drug Administration as GRAS (generally recognized as safe).1
In addition to being widely used in foods, it is widely used in cosmetics.
Tom’s of Maine recognizes that no two people are alike, and even with naturally derived ingredients, some individuals may develop an allergic reaction that is unique to them. As with any product, be sure to discontinue use if you experience discomfort or other indications that the product may not be appropriate for your individual body chemistry.
1 21 CFR 184.1033