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Citric Acid

What is it?

Citric Acid is an organic acid that is widely distributed in plants and animals. Sodium Citrate is a salt of Citric Acid that is commonly used in cosmetics and personal care products. Potassium Citrate, Aluminum Citrate, Diammonium Citrate, Ferric Citrate, Magnesium Citrate, Monosodium Citrate and Zinc Citrate are other salts of Citric Acid that may be used in cosmetics and personal care products.

Esters of Citric Acid, such as Tributyl Citrate and Triethyl Citrate may also be used in cosmetics and personal care products. These esters are triesters, which means they have three butyl or ethyl alcohol molecules bound to one Citric Acid molecule. Other Citric Acid triesters that may be used in cosmetics include Tri-C12-13 Alkyl Citrate, Tri-C14-15 Alkyl Citrate, Tricaprylyl Citrate, Triethylhexyl Citrate, Triisocetyl Citrate, Trioctyldodecyl Citrate and Triisostearyl Citrate. Isodecyl Citrate and Stearyl Citrate are monoesters, and Dilauryl Citrate is a diester that may be used in cosmetics. Ethyl Citrates is a mixture of tri-, di- and monoesters that may be used in cosmetics.

The citrate ingredients most commonly used in cosmetics are Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Tributyl Citrate and Triethyl Citrate. Citric Acid and Sodium Citrate may be used in all types of cosmetic products including, baby products, make-up, lipstick, bath products, soaps and detergents, hair dyes and colors, and hair and skin care products. Tributyl Citrate and Triethyl Citrate may be used in bath products, other cleansing products, and creams and lotions.

Safety Information

Citric Acid, Calcium Citrate, Potassium Citrate, Sodium Citrate and Triethyl Citrate are on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) list of direct food substances affirmed as Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS). FDA permits Tributyl Citrate and Triethyl Citrate to be used as indirect food additives in some food packaging materials.

The safety of Citric Acid and its salts and esters has been assessed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel. The CIR Expert Panel evaluated scientific data an concluded that Citric Acid, Sodium Citrate, Calcium Citrate, Potassium Citrate, Aluminum Citrate, Diammonium Citrate, Ferric Citrate, Magnesium Citrate, Monosodium Citrate, Zinc Citrate, Tributyl Citrate, Triethyl Citrate, Tri-C12-13 Alkyl Citrate, Tri-C14-15 Alkyl Citrate, Tricaprylyl Citrate, Triethylhexyl Citrate, Triisocetyl Citrate, Trioctyldodecyl Citrate, Triisostearyl Citrate, Isodecyl Citrate, Stearyl Citrate, Dilauryl Citrate and Ethyl Citrates were safe for use in cosmetics.

The safety of Citric Acid and its Calcium, Potassium and Sodium salts has been assessed by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives. The most recent review concluded that it was not necessary to limit the dietary intake of Citric Acid and its salts.
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Why is it used in cosmetics and personal care products?

Citric Acid and its Diammonium, Potassium and Sodium salts help preserve cosmetics and personal care products by chelating (complexing) metals. Citric Acid and its salts are also added to cosmetics to help adjust the acid/base balance.

Other functions of the citrate ingredients are listed below.
Buffering agent – Diammmonium Citrate, Potassium Citrate
Cosmetic astringent – Aluminum Citrate
Cosmetic biocide – Zinc Citrate
Hair fixative – Ethyl Citrate
Oral care agent – Zinc Citrate
Plasticizer – Isodecyl Citrate, Tributyl Citrate, Triethyl Citrate, Triethylhexyl Citrate
Skin-conditioning agentemollient – Dilauryl Citrate, Isodecyl Citrate, Stearyl Citrate, Tri-C12-13 Alkyl Citrate, Tri-C14-15 Alkyl Citrate, Triethylhexyl Citrate
Skin-conditioning agentmiscellaneous – Ferric Citrate, Magnesium Citrate
Skin-conditioning agentocclusive – Tricaprylyl Citrate, Triisocetyl Citrate, Triisostearyl Citrate, Trioctyldodecyl Citrate
Solvent – Isopropyl Citrate, Tributyl Citrate

Scientific facts:

Citric Acid is a weak organic acid found in citrus fruits, for example, lemon juice contains about 5-8% citric acid. It is also frequently added to soft drinks.

Citric Acid is a central compound in the citric acid cycle, a metabolic pathway in essentially all organisms that produces the energy used by cells.

Some Citric Acid esters, such as Triethyl and Tributyl Citrate are plasticizers for resins, inks and polishes.

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