Phytic acid in skincare: can this wonder ingredient help soothe acne-prone skin?

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Most skincare obsessives know their way around the more well-known formulas, but phytic acid is an under the radar ingredient that helps with brightening. 

When it comes to acids in skincare, it can be a complicated learning process. There might be some teething problems figuring out your salicylic from your glycolic and your hyaluronic from your mandelic acid, but are there lesser known acids that most people don’t know about and are just as effective?

Two words – phytic acid. Sound familiar? Thought not, but even though you’ve probably never heard of it, it’s actually already used in a lot of existing skincare products that you know and love, but it’s an acid on the rise as a leading ingredient.

What is phytic acid?

Phytic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that is derived from grains, legumes and rice. “Unlike most AHAs, it doesn’t have specific exfoliation effects, but is used in skincare for its antioxidant effects” says Dr Anjali Mahto, consultant dermatologist & British Skin Foundation spokesperson.

Which acids are similar to phytic acid?

“Phytic acid is similar to glycolic and lactic acid.” says Dr Mahto. “These other two acids are stronger and work by causing a chemical exfoliation in the skin. Phytic acid is the gentlest of the three and causes little exfoliation or irritation to the skin. When phytic acid is combined with glycolic acid, this produces a powerful combination in products such as toners or peels for maximum benefit.”

What skin types is phytic acid best for?

Most skin types should be able to tolerate phytic acid, but there are a few skin types it may provide numerous benefits for. “It’s often found in skincare made for skin brightening or reducing pigmentation but is suitable for acne-prone skin. When used in isolation, it can be used on sensitive skin types too.” adds Dr Mahto.

What are the benefits of phytic acid?

“The benefits of phytic acid include decongestion of the skin, skin brightening effects, reduction of free radical damage and pigmentation in the skin” says Dr Mahto. Often used in tandem with other acids too, phytic acid often boosts their effectiveness. 

The best phytic acid skincare products:

  • The best phytic acid cleanser

    Kate Somerville Phytic Acid Cleanser

    Kate Somerville Detox Daily Cleanser

    Formulated for oily skin types, this cleanser contains phytic acid to brighten skin alongside botanicals like soothing aloe vera and tangerine peel extracts to maintain skin’s moisture levels.

    £30.50, Kate Somerville

  • The best phytic acid-infused face peel

    Kiehl's Phytic Acid Serum

    Kiehl’s Nightly Refining Micro-Peel Concentrate

    An overnight peel is one of the easiest ways to deeply exfoliate the skin. Kiehl’s micro-peel exfoliates and helps even out skin tone and it’s suitable for all skin types, including sensitive skin.

    £41, Kiehl’s

  • The best phytic acid acne treatment

    Dr Dennis Gross Acne Phytic Acid Pads

    Dr Dennis Gross One Step Acne Eliminating Pads

    When you’re looking for a more potent treatment, Dr Dennis Gross’s salicylic acid soaked pads are also combined with phytic acid, lactic acid, malic acid and witch hazel to help reduce blemishes.

    £34.02, Skin Store

  • The best phytic acid-infused antioxidant

    Paula's Choice Antioxidant Phytic Acid

     Paula’s Choice Defense Antioxidant Pore Purifier

    If an antioxidant powerhouse serum could be bottled up, it would be this. Paula’s Choice’s purifier contains salicylic acid, phytic acid and a whole host of antioxidants from fruits extract to vitamin c and white tea to minimise the look of pores and help improve the damage done to the skin from pollution.

    £31, Paula’s Choice

  • The best phytic acid moisturiser

    Mene & Moy Phytic Acid Moisturiser

    Mene & Moy Phytic Acid Cream

    This moisturiser combines 8% glycolic acid with 2% phytic acid to even out skintone and brighten the skin. Here, phytic acid also promotes the production of melanin to help with pigmentation. The cream works best for those with mature skin, uneven complexions and sun damaged skin.

    £32, Skin City

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Main image: Getty images and courtesy of brands.

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