The Health Benefits of Malic Acid

Malic Acid May Boost Skin Health and Improve Well-Being

Person holding an apple
d3sign/Getty Images
In This Article

Malic acid is a substance found naturally in apples and pears. It's considered an alpha-hydroxy acid, a class of natural acids commonly used in skin-care products. Also sold in dietary supplement form, malic acid is said to offer a variety of benefits.

Health Benefits

Malic acid is found in fruits and vegetables and is produced naturally in the body when carbohydrates are converted into energy. While some research suggests that malic acid supplements may help people with certain conditions, high-quality clinical trials are needed.

There's some evidence that malic acid supplements may offer these benefits:

Skin-Care Benefits

When applied to the skin, malic acid is said to reduce signs of aging, remove dead skin cells, aid in the treatment of acne, and promote skin hydration.

A number of early studies published in the 1990s and early 2000s indicate that malic acid may be beneficial when applied to the skin. In tests on animals and human cells, the studies' authors found that malic acid may help increase collagen production and reverse sun-induced signs of skin aging.

More recent research on topically applied malic acid includes a small study published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology in 2013. For the study, researchers assigned people with melasma (a common disorder marked by patches of abnormally dark skin) to a skin-care regimen that included the use of topical vitamin C and malic acid. At an average follow-up of 26 months, the regimen was found to be an effective short-term treatment for melasma.

Physical Performance

Malic acid is also used to boost sports performance when taken in supplement form. It is sometimes combined with creatine supplements in order to improve the body's absorption of creatine. Proponents claim that malic acid can promote energy production, increase exercise endurance, and help fight off muscle fatigue.

For a study published in Acta Physiologica Hungarica in 2015, researchers investigated the effectiveness of a creatine-malate supplement in sprinters and long-distance runners. After six weeks of supplementation combined with physical training, there was a significant increase in the physical performance in sprinters, measured by peak power, total work, body composition, and elevated growth hormone levels. In long-distance runners, there was a significant increase in distance covered.

Kidney Stones


Malic acid is a precursor to citrate, a substance believed to prevent calcium from binding with other substances in urine that form kidney stones. Citrate may also prevent crystals from getting bigger by preventing them from sticking together.

According to a preliminary laboratory study published in 2014, malic acid consumption may increase urine pH and citrate levels, making stone formation less likely. The study authors concluded that malic acid supplementation may be useful for the conservative treatment of calcium kidney stones.

In a 2016 review, scientists suggested that given the high malic acid content in pears, future research should explore whether a diet supplemented with pears and low in meat and sodium may reduce stone formation.

Fibromyalgia

A pilot study published in the Journal of Rheumatology in 1995 found that taking malic acid in combination with magnesium helped alleviate pain and tenderness in people with fibromyalgia.

For the study, researchers assigned 24 people with fibromyalgia to treatment with either a placebo or a combination of malic acid and magnesium. After six months, those treated with the malic acid/magnesium combination showed a significant improvement in pain and tenderness. However, there's a lack of more recent research on malic acid's effectiveness as a fibromyalgia treatment.

Dry Mouth

The use of a one percent oral malic acid spray has been explored as a treatment for dry mouth. A study published in Depression and Anxiety, for instance, evaluated a one percent malic acid spray compared to a placebo in people with dry mouth resulting from antidepressant use. After two weeks of using the sprays when needed, those using the malic acid spray had improved dry mouth symptoms and increased saliva flow rates.

Possible Side Effects

Due to a lack of research, little is known about the safety of long-term or regular use of malic acid supplements. However, there's some concern that intake of malic acid may trigger certain side effects such as headaches, diarrhea, nausea, and allergic reactions.

Although malic acid is generally considered safe when applied to the skin in the recommended amount, some people may experience irritation, itching, redness, and other side effects. It's a good idea to patch test new products.

In addition, alpha-hydroxy acids are known to increase your skin's sensitivity to sunlight. Therefore, it's important to use sunscreen in combination with skin-care products containing any type of alpha-hydroxy acid.

Keep in mind that malic acid shouldn't be used as a substitute for standard care. Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

Dosage and Preparation

There is no standard dose of malic acid that is recommended. Various doses have been used with adults in studies to investigate the treatment of different conditions.

For example, for fibromyalgia, a product called Super Malic (malic acid 1200 mg and magnesium hydroxide 300 mg) was taken twice daily for six months.

 For acne, a cream containing malic acid and arginine glycolate was applied twice daily for 60 days. And lastly, for dry mouth, a mouth spray containing 1 percent malic acid, 10 percent xylitol, and 0.05 percent fluoride was used up to eight times daily for two weeks.

The appropriate dose for you may depend on how you are using the supplement, your age, gender, and medical history. Speak to your healthcare provider for personalized advice.

What to Look For

Malic acid is found naturally in fruits including apricots, blackberries, blueberries, cherries, grapes, peaches, pears, and plums. Malic acid is also found in some citrus fruits.

In food, malic acid may be used to acidify or flavor foods or prevent food discoloration. It may also be used with other ingredients in cosmetics.

Using malic acid as part of your skin care routine may help with concerns such as pigmentation, acne, or skin aging. But keep in mind that it's a good idea to patch test when using new products and to avoid the eye area.

If you choose to take a malic acid supplement, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) offers tips to consumers. The organization recommends that you look for a Supplement Facts label on the product. This label will contain vital information including the amount of active ingredients per serving, and other added ingredients.

Lastly, the organization suggests that you look for a product that contains a seal of approval from a third party organization that provides quality testing. These organizations include U.S. Pharmacopeia, ConsumerLab.com, and NSF International. A seal of approval from one of these organizations does not guarantee the product's safety or effectiveness but it does provide assurance that the product was properly manufactured, contains the ingredients listed on the label, and does not contain harmful levels of contaminants.

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.