The Benefits of Malic Acid

Malic acid is a substance found naturally in apples. 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.

Uses for Malic Acid

In alternative medicine, malic acid is typically used to improve sports performance when taken in supplement form. Proponents claim that malic acid can boost endurance during exercise and help fight off fatigue.

In addition, consuming malic acid in combination with magnesium is said to alleviate symptoms of fibromyalgia (including pain).

When applied to the skin, malic acid is used to reduce signs of aging (including wrinkles), remove dead skin cells, aid in the treatment of acne, and promote the production of collagen (a type of protein that serves as a major component of your skin).

Health Benefits of Malic Acid Supplements

To date, few studies have tested the health effects of taking malic acid in supplement form. However, there's some evidence that malic acid may offer certain benefits when ingested.

1) Heart Disease

A preliminary study published in Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine in 2013 found that malic acid may offer cardiovascular benefits. In tests on rats, the study's authors determined that malic acid possesses antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that may be beneficial in the treatment of myocardial ischemia (a type of heart disease marked by decreased blood flow to the heart muscle).

2) Fibromyalgia

Taking malic acid in combination with magnesium may help treat fibromyalgia, according to a small study published in the Journal of Rheumatology in 1995. For the study, researchers assigned 24 fibromyalgia patients 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.

Skin-Care Benefits of Malic Acid

A number of 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 aging in the skin.

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 35 people with melasma (a common disorder marked by patches of abnormally dark skin) to a skin-care regimen that included the use of topically applied 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.


Due to a lack of research, little is known about the safety of long-term use of malic acid supplements.

However, there's some concern that intake of malic acid may trigger certain side effects (such as diarrhea and nausea).

Although malic acid is generally considered safe when applied to the skin, some people may experience irritation, itching, redness, and other side effects.

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.

Supplements haven't been tested for safety and due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label. Also keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. You can get additional tips on using supplements here.

Where to Find It

Widely available for purchase online, malic acid supplements are sold in many natural-foods stores, drugstores, and stores specializing in dietary supplements.

Using Malic Acid for Health

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend malic acid as a treatment for any condition. If you're considering using it, talk to your doctor to weigh the potential risks and benefits. Keep in mind that alternative medicine should not be used as a substitute for standard care. Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.


Kim SJ, Park JH, Kim DH, Won YH, Maibach HI. "Increased in vivo collagen synthesis and in vitro cell proliferative effect of glycolic acid." Dermatol Surg. 1998 Oct;24(10):1054-8.

Kim SJ, Won YH. "The effect of glycolic acid on cultured human skin fibroblasts: cell proliferative effect and increased collagen synthesis." J Dermatol. 1998 Feb;25(2):85-9.

Rodrigues LH, Maia Campos PM. "Comparative study of the effects of cosmetic formulations with or without hydroxy acids on hairless mouse epidermis by histopathologic, morphometric, and stereologic evaluation." J Cosmet Sci. 2002 Sep-Oct;53(5):269-82.

Russell IJ, Michalek JE, Flechas JD, Abraham GE. "Treatment of fibromyalgia syndrome with Super Malic: a randomized, double blind, placebo controlled, crossover pilot study." J Rheumatol. 1995 May;22(5):953-8.

Tang X, Liu J, Dong W, Li P, Li L, Lin C, Zheng Y, Hou J, Li D. "The cardioprotective effects of citric Acid and L-malic Acid on myocardial ischemia/reperfusion injury." Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2013;2013:820695.

Taylor MB, Yanaki JS, Draper DO, Shurtz JC, Coglianese M. "Successful short-term and long-term treatment of melasma and postinflammatory hyperpigmentation using vitamin C with a full-face iontophoresis mask and a mandelic/malic acid skin care regimen." J Drugs Dermatol. 2013 Jan;12(1):45-50.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

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