Lactic acid, a stalwart ingredient in many skincare routines, deserves a revisit to appreciate its diligent contributions. Renowned for gently and effectively removing the surface layer of skin, this alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) holds the key to softening and smoothing the skin, with regular use offering significant improvements for all skin types. Let’s delve into the essentials.
What is Lactic Acid?
Derived from milk through lactose fermentation, lactic acid serves as a remarkable exfoliant. While Cleopatra might have favored it, today’s sophisticated formulations mean you can benefit without bathing in sour milk. As an AHA, lactic acid shares its family with glycolic and mandelic acids, boasting the ability to promote cell renewal and maintain healthy, luminous skin.Let’s say lactic acid skincare.
How Does Lactic Acid Work on the Skin?
As a water-soluble compound, lactic acid acts by breaking the bonds between dead skin cells on the outer layer. Dr. Derrick Phillips, a dermatologist advisor for CeraVe, explains, “Lactic acid disrupts the binding of dead skin cells on the skin’s outer layer, making them easier to shed. This not only freshens and rejuvenates the skin but also aids in unclogging pores.” Its larger molecule size compared to other AHAs makes it suitable for superficial exfoliation, minimizing the potential for irritation, particularly for those with sensitive skin.
Benefits of Using Lactic Acid
The primary advantage of lactic acid is skin brightening, offering softer and smoother skin as the norm. It also plays a role in reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, as these often form on the skin’s topmost layer. Dr. Emma Craythorne, a dermatologist and founder of Klira, notes its proven efficacy in killing skin bacteria and contributing to the reduction of acne lesions. Furthermore, lactic acid’s moisturizing properties set it apart. Unlike other AHAs, its unique structure allows it to bind with water in the skin, promoting hydration and aiding the skin in retaining its natural moisture reservoir. While the beauty industry is currently enamored with a healthy skin barrier, lactic acid emerges as a key player, encouraging the production of more ceramides, lipids that act as glue between skin cells, maintaining the integrity of the skin barrier and reducing inflammation.
Can Lactic Acid Be Used on the Body?
Given its exfoliating capabilities, lactic acid is an excellent addition to your head-to-toe exfoliation regimen. It works wonders on dry, scaly, or uneven skin areas such as elbows, knees, or the back of arms, effectively removing dead skin and helping maintain smooth, soft skin while safeguarding the integrity of the skin barrier. Dr. Craythorne adds that it’s highly beneficial for conditions like keratosis pilaris.
Best Practices for Using Lactic Acid
With its versatility, lactic acid appears in various formulations. Depending on your skincare goals, you can incorporate it into any product you prefer, though it typically pairs well with other AHAs in toners or serum forms for enhanced exfoliation. Dr. Phillips recommends finding the optimal concentration your skin can tolerate comfortably, emphasizing that higher concentrations don’t necessarily translate to better results and can lead to unnecessary skin irritation. For beginners, products with 5% to 10% lactic acid are recommended.
For those seeking more intensive treatment, professional lactic acid peels in clinical settings offer higher concentrations. At-home strengths of around 10% to 20% are generally safe and effective for regular use, whether daily or a few times per week. Dr. Craythorne notes that clinical peels can exceed 30%, providing a potent exfoliation for addressing fine lines, aging, and blackhead removal.
Can You Use Lactic Acid Every Day?
Unlike some BHAs like salicylic acid that penetrate deeper into the skin, and even certain other AHAs, lactic acid is typically a safe and effective choice for nearly everyone. However, caution is