Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) like Lactic Acid are beloved in the skincare world for their ability to address a range of skin concerns. They’re known for helping to minimize breakouts, dark spots, and other complexion issues.
But AHAs are a whole family of ingredients, and choosing the individual AHA that’s right for your skin is a key part of developing a skincare routine that works for you. Let’s go over everything you need to know about Lactic Acid so that you can see if it will work for you.
What Is Lactic Acid?
There are two main skincare acid families. Lactic Acid belongs to the Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) family, not the Beta Hydroxy Acid (BHA) family, which includes skincare ingredients like Salicylic Acid.
Lactic Acid is found naturally in fermented milk, which may be why Egyptian queen Cleopatra used to bathe in sour milk. However, we now have ways to source Lactic Acid without dairy, which means this can still be a vegan ingredient.
Unfortunately, Lactic Acid is generally produced synthetically in skincare. So while it’s worth noting that the acid itself occurs naturally in the world, the version of it in that body scrub or lotion you’re about to rub into your skin probably doesn’t.
We use naturally sourced vegan Lactic Acid in all of our formulas – so you know that when you use one of our products, you’re getting the real deal.
What Are the Benefits of Lactic Acid for Skin?
Lactic Acid can have a variety of benefits for your skin. Here are a few of our favorites.
AHAs like Lactic Acid are chemical exfoliants, which means they slough away dead surface skin cells while helping to support healthy cell turnover.
Since the rate at which your body renews your surface skin cells and produces collagen tends to slow as you age, using skin care products to support an overall youthful-looking complexion can be helpful.
Helps Minimize Appearance of Skin Aging
Because Lactic Acid helps exfoliate dead surface skin cells away, it may help reduce the appearance of signs of aging, such as sagging skin, fine lines, and wrinkles.
Lactic Acid can support a smooth and even skin texture and tone, helping you enjoy more youthful-looking skin.
Supports Proper Hydration Levels
Lactic Acid also helps keep your skin hydrated by supporting the Hyaluronic Acid in your skin cells. This powerful humectant draws in moisture from outside sources like skincare products and holds them against your skin. While you may know this humectant as a skincare ingredient, it’s also a natural part of your skin’s hydration system.
Gentle Alternative to Other AHAs
Unlike other AHAs like Glycolic Acid, Lactic Acid has a larger molecule size. This means that it tends to be a bit gentler on your skin than other AHAs. If using acids leaves you with sensitized skin or if you have sensitive skin in general, Lactic Acid may be a great ingredient for your skin.
Helps Reduce Appearance of Dark Spots
Lactic Acid can also help minimize the look of dark spots and uneven pigmentation, which can mean a more even-looking, bright skin tone.
This can be especially helpful if you are dealing with sun spots or other UV-induced damage, allowing you to enjoy a smoother-looking complexion.
When Should You Use Lactic Acid?
Lactic Acid is great for combating signs of aging like dark spots, age spots, fine lines, and wrinkles. It can also be useful when it comes to clearing out your pores.
Dead skin cells, dirt, and other potential breakout-causing elements can get caught in your pores and hair follicles and lead to whiteheads, blackheads, and breakout-prone skin. Lactic Acid helps clear out all of this gunk to reduce the appearance of current breakouts and prevent future ones from occurring.
Lactic Acid is often used to help soothe dry and irritated skin.
Is Lactic Acid Safe for All Skin Types?
Lactic Acid is a better choice for sensitive skin than its cousins, Glycolic Acid and Citric Acid. Studies have shown it to be better for sun-damaged skin, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Lactic Acid is entirely side-effect free.
Despite being gentle as far as AHAs go, Lactic Acid may cause irritation ranging from redness and dry skin to peeling and swelling on super-sensitive skin. We recommend performing a patch test first to see how your skin reacts.
AHAs like Lactic Acid can also make your skin more vulnerable to sun damage. That’s why it’s important to use a high SPF sunscreen every day for maximum sun protection as part of your morning skincare routine – especially if you’re using something like Lactic Acid.
To tackle the dryness that Lactic Acid can bring on, we recommend a moisturizing face oil. Rather than making your skin oily, a product like our Renew Pure Radiance Oil helps lock in moisture and improve hydration.
Thanks to 14 easily absorbable seed oils, Algae Extract, and Astaxanthin, Renew Pure Radiance Oil is rich in vital ceramides, fatty acids, and antioxidants. It’s also clinically proven: In a 45-day clinical study, 100% of women saw improved hydration and a reduction in the look of fine lines and wrinkles.*
The result? You’ll feel luxurious with brighter and more youthful-looking skin — plus, the subtle, elegant scents of Jasmine, Neroli, and Rose will only underscore those benefits.
What Are Some Skincare Products Containing Lactic Acid?
Because it’s gentler than most AHAs, you can work Lactic Acid into your skincare regimen in a wide variety of ways. Here are a few of our favorites.
Our Ginger Turmeric Cleansing Balm is the perfect first step of your skincare routine if you’re looking to reap the benefits of Lactic Acid. In addition to containing Lactic Acid, Ginger Turmeric Cleansing Balm includes Ginger Root, Mandarin, and Neroli Oils so it smells like a luxurious vacation in a jar — and it works even better than it smells.
Instead of using harsh surfactants and commonplace fillers like water and silicones, Ginger Turmeric Cleansing Balm is chock full of natural biocompatible ingredients that help defend the skin barrier and leave skin looking clean, nourished, gently exfoliated, and sumptuously hydrated.
Lactic Acid works hard to support your skin, even as part of a cleanser. By using a cleanser rather than something like a Lactic Acid peel, which can be drying and super intense, you can get all the results without jeopardizing your skin texture and skin barrier optimization.
Another great way to use Lactic Acid in your skincare routine is by using a face mask. Our Resurfacing Moisture Mask is a quick and easy way to work exfoliation into your routine.
In order to keep your skin looking youthful, smooth, and soft, we recommend that you exfoliate away dead surface skin cells and other impurities that can build up on your skin at least once per week.
While many exfoliants can be harsh on your skin and may disrupt your skin barrier, the Resurfacing Moisture Mask is carefully formulated with natural biocompatible ingredients to help preserve your skin’s delicate ecosystem.
With our Resurfacing Moisture Mask, you get all of the good with none of the bad. Mango and Avocado Butters counterbalance the exfoliating power of Lactic Acid, so your skin is left looking and feeling supple, soft, and moisturized. It also utilizes Astaxanthin, an antioxidant known for its ability to help address dark spots and other complexion-disrupting blemishes.
As a bonus, this mask doesn’t need 20 minutes to a full hour to give your skin its amazing benefits. It only takes two to five minutes to enhance the performance of your entire skincare routine.
We recommend following your mask with our Renew Pure Radiance Oil. Our moisturizing face oil is formulated with ingredients like Chia Seeds and Kiwi Seed Oil, Papaya Seed Oil and Passion Fruit Oil, and Algae Extract and Astaxanthin.
Our ingredients help deliver nourishing Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids, Vitamins A and C, Potassium, and antioxidants for glowy, youthful-looking skin.
Can All Skincare Ingredients Be Paired With Lactic Acid?
The world is your oyster when it comes to Lactic Acid serums. However, as with any over-the-counter AHAs, you’ll want to make sure that the rest of your skincare routine doesn’t include ingredients that can be harmful when layered with Lactic Acid.
For instance, Retinol is commonly used as part of an evening skincare routine, but when paired with Lactic Acid, it can spell disaster for even the toughest skin. Luckily, we have a solution if you’re desperate for the anti-aging effects of Retinol and all the benefits of Lactic Acid.
Our microbiome-minded Phyto-Retinol Vitamin A Booster delivers powerful anti-aging benefits. Its perfectly-dosed vegan capsules deliver Provitamin A Carotenoids that your skin will transform into its own potent retinoic acid. Harnessing this innate intelligence of your skin — rather than working against it — means that our Phyto-Retinol can help visibly fight signs of aging like wrinkles, dark spots, and uneven skin tone.
And all of this without interacting negatively with ingredients, including AHAs like Lactic Acid, that can’t traditionally be combined with Retinol.
Due to its hydrating and exfoliating properties, an over-the-counter Lactic Acid treatment can be a powerful addition to your daily skincare regimen. With benefits ranging from minimizing visible signs of aging to supporting an overall even and bright complexion, it’s easy to see why Lactic Acid is such a popular part of a well-rounded skincare routine.
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Clinical Data Disclaimer: *Based on a 54-day clinical study of 20 women aged 30 – 60, twice-daily use.
Alpha Hydroxy Acids | Food and Drug Administration
Decreased Collagen Production in Chronologically Aged Skin | The American Journal of Pathology
Topical 8% Glycolic Acid and 8% L-Lactic Acid Creams for the Treatment of Photodamaged Skin | JAMA Dermatology
An antiaging skin care system containing alpha hydroxy acids and vitamins improves the biomechanical parameters of facial skin | PMC