A. An Overview of Lactic Acid Skin Care
Lactic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid used in over-the-counter skin care products and professional treatments. It occurs naturally in milk, although the lactic acid in skin products today is made in a synthetic way. Lactic acid is used to exfoliate the skin, lighten dark spots and improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
1. What is lactic acid?
Lactic acid is a favorite in the skin care world and one of the most popular alpha hydroxy acids available. It is widely used in over-the-counter cosmetics and skin care products, as well as in stronger professional scrubs and treatments. Lactic acid occurs naturally in dairy products; That’s what gives yogurt and sour milk that distinctive flavor. In the past, dairy products were used by people around the world to soften and beautify the skin.
Legend has it that Cleopatra regularly bathed in milk to maintain the beauty of her skin. And it probably worked thanks to lactic acid. There is no need to jump into a milk bath (if you don’t want to, milk baths are a great way to take care of your skin). Today, the vast majority of lactic acid used in skin and exfoliating products is made in a synthetic way.
2. Health Benefits
Lactic acid exfoliates the skin. It helps older, opaque cells on the skin surface to loosen, breaking the bonds that hold them together. Lactic acid accelerates cell turnover and stimulates cell turnover. 1 This is what happens at the cellular level. What you will see, however, is a clearer complexion, as well as smoother and smoother skin.
Lactic acid is popular for two main reasons:
- With regular use, real skin changes can occur.
- It is one of the mildest hydroxy acids used in skin care.
All alpha hydroxy acids exfoliate and improve skin texture, but lactic acid has an added benefit that you don’t get from your AHA cousins. Lactic acid improves the skin’s natural moisturizing factor, or the way the skin moisturizes.2 Basically, lactic acid helps keep skin hydrated and makes it look less dry. Using lactic acid regularly can also improve signs of aging. Stimulates collagen renewal and can tighten the skin. Hyperpigmentation (sun or age spots) fades and fine lines and wrinkles become softer and smoother.3 However, lactic acid does not improve these deeper lines.
Interestingly, lactic acid is also the main ingredient in OTC lotions and creams for pill keratosis, or those “chicken skin” bumps on the back of the arms. Lactic acid helps to dissolve the clot of skin cells that accumulate around the hair follicle and softens the bumps. It is also used in topical treatments to treat eczema, psoriasis and rosacea. However, you should ask your doctor before adding this to your skin regimen.
3. Possible side effects
Although lactic acid is milder than other AHAs, such as glycolic acid and mandelic acid, it is still an effective treatment. The use of lactic acid has several disadvantages.
a. Sensitivity to the sun
- The most important thing to know before you start using lactic acid: it can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. As the acid removes skin cells, the new cells become more susceptible to UV damage.
- When using lactic acid, you need to commit to protecting your skin from the sun. And not just on the days when you are actively using your lactic acid product.
- Some studies have shown that sun sensitivity can persist for up to four weeks after you stop using your product or after exfoliation treatment (and possibly longer) .5
- Use sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher daily to protect your skin from sunburn and sun damage. Otherwise, you may inadvertently make the problems you want to improve (such as dark spots and wrinkles) long-term worse.
b. Skin irritation
In addition to being sensitive to the sun, lactic acid can also cause skin irritation. Look out for: 5
- Itchy skin
Slight redness, burning and itching are not uncommon when you apply a lactic acid product for the first time. As long as it is light and disappears in an hour, everything is fine. If it is moderate to severe, does not go away after a short period, or if you have swelling or rashes on the skin, wash it off immediately. Stop using the product and call your doctor for advice.
- Lactic acid is the mildest of alpha hydroxy acids, so most people can use it without too many problems. Still, there are reasons to stay away from this skin conditioner.
- Are you using topical retinoids like Retin-A or Refissa? These products already exfoliate your skin, so you don’t have to bend over with a lactic acid product. If you do, you will be hypersensitive to your skin. Too good is too much.
- If you are under the care of a dermatologist or using prescription skin care products, check with them before using any lactic acid treatment. It may not be suitable for your skin.
- If you have hypersensitive skin, you cannot use lactic acid automatically. However, you are extremely careful until you know how your skin reacts to it. Try a low percentage product and start slowly. Monitor your skin carefully and shrink or stop using the product if you notice irritation.
5. What to Look For
OTC lactic acid products vary widely in concentration from 5% to over 30%. However, a higher percentage is not always better. Stepping directly with a high percentage product is a great way to irritate your skin.
- If you’ve never used over-the-counter lactic acid, start with a product with a very low concentration, no more than 5 to 10 percent.3 This way, you can see how your skin reacts to lactic acid and can take some getting used to with the acid.
- You may find that after consuming your product, you are satisfied with the results obtained. In that case, you can keep the strength you used.
- If you want to gain strength, do it slowly. Always monitor your skin for irritation and if it looks too much, pull it back or use a product with less resistance.
As for the type of lactic acid product, choose something that you enjoy using. You have several options.
Lactic acid cleansers are easy to incorporate into your skin care routine. Use them as a normal cleaning product. It is best to avoid the delicate area around the eyes, as lactic acid cleansers tend to irritate delicate eyelids, leaving them dry, scaly and red.
Lactic acid cleansers are great options for sensitive skin types because you will need to rinse them off. Lactic acid does not remain on the skin for long periods, which can limit irritation.
b. Creams, lotions and serums
Moisturizers, lotions and serums are available for treatment. Most of them recommend using them at night instead of during the day to minimize possible damage from the sun. Even so, you still need to use your sun protection factor every morning
If your skin becomes irritated with daily use, reduce and use a few times a week. Non-rinse treatments are best for those who want to use lactic acid for a long time to improve and maintain the skin in a constant manner.
c. Scrubs and masks for the house
These products provide more exfoliating properties and are available in higher concentrations than products for daily use. You will not use them daily, but one to three times a week or as recommended in the product instructions.
Lactic acid peels and masks for home use are generally available in dosages of 10 to 30 percent. Start again at low strength and work slowly at higher intensities, if necessary, if your skin is responding well.
You may find that over-the-counter “professional” lactic acid may be even higher at concentrations of 50% or more. The pH of these products is cushioned compared to what you get from a professional, but you can still have problems with these extra strong peels if you don’t know what you’re doing. It really is best to make scrubs stronger for professionals.
6. Professional lactic acid peeling
- Professional lactic acid peels can be done at the local spa, medical spa, dermatology or cosmetic surgery office. Professional peels generally range in strength from 30 to 88 percent.
- Surface chemical peels can be done by a beautician. The doctor needs to do deeper peels. Whoever exfoliates will decide which dosage is best for their first treatments. Depending on your skin’s needs, you can gain strength for subsequent treatments.
- Plural treatments? Yes, several exfoliants are recommended to get all the benefits of an exfoliator. Pro-lactic acid peels are a great choice if you have a specific problem that you want to improve, such as dark spots, signs of aging or texture problems
Lactic acid is an incredibly popular AHA treatment that has a good safety record. As long as you listen to your skin, follow the instructions for the OTC products you use and don’t over-tighten a product too quickly, you are likely to get good results with minimal irritation.
The key is to remember that it doesn’t matter which lactic acid product or treatment you use to protect your skin from the sun. Therefore, use sunscreen every day (yes, even in winter, when it is very cold and cloudy). This is one of the best ways to protect your skin from premature aging, sunspots and skin cancer, and one of the best ways to keep your skin healthy at any age.
B. Everything You Need to Know About Lactic Acid Peels
We offer products that we believe are useful for our readers. If you buy through the links on this page, we can earn a small commission. Here is our process. Read on to learn how a lactic acid peel can improve your skin, what OTC products to try, what to expect from a professional peel and more.
1. How can a lactic acid peel benefit your skin?
A chemical peel works with a chemical – in this case, lactic acid – on bare skin. It removes the top layer of the skin (epidermis). Some stronger formulas can also reach the middle layers of the skin (dermis). Despite its name, its skin does not peel noticeably. However, the effects under the removed epidermis are noticeable: smoother and more radiant skin.
However, unlike AHAs like glycolic acid, lactic acid is slightly milder. This makes lactic acid peeling the best choice for sensitive skin. Lactic acid can also be an option if you have tried another AHA in the past and found that the product is very potent.
2. Are side effects possible?
Despite the milder nature of lactic acid, it is still considered a powerful AHA. The effects of peeling make the skin more susceptible to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays. Therefore, sun protection is the key. Make sure to apply sunscreen every morning and reapply it throughout the day if necessary.
Over time, unprotected sun exposure can cause more blemishes and scarring. It may even increase the risk of skin cancer. Lactic acid peels can also cause irritation, rashes and itching. These effects are generally mild and will improve as your skin gets used to the product. If your side effects persist after the first few uses, stop using them and consult your doctor.
You should not use a lactic acid scrub if you:
3. How to use a lactic acid scrub
The instructions for use depend on the composition and concentration of the product. Always read the product label and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
For a lighter skin, look for a product with 5% acidity. Medium peels can contain between 10 and 15 percent lactic acid and deeper (professional) peels have even higher concentrations.
As a general rule, the higher the concentration, the stronger the results. You may not need to use heavier scrubs frequently, but any subsequent irritation may last longer.
b. Preparation and use
It is important to do a skin patch test before the first complete application. This can help to reduce the risk of side effects.
To do this:
- Apply a small amount of the product to the inside of the forearm.
- Cover the area with a bandage and leave it as is.
- If there is no irritation or inflammation within 24 hours, it should be safe to use the product elsewhere.
- If you experience any side effects, discontinue use. Contact your dermatologist if your side effects get worse or last for more than a day or two.
Lactic acid peels are designed for use at night. Like other AHAs, lactic acid increases sensitivity to the sun, so you should never use it in the morning.
You should use sunscreen every day when using lactic acid. For best results, apply sunscreen every morning and reapply throughout the day as needed. You can use a daytime moisturizer that contains sunscreen and a base with a sun protection factor.
5. Lactic acid products to try at home
Lactic acid scrubs are widely used in drugstores, beauty stores and online retailers.
Popular options are:
- Dermalogica Gentle Cream Peeling. This cream-based lactic acid scrub is suitable for the most sensitive skin and also contains salicylic acid. These two ingredients remove dead skin cells that can cause a dull, pigmented complexion.
- Juice Beauty Green Apple Peel Full Force. This comprehensive peel targets wrinkles and hyperpigmentation with the help of lactic acid and other AHAs. It also contains willow bark, a natural type of salicylic acid and vitamins A and C. This scrub is not recommended for sensitive skin.
- Patchology Peeling FlashMasque Face Sheets. These single-use lactic acid-based cover sheets remove dead skin to improve its overall appearance and texture. As a bonus, the cover sheets are easy to use, with no additional steps or cleaning required.
- Perfect Image Lactic Acid 50% Peeling Gel. If you are looking for a deeper lactic acid peel, this product may be an option for you at home. It contains 50 percent lactic acid to improve your complexion, and the gel is easy to use without the product leaking out of your face. It is a professional quality peel. Therefore, ask your dermatologist before using.
- QRx Labs Lactic Acid 50% Gel Peel. This gel-based peel is considered a professional product and also contains a 50 percent higher lactic acid concentration. Although the company promises professional results, it is a good idea to ask your dermatologist to do this first to avoid side effects.
5. Consider a professional lactic acid peel
- Despite the availability of lactic acid peels for home use, deeper chemical peels offer the best results, according to the Mayo Clinic. The effects also last longer than OTC peels, so you don’t need to use them as often.
- You can consider lactic acid peeling with your dermatologist or skin care specialist if you don’t see the results of OTC versions, but don’t want to use stronger AHA.
- Before doing a professional lactic acid peel, talk to your dermatologist about any medications you are taking, as well as your sensitivity. All of this can affect the strength of the exfoliation that your dermatologist or skin care specialist will choose. This can help prevent side effects and complications like irritation and scarring.
- Also, be aware that it can take up to two weeks for you to recover from a professional lactic acid peel. Light peels can cause side effects that last for about a day. After a deeper peel, your skin may need bandages for a few weeks.
- Lactic acid peels can vary in cost and are not insured. This is because they are seen as cosmetic treatments rather than medically necessary therapies. However, you can get a payment plan from your dermatologist’s billing department.
Lactic acid is used to create a mild chemical peel that can even out your skin tone. It can help treat age spots, melasma and rough texture, as well as fine lines.
Although over-the-counter options are available, it is important to discuss your skin care needs with a dermatologist before attempting a lactic acid peel at home. Certain skin conditions can increase the risk of side effects.