Glycolic acid is the most well known and studied Alpha Hydroxy acid but not enough is known about its younger sister lactic acid. Lactic acid in my opinion is actually better for a number of reasons I’ll be talking about. Though understated, the benefits of Lactic acid in skincare are numerous.
Lactic acid is the second most studied Alpha Hydroxy Acid. It is similar to glycolic acid but a lot more gentler. Lactic acid is derived from milk and fruit sugars. Its molecules are larger than that of glycolic acid which makes it less penetrating and irritating.
Why You Should Use Lactic Acid
Lactic acid is more easily tolerated than glycolic acid which makes it more suited for sensitive skin, dry skin and dehydrated skin. It is actually used to treat dry skin. Just like hyaluronic acid, it attracts and holds water making for more youthful skin even at 2% concentration.
Just like other exfoliating acids, lactic acid works by reacting with the upper layer of the epidermis. When this happens, there is weakening of the lipid layer that holds dead skin cells together to reveal fresher and smoother skin (at 5-10%). Lactic acid is most effective at pH of 3.5-4.0.
Due to having larger molecules than glycolic acid for example, it tends to stay more on the outer layer of the skin. As a result of time spent on the surface of the skin, it exfoliates more gently and provides more moisture. Lactic acid helps to increase ceramides in the skin’s protective barrier and helps with water retention.
Because it stimulates collagen synthesis, lactic acid is instrumental in helping to reduce the appearance of wrinkles. However like most topical treatments, it does not do much in regards to deep lines. It is also used in topical products to treat psoriasis, eczema and rosacea.
Like other AHAs, lactic acid products are better used at night due to its ability to thin out the skin leading to sensitivity to the sun and sun burns. When incorporating AHAs into a skincare routine, it is usually better to start with smaller concentrations before working one’s way up. And as always, the use of a sunscreen with spf 30 and above is advised.
Best Lactic Acid Products