Lactic acid skin care: advantages and disadvantages.

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Lactic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid that is used in over-the-counter skin care products and professional treatments. It is found naturally in milk, although lactic acid is produced synthetically in modern skin care products. Lactic acid is used to exfoliate the skin, lighten dark spots, and improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

Get Medical Information / Emily Roberts

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 skincare and cosmeceuticals , as well as stronger professional treatments and peels.

Lactic acid is naturally found in dairy products; it is what gives yogurt and sour milk their distinctive flavor. Historically, people around the world have used dairy products to soften and beautify their skin.

Legend has it that Cleopatra regularly bathed in milk to keep her skin beautiful. And it probably worked thanks to the lactic acid.

You don't have to go into a milk bath (if you don't want to, milk baths are a great way to pamper your skin). Today, the vast majority of lactic acid used in skincare and peel products is produced synthetically.

Health benefits

Lactic acid exfoliates the skin. Helps dull, old cells on the skin's surface exfoliate by dissolving the bonds that hold them together. Lactic acid accelerates cell renewal and stimulates cell renewal .

This is what happens at the cellular level. But you will see a brighter complexion, as well as softer, smoother skin.

Lactic acid is popular for two main reasons:

  • With regular use, it can cause real skin changes.
  • 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 won't get from its AHA cousins. Lactic acid helps improve the skin's natural hydration factor or the way the skin stays hydrated. Basically , lactic acid helps keep skin hydrated and less dry.

Regular consumption of lactic acid can also improve the signs of aging. Stimulates the renewal of collagen and strengthens the skin. Hyperpigmentation ( sun spots or age spots ) disappears and fine lines and wrinkles are smoothed and smoothed. However, lactic acid will not improve those deeper wrinkles.

Interestingly, lactic acid is also the main ingredient in over-the-counter lotions and creams for hair keratoses or those "chicken skin" bumps on the back of your hands. Lactic acid helps to dissolve the plug of skin cells that accumulates around the hair follicle, smoothing out irregularities .

It is also used in topical treatments for eczema , psoriasis , and rosacea . However, you should ask your doctor before adding this to your skincare routine.

Possible side effects.

While lactic acid is gentler than other AHAs like glycolic acid and mandelic acid, it is still a powerful treatment. There are some downsides to using lactic acid.

Sensitivity to the sun

The most important thing to know before you start using lactic acid is that it can make your skin more sensitive to the sun. As the acid kills skin cells, it makes the new cells more vulnerable to ultraviolet radiation.

When you start using lactic acid, you should be serious about sun protection on your skin. And not just on those days when you are actively using a lactic acid product.

Some studies have shown that sun sensitivity can last up to four weeks after you stop using the product or after exfoliation (and maybe even longer) .

Use a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher every day to protect your skin from sunburn and sun damage. If you don't, you could inadvertently aggravate the very problems you're trying to fix (like dark spots and wrinkles) in the long run.

Skin irritation

Besides being sensitive to the sun, lactic acid can also irritate the skin. Be on the lookout for :

  • Redness
  • Combustion
  • Peeling
  • Dryness
  • Skin itch
  • Swelling

Mild redness, burning, and itching are not uncommon when a lactic acid product is first applied. As long as it's smooth and goes away for an hour or so that's fine.

If it is moderate or severe, does not go away after a short period of time, or if it develops swelling or a rash, wash it off immediately. Do not reuse the product and consult your doctor.

Contraindications

Lactic acid is the most delicate of the alpha hydroxy acids, so most people can use it without too much trouble. However, there are reasons to steer clear of this skincare ingredient.

Are you currently using topical retinoids like Retin-A or Refissa? These products already exfoliate your skin, so there is no need to duplicate lactic acid products. If you do this, your skin will become too sensitive. Too good is too much.

If you are under the supervision of a dermatologist or take any medication for skin care, you should consult this before using any lactic acid treatment. It may not work for your skin.

Having hypersensitive skin doesn't automatically prevent you from using lactic acid, but you need to be extra careful until you know how your skin reacts. Try a low-percentage product and start slowly. Monitor your skin closely and reduce or stop using the product if you notice any irritation.

What to look for

Over-the-counter lactic acid products range in concentration from 5 percent to more than 30 percent. However, a higher percentage is not always better. Using a high percentage product is a good way to irritate the skin.

If you've never used over-the-counter lactic acid before, start with a very low-strength product, a maximum of 5 to 10 percent. This will allow you to see how your skin reacts to lactic acid and will also allow the skin to get used to the acid for a while.

After using your existing product, you may be satisfied with the results. In this case, you can stick with the force you used.

If you want to gain strength, do it slowly. Always watch your skin for irritation, and if you feel it is too much, discard it or go back to a product with less force.

As for the type of lactic acid product, choose the one that suits you best. You have several different options.

Cleaners

Lactic acid cleansers are easy to incorporate into your daily skincare routine. Use them in the same way as a regular cleanser. However, it is best to avoid the delicate eye area, as lactic acid cleansers can irritate your delicate eyelids, leaving them dry, flaky and red.

Lactic acid cleansers are a good choice for sensitive skin because it washes them off. Lactic acid does not stay on the skin for long and this can reduce irritation.

Creams, lotions and serums

For a leave-in treatment, you can choose moisturizers, lotions, and serums. Most suggest applying them at night rather than during the day to minimize potential sun damage. Still , you need to use SPF every morning .

If your skin starts to become irritated with daily use, reduce the size and use them a couple of times a week. Leave-in treatments are best for those who want to use lactic acid for a long time to continuously improve and maintain their skin.

Peels and masks at home

These products are formulated to exfoliate more effectively and are found in higher concentrations than everyday products. You will not use them daily, but preferably one to three times a week, or whatever is recommended in the product instructions.

Homemade lactic acid peels and masks typically have a concentration of 10 to 30 percent. Again, start with low force, and if your skin responds well, slowly increase the force as needed.

You can find better quality "professional" lactic acid peels without a prescription, in a concentration of 50 percent or more. The PH of these products is buffer compared to what you get from the pros, but you can still struggle with these super strong peels if you don't know what you are doing. In fact, it is best to leave the strongest peels to the professionals.

Professional peel with lactic acid

A professional lactic acid peel can be performed at your local day spa, medical spa, dermatology office, or cosmetic surgery office. Professional peels are typically 30 to 88 percent effective.

An esthetician can perform a superficial chemical peel. The doctor should perform a deeper exfoliation. Whoever performs the exfoliation will decide which concentration is the most suitable for the initial treatment. Its strength can be increased for subsequent treatments, depending on the needs of your skin.

Plural treatment? Yes, it is recommended to perform a series of peels to obtain all the benefits of the peel. Lactic Acid Peel Pro is a good option if you have a specific problem that you want to address, such as dark spots, signs of aging, or texture issues.

Frequently asked questions

What does the lactic acid in the yogurt mask do for your skin?

The lactic acid in yogurt can help nourish and exfoliate the skin when applied topically in a mask. To make it at home, try mixing 1/4 cup of plain Greek yogurt with a teaspoon of honey and letting it steep for 15 minutes, then rinse.

Does salicylic acid exfoliate the skin better than lactic acid?

Salicylic acid, a beta hydroxy acid, penetrates deeper into the pores and removes dead skin cells. Lactic acid mainly exfoliates the surface of the skin. Salicylic acid can cause more irritation in some people. Talk to your dermatologist to find out what works best for your skin type.

Get the word of drug information

Lactic acid is an incredibly popular AHA product with good safety records. As long as you listen to your skin, follow the directions on the over-the-counter products you use, and don't push the product too hard too quickly – you'll likely get good results with minimal irritation.

The key is to remember, no matter what lactic acid product or product you use to protect your skin from the sun. So put on sunscreen daily (yes, even in winter when it's cold and cloudy). Still, it is one of the best ways to protect your skin from premature aging, sun spots, and skin cancer, and one of the best ways to keep your skin healthy at any age.

If you have any questions about which lactic acid product is right for you, ask your doctor for advice and advice.

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