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Stop Sleeping On Lactic Acid—Here's Why You Should Add It To Your Routine ASAP


If you associate all acids with Samantha’s peeling, red post-peel skin in Sex and the City, we’ve got news for you. Not all skincare acids are created equal. Simply having the word acid in the name can give an ingredient a bad rap, but certain acids are super gentle. Case in point: lactic acid for skin.

Keep reading to see why lactic acid is the unsung hero of the acid game—and why you should add it into your routine asap.

What is lactic acid, exactly?

Lactic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that is seen a lot in skincare products and treatments, says Patricia Wexler, MD, dermatologist at Wexler Dermatology in New York City. Lactic acid exfoliates skin by dissolving the glue between dead skin cells, allowing these dead cells to be sloughed away easily and a fresh layer of skin cells to be revealed. The best part: it does all this with minimal irritation to skin.

What are the benefits of lactic acid for your skin?

“Using lactic acid can help stimulate collagen production and promote cellular renewal,” says Dr. Wexler. By getting rid of the dead skin cells, it can help brighten a dull complexion and reduce discoloration in skin. Plus, it can help improve the skin’s texture and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. Talk about a serious anti-ager!

What skin types can use lactic acid?

One of the reasons why lactic acid is a real crowd pleaser: all skin types can use this powerful (and minimally irritating) exfoliant. It is especially beneficial for mature skin and acne-prone skin. And definitely a favorite for those with sensitive skin

While lactic acid is generally good for one and all, you should be cautious what ingredients you are using it with. If you are using other AHAs or retinol regularly, it can be too much and irritate your skin. The combination of using all of these products can wear your skin down, making your face more prone to sun damage and early aging, says Dr. Wexler. On the other hand, lactic acids work perfectly with hydrating ingredients, like hyaluronic acid.

Are there any side effects?

Similar to any other skincare acid, you should always follow the guidelines provided by a specific product in terms of suggested usage. While lactic acid is known to be gentler than other acids (think glycolic and salicylic), over-using lactic acid could still bring on some inflammation and irritation, says Dr. Wexler. And keep an eye out for super high concentrations. Dr. Wexler recommends a maximum of 10 percent lactic acid in any skincare product.

How to use lactic acid in your skincare routine

One of the best ways to incorporate lactic acid into your routine if you have sensitive skin is using a cleanser with lactic acid. A face wash is perfect as it won’t stay on your skin all day like a moisturizer does, says Dr. Wexler. You can also look for lactic acid in toners, peels, and treatments. 

Dr. Wexler suggests using it once or twice a week. This of course depends on what other products you are using in your skincare routine. While lactic acid gently exfoliates your skin, it’s important to make sure you are simultaneously moisturizing your skin and protecting it with a daily sunscreen. 

The best lactic acid products

SUNDAY RILEY Good Genes All-In-One Lactic Acid Treatment

1. SUNDAY RILEY Good Genes All-In-One Lactic Acid Treatment

In addition to its namesake ingredient, this powerful exfoliator also contains brightening licorice extract, which helps fade dark spots. Ipster Puffylujano “can definitely see an immediate difference when I use this serum on dull, tired skin.”

FIRST AID BEAUTY Facial Radiance AHA Intensive Peel

2. FIRST AID BEAUTY Facial Radiance AHA Intensive Peel

Get glowing in just three minutes thanks to the combo of lactic and salicylic acids and mushroom enzymes in this powerhouse peel.

DERMADOCTOR Ain’t Misbehavin’ Healthy Toner with Glycolic & Lactic Acid

3. DERMADOCTOR Ain’t Misbehavin’ Healthy Toner with Glycolic & Lactic Acid

If you have oily or combination skin, don’t skip this key step in your routine. The toner helps remove excess oils, dirt, and makeup without causing any dryness or inflammation.

MURAD AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser

4. MURAD AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser

A triple threat that combines salicylic, lactic, and glycolic acids and gets rid of dullness while rejuvenating skin. Many Ipsters love this one and agree that it’s gentle yet effective. Win, win!

YOUTH TO THE PEOPLE Kombucha + 11% AHA Exfoliation Power Toner

5. YOUTH TO THE PEOPLE Kombucha + 11% AHA Exfoliation Power Toner

This kombucha is not for drinking. The prebiotic is blended with lactic and glycolic acids to exfoliate, reduce the appearance of pores, and firm skin.

Are you a lactic acid lover? Share how you incorporate it into your routine and tag us @IPSY on Twitter and Instagram—we can’t wait to hear! And remember, if you want to receive more skincare in your upcoming Glam Bags, be sure to take our fun Beauty Quiz to let us know (you can update it any time).

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Article Last Updated April 24, 2020 12:00 AM