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What are the Benefits of Lactic Acid?

By September 4, 2023February 29th, 2024No Comments

What is lactic acid?

Lactic acid is a chemical exfoliant that is available to buy over the counter. It is derived from the fermentation of lactose, a carbohydrate that is found in milk. It is a popular ingredient in a lot of skincare products recently, due to its many desirable benefits. The benefits of lactic acid include anti-ageing, and more.

Lactic acid & AHAs

Lactic acid belongs to the alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) family. An AHA is water-soluble acid that is found naturally within sugary fruits, sugar cane and milk. It works by exfoliating the skin to improve overall texture and appearance. It is available in various forms like creams, gels, toners, serums and also concentrated chemical peels.

Some examples of other AHAs are:

  • Glycolic acid
  • Citric acid
  • Malic acid
  • Tartaric acid
applying lactic acid

What makes lactic acid more favourable than the ones listed above is how much milder it is, yet it’s still effective on the skin. It works better for people with sensitive skin.

The Benefits of Lactic Acid


Lactic acid’s main role is exfoliation. It works by eliminating the dead cells that sit on the top layer of your skin (also known as the epidermis) which results in smoother, brighter skin. This gives the opportunity for new skin cells to grow and increase the strength of your skin barrier.


In ancient times, it is rumoured that Cleopatra bathed in sour milk to keep her looking youthful. In today’s day and age, however, the next best thing we have is lactic acid. It has the power of turning over cells to reduce the appearance of any wrinkles and deep lines, making it a favourite for those looking for anti-ageing products.


With acne prone skin, lactic acid help to reduce acne lesions and helps to soothe any redness or irritation that comes with breakouts. It can aid in any post acne issues too, such as smoothing out skin texture and hyperpigmentation.


Increasing cell promotion means that lactic acid is great at reducing the visibility of any dark spots or scars. This could range from age spots to acne scarring.


Lactic acid produces antimicrobial agents that can help fix any inflammatory reactions. It gives balance to the microbiome of the skin too, which means all the bacteria, fungi and variety of organisms found within the skin work equally alongside each other. If these elements are not balanced, it can cause issues such as acne and atopic dermatitis. Popular antimicrobial cleansers, such as Clinisept are great for aesthetics clinics, and for clients to purchase to keep on top of aftercare.


Not only does lactic acid help to moisturise your skin, it supports your body’s natural process in keeping itself moisturised.

How to use lactic acid safely

It’s important to note that, despite the many benefits of lactic acid, it should also be used safely, as it does come with some risks. Here are some tips on how to safely incorporate lactic acid into your skincare routine.


It’s important to remember that even though lactic acid is a mild form of AHA, it is a chemical and should be used in moderation. It is recommended you use lactic acid either every other day or every 2 days as you are risking over-exfoliation and damage to your natural skin barrier if over used.


The concentration of lactic acid products can vary but to it’s always best to start low and to apply it every few days rather than on a daily basis. When your skin builds up a tolerance to it or you know how your skin reacts to the lactic acid, you can build up the concentration and amount of times you apply it during the week.

Other products

You should be careful when applying more than one AHA based product on top of another unless you specifically choose a product that contain a couple of AHAs. It is recommended that you also avoid applying products that contain vitamin C or retinoids immediately after using lactic acid as it can irritation.

Any severe cases of irritation can even cause post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. Your skin will begin to produce an abnormal, excess amount of melanin as a natural response to stress (the irritation). This type of hyperpigmentation generally takes a long time to fade too.

Apply SPF

Any kind of chemical applied onto the face or body puts your skin at more risk of damage. You should be applying at least SPF 30 or above on a daily basis if using an AHA like lactic acid, even if it isn’t hot or sunny.

Side effects & risks

When using any kind of chemical based product, it’s important to remember that there is always the risk of them causing adverse reactions on your skin. These can range from:

  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Severe itching
  • Peeling
  • Burning sensation

If you begin to experience any of the following, you should stop using the product immediately and if it worsens, talk to a doctor or healthcare professional as soon as possible.

benefits of lactic acid
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