Lactic Acid: The Exfoliating AHA Underdog
The unsung hero of the exfoliation world. We love lactic acid, and it’s our AHA of choice for good reason. Lactic acid doesn’t get as much attention as some of its more celebrated AHA cousins. So, let us tell you why we love it in this ode to lactic acid.
Like other AHAs, lactic acid works to dissolve the bonds between old, dead skin cells. It’s therefore known as an exfoliator, and for working particularly well at improving discoloration and dull skin. However, it is composed of slightly larger molecules than other AHAs. Its larger size means it works at a slighter slower pace, making this unsung AHA a more predictable worker than its quicker and (dare we say) more unruly counterparts.
This slower-motion action means you get all the action, and none of the potential sensitivity that can be associated with acidic exfoliation. So, it’s the perfect AHA for ALL skin types and ideal if you have sensitive skin, those who are new to using acids or those who want to combine AHAs with retinoids.
It’s got hydrophilic properties (“hydro” = water; “philic” = loving), which means it’s attracted to water in the skin, works on the surface (not in the pores, like BHAs) and helps to hydrate. It also ups the levels of ceramide, which is one of the building blocks of healthy skin, and has antioxidant properties.
So, you can see why we love it!
The Skin Loving Acid
All skin types benefit from regular exfoliation, but we always recommend checking in with your skin pro for expert advice on the right skincare routine for you. Lactic acid features in our skincare line-up because this is the acid that has your skin type in mind. Let’s explore!
Lactic acid is really good at shifting dead skin cells that can block pores. In blemish-prone skin, these blockages lead to blackheads and breakouts. In this case, of course, you’re clarifying heroes are needed - retinol and salicylic acid at the ready! However, an exfoliator that works on the outermost layers is needed too. The combination of unclogging the pores at the surface AND deep cleaning them within is the best strategy for clear, comfortable, and predictable skin long term.
We’ve established that lactic acid is highly effective AND skin-friendly, especially in the long term, so it makes sense that it’s ideal for sensitive skin. We even recommend lactic acid for redness-prone skin because it won’t disrupt the skin’s pH or damage the skin barrier.
Uneven skin tone
By speeding up the natural process of shedding dead skin cells, lactic acid can help fade signs of discoloration in two ways. Higher concentrations of lactic acid, such as those found in our Enzymatic Peel, can help to slough away the cells that have a visible build-up of discoloration. Plus, an excess of dull, dead skin cells can lead to a lacklustre appearance, enhancing the appearance of discoloration. Regularly removing these dulling dead cells with a gentle product, like our Bright & Clear Solution, will mean skin looks brighter and fresher.
As we age, the natural process of shedding dead skin cells begins to slow down, so we’re left with skin that looks dull, often feels dry, and can have a rougher texture. It’s really important to keep the skin shifting off nicely, constantly making way for youthful new skin cells to come through underneath. How to do it? You guessed it, lactic acid!
Which lactic acid product is right for me?
There are two important things to consider when choosing a lactic acid formula. One is the percentage of lactic acid, which we’ll talk about below. The second is how long the product is designed to stay on your skin for.
If you choose a product that you don’t remove, like a serum, your skin is being exposed to the ingredients for a longer time. In contrast, when you apply a product like a cleanser, which is quickly removed, or a mask that might stay on for ten minutes before being removed, your skin is exposed to the ingredient for a shorter time. Both options are useful, and your skin pro will guide you on the best one (or both!) for your skin’s needs.
Now let’s take a deep dive into our lactic acid products . . .
Our Bright & Clear Solution contains 3% lactic acid – a lower percentage perfect for daily use. It’s combined with vitamin C extract and formulated for use AM & PM. This glow booster is swiped over the skin with a cotton pad and not washed off, so when used morning and evening, your skin is receiving a low percentage yet long exposure exfoliation.
Next up, with 8% lactic acid, our AHA Renewal Serum is applied before bed for long exposure overnight. This powerful formula is ideal if you’re fighting discoloration and looking to rejuvenate your skin, as it helps to reduce the visible signs of ageing and promotes brighter, firmer, and more radiant skin.
Topping our percentage chart is Enzymatic Peel with 10% lactic acid, complemented by enzymes with a powerful exfoliating action. This at-home short-exposure exfoliation mask is applied all over the skin for 3-5 minutes and then removed to reveal brighter, smoother, and fresher-looking skin.
So, in summary, the lower the percentage of lactic acid, the more frequently you can use it. For those with very resilient skin, it’s also possible to combine all three products within your weekly routine. For example, use Bright & Clear Solution twice a day, AHA Renewal Serum every night, and then Enzymatic Peel once a week. Speak to your skin pro for personalised advice on using lactic acid, and you’ll soon be hitting those bright and clear skin goals!