Why Lactic Acid Deserves A Starring Role In Your Skincare Routine

It tackles everything from acne to the signs of ageing

If your skin is looking dull, you’re prone to acne or beginning to see early signs of ageing, it might be time to consider adding lactic acid to your skincare regime.

Because of the way it gently but effectively exfoliates, lactic acid can be used to minimise pigmentation and congested skin, and it helps boost hydration.

And unlike the more intense glycolic acid and salicylic acid, lactic acid is well-known for being kinder to sensitive skin.

Here, a complete break-down on what a lactic acid does, the benefits and the best products you can buy in Australia.

What Is Lactic Acid?

According the Skincare Clinic, “Lactic acid belongs to a family of acids called alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs). Produced naturally within our bodies and also derived from milk products, lactic acid is synthetically produced for skincare purposes.”

Due to it being derived from milk products you might be thinking it’s related to lactose (which is a type of glucose found in milk). Or maybe you’ve been to the gym and heard your instructor mention lactic acid – it’s naturally produced by the body when you workout.

You’ll pleased to know the lactic acid that goes into your skincare is not extracted from the thighs of fitness instructors and its relativity to milk won’t affect you if you’re lactose intolerant.

Is Lactic Acid Safe For Skin?

Many chemical peels contain lactic acid but if you’re worried about them searing your skin, fear not says Natalie Abouchar, founder of Privee Clinic in Bondi Junction.

“Modern peels are a lunchtime treatment due to the fact they only work on the surface of the skin.” So in terms of safety, they’re fairly safe but some caution is advised.

Skinceuticals who’ve been producing salon strength cosmeceuticals since 1997 say, “Immediately after a chemical peel, skin becomes more photosensitive. It is absolutely necessary that a broad spectrum sunscreen is applied daily post treatment, and that sun exposure is avoided or kept to a minimum.”

What Sorts Of Products Include Lactic Acid?

“Depending on the strength, pH and bioavailability of the lactic acid, it can be used daily as a gentle exfoliant, moisturising agent or as an in-clinic peel treatment,” says the Skincare Clinic.

Many salons offer peels with lactic acid but there are a multitude of cleansers, masks and peels that contain varying levels of AHA.

Lactic acid isn’t the only chemical peel on offer. Glycolic acid is common in salon peels but there is a difference.

A 20% concentration of glycolic acid at a pH of 3 will be stronger than the same formulation of lactic acid because the glycolic molecule is much smaller and better able to penetrate the skin’s barrier,” says Skinceuticals.

Is Lactic Acid Good For Acne-Prone Skin?

According to Abouchar, chemical peels containing lactic acid are beneficial for aiding in the control of pimples and acne, decreasing the appearance of pores and smoothing out rough skin.

People have even report improved skin texture with acne scarring after using The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10%. 

Can You Use Lactic Acid Products If You’re Lactose Intolerant?

Yes, you can. Lactose intolerance occurs when your digestive system doesn’t produce the lactase enzyme. Lactic acid isn’t digested the same way and therefore won’t incur the symptoms of lactose intolerance.

So, the good news is, you can use lactic acid to help boost your skin’s brightness and get your skin bling on just in time for Christmas.

The Best Lactic Acid Skincare You Can Buy In Australia

Looking to add lactic acid to your beauty routine? Check out our round-up of the best lactic acid skincare you can buy in Australia.

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Mesoestetic Facial Gel Cleanser 200ml, $49.80 at Adore Beauty

Designed for normal and combination skin, this gentle skin cleanser uses lactic acid to tackle oil and leave your face smooth without disrupting its hydro-lipid barrier.

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The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA 30ml, $12.70 at Adore Beauty

Potent yet gentle, this elixir combines lactic acid with Tasmania pepperberry, which is known to reduce signs of inflammation and sensitivity that often follow exfoliation.

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Skinceuticals C + HA Serum 30ml by Skinceuticals, $176 at Adore Beauty

Formulated especially to fight the signs of ageing, this two-in-one antioxidant treatment harnesses the combined powers of vitamin C to protect against sun damage and stimulate collagen production, while lactic acid and glycolic acid rejuvenate and renew the skin.

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HydroPeptide Anti-Wrinkle Polish & Plump Peel 2-Step System 2 x 30mL, $125 at Adore Beauty

Can’t get to a salon for a peel? Consider this the next best thing. Similar to the results of a microdermabrasion treatment, this at-home formula is a less abrasive and more affordable way to target hyperpigmentation, promote collagen production and improve skin clarity.

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Biossance Squalane + Lactic Acid Resurfacing Night Serum

Biossance Squalane + Lactic Acid Resurfacing Night Serum 30ml, $102 at Sephora

Formulated with 10% vegan lactic acid, this nighttime serum is made from sustainably sourced sugar to softly exfoliate and boost skin cell turnover.

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Peter Lactic Pore Treatment

Peter Thomas Roth 30% Lactic Acid Complex Pore Treatment, $145 at Sephora

Yes, it’s on the spendy side, but for an at-home product that offers professional results, it’s worth it! Designed to be used one to two times a week (this baby will last you a while), it helps purify and reduce the appearance of enlarged pores through a powerful blend of 30% lactic acid and witch hazel.

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