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What Is Lactic Acid Skincare?

If the thought of putting acid on your face makes you a bit squeamish, fear not. Gentle acids, such as alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) and beta-hydroxy acids (BHAs), are skin-loving ingredients that can work wonders on your visage. One AHA, in particular, you may have heard of is lactic acid. 

The Queen of Beauty herself, Cleopatra, was said to have bathed in sour milk, which contains lactic acid, for its skin benefits. But exactly what does lactic acid do for skin? Read on to find out. We’re digging into what lactic acid is, benefits of lactic acid skincare, and how you can incorporate some of our favorite lactic acid products into your routine.

What Is Lactic Acid Skincare?

Despite Cleopatra discovering the power of lactic acid for skin millennia ago, it wasn’t until the mid-1990s that the cosmeceutical industry officially recognized the anti-aging value of AHAs such as lactic acid. Since then, the proliferation of them in the skincare market has exploded. And because lactic acid is one of the most commonly used AHAs (the other is glycolic acid), products like lactic acid lotion, lactic acid peel, and lactic acid serum, to name a few, have become commonplace. 

We’ve even incorporated it into our new Ferulic Brew Rejuvenating Facial Essence. Inspired by old-world apothecary preparations, this “essential brew” combines lactic acid with naturally-derived ferulic acid (an antioxidant ingredient that helps protect against free radicals) and squalane.* It’s also enriched with brassica extract that’s been phyto-brewed for 120 hours. The unique formula absorbs quickly to help visibly boost radiance, refine skin texture, and reduce the appearance of fine lines. 

Even better, it’s packed with antioxidants to help your skin repair itself and protect against environmental aggressors. Priming your skin with this essence after cleansing has the added bonus of helping your other products absorb better, making it an essential first step in your skincare routine.

*We consider products to be naturally-derived if they retain more than 50% of their molecular structure after being processed from a natural source. 

You’ll also find lactic acid in Clearly Corrective Accelerated Clarity Renewing Ampoules, alongside glycolic and phytic acids, as well as Activated C. This two-week treatment visibly brightens skin by more than 33%, and is clinically demonstrated to improve radiance with continued use.* It refreshes the appearance of dull skin and promotes cell renewal for smoother skin. And, since it’s an accelerated 14-day treatment, it’s perfect to use when the seasons change, following sun damage, or before a special event.

*Based on expert grading in a 2-week clinical study of 85 panelists in Brazil. Radiance improvement also seen in a clinical test.

Specifically how lactic acid works has eluded scientists, but it’s thought to loosen the “glue” that binds skin cells together. By doing so, it promotes exfoliation, which sloughs away dry and dead cells to reveal younger-looking skin underneath. But this is only scraping the surface (pun intended) as to what the benefits of lactic acid skincare are. Ahead, find out what lactic acid can do for your skin.

What Does Lactic Acid Do In Skincare?

By providing gentle exfoliation, lactic acid helps improve your skin’s thickness, plumpness, and elasticity. This can, in turn, help reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. It can also help unclog your pores, thereby making them appear smaller—an especially welcomed benefit if you have acne-prone skin.

Lactic acid is also known to help visibly reduce dark spots and discolorations on the skin. And though it may sound counterintuitive, lactic acid actually helps your skin’s moisture level, too. It helps hydrate your skin by bolstering its natural production of hyaluronic acid, which can up your glow factor even further. So, if you love multitasking products as much as we do, formulas with lactic acid might just be for you.

Is Lactic Acid Good For Your Skin?

Aside from the visible benefits you can reap from lactic acid, it can actually be healthy for your skin. It’s capable of binding to large amounts of water and also helps maintain your skin’s moisture barrier, your first line of defense against stressors in the environment.

That said, it may be wise to start your use of lactic acid (or any skincare acid) slowly, so your skin can acclimate to it. Side effects you may experience are usually minimal and diminish with continued use; they include mild stinging, burning, or itching. When you use it, you may also be around 18% more sensitive to the sun. So be sure to apply an effective sunscreen during the day all year-round.

We recommend Super Fluid Daily UV Defense 50+, which stars baicalin and vitamin E. This lightweight, dermatologist-tested formula is made with advanced technology to help protect against UVA and UVB rays, as well as pollution and free radicals. It’s safe enough to be used daily on all skin types and won’t clog your pores. Apply it as the last step in your morning routine alone or under foundation.

Does Lactic Acid Brighten Skin?

As we touched upon earlier, one of lactic acid’s many benefits for skin is that it can help reduce the appearance of dark spots and discoloration. Blemishes like these can occur when there is an overproduction of melanin, the pigment in your skin that gives it color. They can develop naturally as a result of the aging process or in response to years of sun exposure. Thankfully, lactic acid is an excellent skin-brightener and can help diminish their appearance.  

When To Use Lactic Acid In Your Skincare Routine

Now that you know what lactic acid is, how it works, and the amazing benefits it can have for your skin, we’ll bet you may want to get on with using it. Fortunately, that’s easy to do with this simple routine.

Next: Dull Skin: What Causes It and How To Treat It

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