Lactic Acid - Sounds Scary But Could It Be The Secret To Your Smoothest Skin Yet?

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Lactic Acid - Sounds Scary But Could It Be The Secret To Your Smoothest Skin Yet?

Beauty brands have long been pushing glycolic acid as the gold standard when it comes to chemical exfoliation – but if you're sensitive skinned, you'll know this powerful skin-renewer can be a little too much on delicate complexions. Enter lactic acid: the gentler - yet no less effective - acid to know now.

Whether you’ve got an easily upset complexion or not, having too much of a good thing absolutely applies when it comes to exfoliating skincare. If there’s an acid in your cleanser, one hiding in your serum, and a sneaky inclusion in your night cream too, there's every chance you're overdoing it and straining your poor skin barrier.

Lactic Acid For Your Skin

Matteo Scarpellini Lactic Acid For Your Skin

'If you’re a frequent user of glycolic acid, be careful, as overuse can lead to a breakdown in collagen,' explains facialist Kate Somerville, who recommends limiting glycolic acid use to once or twice per week (and always using SPF in conjunction). 'While it’s perfectly safe to use glycolic acid at home in low concentrations, stronger concentrations can irritate the skin, causing redness, flaking, peeling, scabbing or even burning,' she warns.

It's clear that going too hard, too frequently with hardcore acids can disrupt your skin barrier, leaving it vulnerable to irritation and other conditions. However, we're not suggesting you forget about chemical exfoliation altogether – even if you've been burned before. Cue glycolic’s gentler sister: lactic acid.

Here’s everything you need to know about using lactic acid on your skin...

a close up of a woman with red hair looking at the camera: Spyder - Beauty - Milan Men's Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2020

Getty Images Spyder - Beauty - Milan Men's Fashion Week Spring/Summer 2020

'Lactic Acid is a natural AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) known to accelerate cell turnover while helping with moisturisation,' explains Somerville.

Derived from milk or fruit sugars, this exfoliating ingredient possesses larger molecules than glycolic, meaning it won’t penetrate the surface of your skin as well, leading to a lighter degree of exfoliation

Thanks to its softly-softly approach, lactic acid is a great choice for people who find glycolic too intense. Those with extra-dry, sensitive, or reactive skin should pay close attention, as it'll offer the same exfoliating qualities as glycolic, minus the irritation.

These gentle properties undoubtedly make lactic acid a safer option for reactive skin, and a whole host of dermatologist-approved brands have jumped on the bandwagon, offering an array of lactic-powered products. If you’re totally new to the game, it pays to start small and slowly build up a tolerance.

So, what's the best way to harness this easy-going exfoliator in your daily routine? Lactic acid isn’t restricted to exfoliators – it’s now a key component in gentle cleansers, body treatments and even hand creams.

A cleanser containing lactic acid is a great introduction to the ingredient, as they generally stay on the skin for less time than a serum or moisturiser. Then, there’s a whole world of treatments to explore, from serums and moisturisers to exfoliating wipes and even body creams (brilliant for smoothing keratosis pilaris). Exfoliate away – your skin will thank you for it.

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