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The Benefits and Usage of Lactic Acid for Skincare | Complete Guide

  1. Introduction

    Discover the transformative power of lactic acid for achieving healthier, smoother, and more radiant skin. Lactic acid, a naturally occurring compound found in various skincare products, offers a myriad of benefits that can help improve skin texture, hydration, and overall appearance. Whether you’re seeking to exfoliate dead skin cells, combat hyperpigmentation, stimulate collagen production, or enhance skin moisture, lactic acid has emerged as a popular ingredient in the realm of skincare. In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the science behind lactic acid, explore its role in the body, examine its diverse skincare benefits, provide tips on incorporating it into your skincare routine, and shed light on potential side effects and precautions. Join us as we unlock the secrets of lactic acid and empower you to make informed decisions about incorporating this powerful ingredient into your skincare regimen.
    The Benefits and Usage of Lactic Acid for Skincare

    1. What is Lactic Acid

      Lactic acid is a compound that is commonly found in many cosmetic products. It is a chemical exfoliant that is helpful in removing dead skin cells, smoothing rough areas, and moisturizing the skin.

      Lactic acid is a naturally occurring compound in the body. It is a byproduct of glucose metabolism and is produced during anaerobic respiration.

      The products containing lactic acid for home use are usually mild and have a concentration of 10% or less.(1) For professional usage, the concentration of the product is more than 10-15%.(2)

      According to the Vegetarian Resource Groups, most of the lactic acid is produced by a fermentation process using cornstarch or beet sugar. This means some products containing lactic acid may be useful for vegans as well.(3)

      Lactic acid can also be produced by fermenting milk products. Other types of AHAs include:(4)

      • Glycolic acid derived from sugar cane
      • Citric acid derived from citrus fruits
      • Malic acid from apples
      • Tartaric acid derived from grapes
    2. Growing Interest in Natural and Effective Skincare Ingredients

      There has been a significant increase in the interest and demand for natural and effective skincare ingredients. This is attributed to several factors.

      • The growing awareness of the consumers of synthetic ingredients. They are gradually getting more conscious of the potential negative effects.
      • There is a preference for gentle and non-irritating formulations. Natural formulations are often perceived as milder and less likely to cause irritation or allergic reaction.
      • Rise of internet and social media, information, and skincare ingredients and their effects on the skin.
      • Many natural ingredients have a long history of traditional use in skincare and are perceived to be effective. These products are still being explored for their efficacy.

      Interest in natural skincare ingredients reflects a shift in consumer preference towards safer, gentle, and more sustainable skincare options.

    3. Role of Lactic Acid in the Body

      Lactic acid plays a vital role in maintaining energy levels and preventing muscle fatigue. A build-up of lactic acid during exercise can cause a burning sensation and contribute to muscle fatigue.

      Once the exercise intensity decreases and the oxygen supply gets sufficient, lactic acid is converted back into glucose by the liver.

      Lactic acid also plays a role in regulating pH levels in the body. Being a weak acid, it acts as a buffer and helps maintain acid-base balance in various bodily fluids including blood.

      Lactic acid also has various skincare benefits but these come primarily from the external application of skincare products.

  2. How Does Lactic Acid Benefits Skin?

    As lactic acid penetrates the skin it serves various benefits to the skin. The various benefits include:(1)

    • Exfoliation of Dead Skin: Lactic acid acts as a gentle exfoliant that can be helpful in removing dead skin from the surface. It breaks the bond between the dead skin cells. The exfoliation process can help promote cell turnover and reveal fresher and smoother skin.
    • Improves Skin Moisture and Hydration: Lactic acid has hydration properties that can be helpful in retaining moisture. It attracts water to the skin to prevent moisture loss. It can prove to be beneficial for those with dry and dehydrated skin.
    • Stimulation of Collagen Production: Lactic acid can be helpful in the production of collagen, a protein that provides structure and firmness to the skin. Collagen production declines with age leading to the formation of wrinkles and loss of elasticity. Lactic acid, by promoting collagen synthesis and improve the firmness and elasticity of the skin.
    • Reduces Hyperpigmentation and Brightening of the Skin: Lactic acid can be effective in reducing hyperpigmentation including dark spots and post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation. It inhibits the enzymes responsible for melanin production and helps lighten and fade existing dark spots. Its regular use can also help in improving skin tone and brightening complexion.
    • Enhance Skin Texture and Smoothness: Due to exfoliating properties, lactic acid help refine skin texture and smoothen rough areas. It can minimize the appearance of rough patches, acne scars, and other skin imperfections, leaving the skin smoother and more even.

    There are numerous benefits offered by lactic acid. Also, it may not be suitable for everyone.

    A person with sensitive skin should use lactic acid with caution. A patch test should be conducted before applying it to the entire face. It is also advisable to consult a dermatologist or a skincare professional to determine the appropriate concentration and usage of lactic acid.

  3. How to Incorporate Lactic Acid into Skincare Routine?

    Incorporating a skincare routine can provide several benefits to the skin. Certain steps can be taken to add lactic acid to the skincare regimen.

    • Look for a skincare product that contains lactic acid as an active ingredient. This may include cleansers, toners, serums, moisturizers, or chemical peels.
    • A patch test should be done to check if the product is suiting the skin.(5)
    • If the skin tolerates the patch test, one can begin using lactic acid in the routine gradually. The product can be used once or twice a week to allow the skin to adjust.
    • The product can be applied to damp skin, depending on the instructions provided by the product.
    • Lactic acid increases sun sensitivity of the skin. It is therefore, essential to use sunscreen daily.
    • Lactic acid can be used in combination with other skincare products such as hyaluronic acid, niacinamide, or vitamin C.

    Lactic acid, with its remarkable exfoliating and hydrating properties, is widely used in various skincare products to cater to different skincare needs. Here are some common types of lactic acid products available on the market:

    • Cleansers: Lactic acid cleansers are gentle yet effective formulations designed to cleanse the skin while providing exfoliating benefits. These cleansers help remove impurities, excess oil, and dead skin cells, leaving the skin refreshed and renewed. Lactic acid cleansers are suitable for daily use and are often recommended for those with sensitive or dry skin, as they offer a milder exfoliation compared to other products.
    • Serums: Lactic acid serums are concentrated formulations that deliver a higher dose of lactic acid to the skin. These serums are typically lightweight and easily absorbable, allowing the lactic acid to penetrate deeply into the skin. Lactic acid serums are valued for their ability to promote cell turnover, improve skin texture, and address specific concerns such as hyperpigmentation, fine lines, and uneven skin tone. They are commonly used in skincare routines as a targeted treatment step.
    • Chemical Peels: Lactic acid chemical peels are professional-grade treatments usually performed by dermatologists or skincare professionals. These peels have a higher concentration of lactic acid and are intended to exfoliate the skin more intensely. Chemical peels can effectively address various skin concerns, including acne, hyperpigmentation, and uneven skin texture. It’s important to note that chemical peels should be done under professional supervision to ensure proper application and minimize the risk of side effects.
    • Moisturizers: Lactic acid is also incorporated into moisturizers to provide both exfoliating and hydrating benefits. Lactic acid-infused moisturizers help in retaining moisture within the skin, improving skin hydration, and enhancing the overall texture. They are particularly beneficial for individuals with dry or dehydrated skin, as they help replenish moisture while promoting gentle exfoliation.

    When choosing lactic acid products, it’s essential to consider factors such as your skin type, sensitivity, and desired results. It’s recommended to start with products containing lower concentrations of lactic acid and gradually increase the strength as your skin becomes accustomed to it. Additionally, always follow the instructions provided by the product manufacturer and consider consulting a dermatologist or skincare professional for personalized guidance.

  4. Potential Side Effects and Precautions of Lactic Acid

    According to the Food and Drug Administration, using lactic acid is safe to use until:

    • The product has a concentration of 10% or less
    • It has a pH of 3.5 or more
    • It is either formulated so that it protects the skin from sun sensitivity
    • It is important for people using lactic acid to use sunscreen when using lactic acid on the skin, as lactic acid can cause the skin to be more susceptible.

    Depending on the lactic acid concentration and pH of the product and how long a person is exposed to the product, the side effect of using lactic acid may be experienced (6). These include:

    • Inflammation
    • Burning
    • Swelling
    • Itching

    It is important to listen to the skin and adjust to the skincare routine accordingly. Anyone experiencing any concerns should consult a dermatologist or skincare professional for guidance and recommendations.


Lactic acid can be a beneficial ingredient for skincare because of its exfoliating properties. It also has skin-rejuvenating properties. When properly incorporated into the skincare routine it can help improve skin texture, hydration, and overall appearance of the skin. It is important to be aware of the potential side effects such as skin sensitivity, increased skin sensitivity, over-exfoliation, and possible interaction with other skincare ingredients.

It is important to consult a healthcare professional for guidance on using lactic acid for skincare. It is also important to be aware of the proper usage and precautions of lactic acid so that it can be a valuable addition to the skincare regimen.

Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 14, 2023

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