New Beauty Secret: Lactic Acid Peels

The benefits of lactic acid have been known for years now. However, did you know that lactic acid has now become the latest trends in skincare? Many might be wondering what exactly is lactic acid? Lactic acid is an ingredient that is known to have antiwrinkle and pigmentation fighting properties. Lactic acid is found in many over-the-counter (OTC) and even professional-grade skin care products, such as lotions and creams. Lactic acid is actually derived from milk and belongs to a class of anti-aging ingredients that have very small chance of giving rise to any allergic reactions and is generally suited for all types of skin, including super sensitive skin type. As lactic acid emerges as the new beauty secret, we bring you all you need to know about lactic acid peels.

What is a Lactic Acid Peel?

What is a Lactic Acid Peel?

Lactic acid peels are a form of chemical peel that is made from alpha hydroxy acids, commonly referred to as AHA. Derived from milk, lactic acid peels are very mild and rarely known to cause an allergic reaction. If you have sensitive skin or are going to use a chemical peel for the first time, then a lactic acid peel is an ideal choice for you.

Lactic acid is actually an anti-wrinkle and anti-pigmentation ingredient that can be found in many OTC as well as professional skin care products. Lactic acid is used in skin care products because it is known to have anti-aging properties called AHA. Apart from lactic acid; citric acid and glycolic acid are also examples of AHAs. Lactic acid peels are therefore a good choice for mature skin, dry skin or even if you have oily skin.

There are a wide range of lactic acid peels available in the market today. A lactic acid peel typically ranges from 40-70% in concentration and you will need to use more than one peel to get the desired effect on your skin. The results of the peel become apparent within 72 hours of using the peel.

How Does Lactic Acid Peel Differ From Other Chemical Peels?

When compared to glycolic acid or citric acid, lactic acid peels are milder, making lactic acid peels the ideal choice for people having sensitive skin. Lactic acid peels are also a better option for those who have already tried another AHA peel earlier and found the chemical peel to be too strong for their skin.

How Does A Lactic Acid Peel Benefit Your Skin?

Lactic acid peel is known to be a chemical peel, as described above. A chemical peel, as the name suggests, works by using a chemical on bare skin, which in this case is lactic acid. Lactic acid peel works by removing the top layer of your skin known as the epidermis. There might also be some strong forms of the lactic acid peel available which may also target the middle layers of the skin, known as dermis, though this might not be recommended for everyone. However, unlike what the name suggests, the skin does not actually ‘peel’ off. What the peel does do, though, is that it removes the epidermis to reveal brighter and smoother looking skin present underneath. Lactic acid peel is not necessarily used as a simple beauty tool. It is generally used for the treatment of age spots, hyperpigmentation, and other factors that affect the skin, making it look uneven and giving you an uneven complexion.

Some of the other benefits of using a lactic acid peel include the reduced appearance of pores and an improved overall skin tone.

Some of the benefits of using a lactic acid peel include:

  • Lactic acid peel exfoliates the surface of the skin.
  • Lactic acid peel deep cleans the pores.
  • Lactic acid peel stimulates the natural production of collagen.
  • Lactic acid peel gives you an even skin tone.
  • Lactic acid peel improves hyperpigmentation of the skin.
  • Lactic acid peel help dark spots fade.
  • Lactic acid peel brightens and lightens the skin.
  • Lactic acid peel helps improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.
  • Lactic acid peel is also known to improve acne and dry up oily skin.
  • Lactic acid peel removes dead skin cells, debris on the surface of the skin and toxins from the skin.
  • Lactic acid peel also helps the skin maintain its pH levels.

Are there any Side Effects to using Lactic Acid Peels?

Even though a lactic acid peel is known for its mild nature, the fact still remains that lactic acid is a powerful AHA and thus it may very well have some side effects on your skin.

Using a chemical peel leaves your skin more susceptible to the ultraviolet (UV) rays of the sun and therefore it is vital to use a sunscreen after you have undergone chemical peeling. After using a lactic acid peel, you need to make sure that you are applying a sunscreen every morning and as needed throughout the day if you feel the sunscreen would have gotten washed off or worn off. If you leave your skin unprotected from UV radiation, then it can cause more age spots and even scar the skin, also increasing the risk of skin cancer over a period of time.

Lactic acid peels can also lead to rashes and cause irritation and itchiness on the skin. Generally, these effects are mild and tend to improve by themselves once the skin gets used to the peeling or the product. However, if you notice that the side effects continue to persist even after the first few applications, then you should stop using the product and also consult your doctor.

When Are Lactic Acid Peels Contraindicated?

It is not recommended to use a lactic acid peel if you suffer from the following:

A word of caution – repeated use of chemical peels is known to increase the risk of hyperpigmentation in some people, so it is better to consult a dermatologist before you begin to use lactic acid peels.

How is a Lactic Acid Peel Done?

Please note that the instructions for using a lactic acid peel vary with each product and brand. Instructions for use also depend on the product’s concentration and overall makeup. Therefore, it is very important that you read the product label first and also follow all the manufacturer’s direction.

If you have sensitive skin, then doing a skin patch test is recommended before you apply it to your full face. This can help lower the risk of side effects as well. To do the skin patch test, you can do the following:

Begin by applying a small dime-sized amount of the lactic acid product to the inside of your forearm or the inside of your thighs. Now cover the area with a bandage and do not touch or fiddle around with the area. If you do not notice any inflammation and do not experience any irritation within 24 hours of applying the lactic acid patch, then you can go ahead and use the lactic acid peel safely. However, if you notice some side effects, such as itching, inflammation, or a burning sensation on the skin, then you should discontinue use of lactic acid peel. If you have severe side effects or if you notice that they are worsening or lasting for more than one or two days, it is recommended that you consult a dermatologist immediately.

Steps To Applying The Lactic Acid Peel

  • Before applying the lactic acid peel to the skin, you will need to clean your skin properly. Apply a prep solution to ensure that the face is clean and free from oil. A prep solution also ensures that the peel does not penetrate too far inside the skin from the epidermal layer.
  • Now apply the peel to your skin and set a timer. You will find the timing instructions on the product label or the manufacturer’s directions leaflet inside the product package. Once the timer goes off, it indicates that the peel is neutralized and it is time to remove the peel. It is important to note that the longer you leave the peel on your skin, the deeper it penetrates into the skin, which can be harmful and cause severe side effects. Therefore, always follow the mentioned timing.
  • When you are using the lactic acid peel for the first time, it is a good idea to start off with a smaller concentration and a shorter time. As you become comfortable using lactic acid peels, you can then work up your way to higher concentrations and longer times.
  • Once the lactic acid peel becomes neutralized, the skin will become pink in color. While you are having the peel on your skin, it could start to feel a bit warm.
  • Once you have removed lactic acid peel, you will start noticing the difference within 72-96 hours. It is not possible to see any visible difference or improvement in your skin immediately following the lactic acid peel.
  • If you are unable to determine what concentration of lactic acid you should use, then your dermatologist or a pharmacist will be able to determine the correct strength of lactic acid required for your skin.
  • For sensitive skin, a 30% concentration of lactic acid is generally used. For people who have never before used any kind of chemical peels, they should also opt for a 30% concentration of lactic acid. A 40% concentration is considered good for people who have normal skin as this strength of lactic acid allows the moisture to seep back into the skin.
  • People with mature skin should choose a 50% concentration of lactic acid to help lower the effects of wrinkles and fine lines on the skin.
  • Even though lactic acid peels are very gentle on the skin, you should still perform a peel once every few weeks, and not every week.
  • Keep in mind that lactic acid peels are specifically designed for evening application. This is because lactic acid increases sensitivity to the sun, similar to other AHAs as well.
  • This is why you should never use AHA-based chemical peels in the morning.

Recovery Following a Lactic Acid Peel

Following a lactic acid peel, the skin becomes very sensitive. This is why it is necessary to wear a sunscreen or better yet, avoid going out in the sun if possible. You need to wear sunscreen every day while using lactic acid peels. You can also opt for using a sunscreen-containing daytime moisturizer lotion or even a foundation that has an SPF.

You can also choose to wear a wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses. If you experience any redness or itching on the skin after getting a lactic acid peel and you should consult a dermatologist.

Lactic Acid Products To Try Out Today

If you want to try a lactic acid peel, then these are easily available at beauty supply stores, drug stores, and even online retailers sell them. Some of the popular options you can opt for include:

Dermalogica Gentle Cream Exfoliant: A cream-based lactic acid exfoliant, this product is best suited for people who have sensitive skin.

Patchology Exfoliate FlashMasque Facial Sheets: This is a disposable face sheet, which works by removing the dead skin to give a better appearance and texture to your skin. These facial sheets are recommended, as they are very easy to use and do not require any rinsing afterward either. It is a good option for individuals who are using a lactic acid peel for the first time.

Perfect Image Lactic Acid 50% Gel Peel: A strong concentration of lactic acid, this is ideal for mature skin. About 50% lactic acid helps improve the complexion and the gel is also supposedly easy to manage as the product does not run off the face. As this is a professional-grade skin care product, you should ask your dermatologist once before using it.

Apart from these three, there are many other well-known beauty brands which are also making lactic acid peels. A little bit of online research will provide you with several options to choose from.

The Appeal of Professional Lactic Acid Peel

Even though there are many OTC lactic acid peel products available easily, the appeal of getting a professional lactic acid peel still attracts many women. In fact, according to the Mayo Clinic, these professionally-done, deeper chemical peels offer much better results than the at-home OTC lactic acid peels. The effects of these professional peels are also known to last longer than the OTC peels.

A skin care specialist or a dermatologist often offer lactic acid peels, but before undergoing a professional peeling experience, it is better to discuss with your dermatologist about any medications that you may be taking, your level of sensitivity, and any underlying health conditions you may be having. All these factors matter as these will determine the strength of the lactic acid your dermatologist or the skincare specialist will be choosing to use on your skin. It will also reduce the occurrence of side effects or complications from a lactic acid peel.

If you are undergoing a professional lactic acid peel, then your skin may need to be bandaged up for a couple of weeks as it takes minimum two weeks to recover from a professional chemical peel experience. Professional lactic acid peels are also likely to be more expensive as compared to the OTC ones and are not covered by any insurance.


Using a lactic acid peel will help you even out your skin tone, get a better texture, help reduce the appearance of age spots, wrinkles, fine lines, rough texture, and melasma. While there are many OTC peels available, it is a better idea to first consult your dermatologist or doctor before you try out a lactic acid peel at home. This is certainly recommended for those who have a sensitive skin. Also, remember to do a skin patch test before you decide to try out an OTC lactic acid peel and do not forget to use sunscreen whenever you are stepping out in the sun.

Also Read:

Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:December 19, 2018

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