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If you keep up with common skin care terminology and popular ingredients, you may have heard of lactic acid. But do you have a good grasp on what it does or whether it's safe for your skin? Well, despite that fact that applying acid onto your complexion sounds a bit scary, this ingredient can actually have a multitude of skin benefits, including helping to exfoliate skin and improve the appearance of dry skin. Curious about lactic acid and whether or not you should consider adding it to your own skin care routine? Here, we’re explaining everything you need to know about lactic acid for skin.
First things first, what is lactic acid? According to the National Center of Biotechnology Information, lactic acid is a member of the alpha hydroxy acid family, also known as AHAs. Lactic acid isn’t just important for maintaining the look of your skin, it’s also pretty essential to your overall physical health. Lactic acid is naturally made in the body, with most of it being made in your muscle tissues and red blood cells, according to the University of Michigan Health Library. Have you ever felt really sore after a tough workout? That is lactic acid at work. Lactic acid levels in the body become higher when strenuous exercise lowers blood and oxygen flow in the body. In other words, lactic acid is a chemical produced in your muscles when you exercise.
How does this pertain to skin care? Well, as we said, lactic acid is an AHA (alongside glycolic, tartaric, and citric acids). However, the lactic acid that makes its way into your skin care products isn’t the same form that your body produces, according to the Mayo Clinic. The AHAs used in skin care products are synthetic versions that are derived from sugar-containing fruits. The Mayo Clinic shares that topical AHAs, including lactic acid, work on the skin by helping to remove dead skin cells from the surface of the skin. This is why lactic acid (and all AHAs) are called chemical exfoliants. As opposed to mechanical exfoliants like face scrubs, these ingredients work chemically to slough away dead skin cells from the outer layer of the skin.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, skin care creams and lotions containing AHAs can help reduce the appearance of fine lines, irregular pigmentation, and dark spots over time, and may also help to shrink the appearance of enlarged pores. Topical use of lactic acid isn’t only limited to cream and moisturizer, either. Per the Cleveland Clinic, the ingredient is often used in professional chemical peel treatments. Products formulated with lactic acid are also often available over the counter. In fact, for those with chronically dry and scaly skin, the Mayo Clinic says doctors may recommend the use of over-the-counter creams containing lactic acid.
The Food & Drug Administration (FDA) advises that if you choose to use products formulated with AHAs like lactic acid, you should use sun protection. This is because AHAs may increase sun sensitivity. So, before adding lactic acid to your routine, make sure you’re up on your sun protection knowledge. The FDA recommends using sunscreen with an SPF value of 15 or higher every day and taking other sun protection measures, including wearing protective accessories like a broad-brimmed hat and seeking out the shade when outside.
As we mentioned before, lactic acid isn’t the only AHA you can add to your skin care routine. Personally, we’re fans of glycolic acid! If you’re interested in trying out this skin care ingredient for yourself, here are our best options.
L'Oréal Paris Revitalift Bright Reveal Daily Peel Pads: Formulated with glycolic acid, these daily peel pads help resurface dull skin, even out tone, and reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles over time. To use, smooth one of the pads over your skin every night, avoiding contact with your eyes.
L'Oréal Paris Revitalift Bright Reveal Brightening Daily Scrub Cleanser: As your skin’s ability to shed its dead surface cells declines with age, you might consider adding a facial cleanser formulated with glycolic acid to your daily routine. Formulated with gentle micro-pearls and glycolic acid, this cleanser helps exfoliate dullness and impurities to help improve skin tone, texture, and clarity.
L'Oréal Paris Revitalift Bright Reveal Brightening Day Moisturizer SPF 30: Besides being formulated with glycolic acid, this day moisturizer is formulated with SPF 30 sunscreen to help protect against the sun’s UVA/UVB rays.
L'Oréal Paris Revitalift Bright Reveal Brightening Dual Overnight Moisturizer: Formulated with glycolic acid, this deeply moisturizing treatment helps reveal more even, younger-looking skin while you catch your beauty sleep.
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