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Lactic Acid for Skin : Benefits & How it works

by Rashi Bahel Mehra |

Chemical skin exfoliation sounds scary and especially when you are a beginner. Reports of people burning their skin, diverse sorts of exfoliants available, confusing active ingredients in the market, and whatnot! But do you know there is an exfoliant belonging to the family of AHAs (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) which is far gentler and milder than other AHAs?- Lactic Acid!

What is Lactic Acid & How it works?

It is a type of Alpha Hydroxy Acid. Lactic acid helps in removing dead and dry cells. Since It is Hygroscopic- It pulls in moisture surrounding the area to keep the skin nourished and hydrated, Hence it does not make the skin dry. It is naturally found in diverse dairy products.

It dissolves dead and dry cells. What makes Lactic Acid unique is that it has large molecules that do not penetrate deeper thereby does not cause damage to the skin. 

Also, Lactic acid is an organic acid produced by the body when glucose is broken down to generate cellular energy in the absence of oxygen. Lactic acid also equips what most of the other AHAs cannot deliver, such as boosting hydration, stimulating collagen, and enhancing skin discoloration.

Benefits of Lactic Acid for Skin:

1. Sensitive-Skin Friendly 

Lactic Acid gently dissolves dead and dry cells and reveals fresh, glowing, and smoother skin beneath. It has large molecules that do not penetrate the skin deeper and does not cause any harm to the skin barrier.

2. Retains and Provides Moisture 

Lactic acid is hygroscopic in nature. It pulls in moisture and does not deprive the skin of its nourishment, unlike other exfoliants that rip away the skin's natural moisture. 

3. Mildly Exfoliates & Reveals Glowing Skin

Lactic acid breaks down keratin, a protein that holds together dead cells. By dissolving keratin, lactic acid sloughs off these dead skin cells and mildly exfoliates the skin revealing fresh, smooth, and even-toned skin.

4. Treats Hyperpigmentation and Ageing 

It removes pigmentation, discoloration, and hyperpigmentation from the skin. Lactic Acid inhibits the Tyrosinase enzyme which is responsible for the production of melanin in our body. It boosts collagen production and reduces lip lines, wrinkles, and sagging skin.

5. Prevents Acne

Acne and Pimples form due to clogged pores, excess sebum production, and add up of the dead layer in the skin. Lactic Acid mildly sways away dead skin cells and unclogs pores thereby it prevents acne.

Lactic Acid Benefits

Lactic Acid for Lips 

1. Gently sways away dead lip cells

Lips are the most delicate parts of our body. Highly concentrated actives cannot be used on it. Fortunately Lactic acid is very mild and it gently sways away dead and dry lip cells to reveal Fresh, Plump, and Glowing Lips.

2. Does not deprive lips of moisture

Our Lips cannot hydrate themselves let alone and if we use actives that additionally rip away the lip moisture then god forbid what will happen to their texture. Lactic Acid pulls in moisture and helps lips stay hydrated and nourished.

3. Prevents Lip Ageing 

As we age collagen starts to decline and our lips get thinner and wrinkled. Lactic Acid boosts collagen production and reduces lip aging.

4. Helps in Cleansing 

Lactic acid helps in cleansing lips and washing away lip makeup residue, smoke stains, and everyday free radical damage.

5. Removes Lip Pigmentation

Lactic acid lightens and brightens lips by removing pigmentation, hyperpigmentation, and stains from lips. It controls excess melanin production and maintains lip health.

Lactic Acid for Lips

Layering Lactic Acid:

Lactic acid should not be used with Retinol or Tretinoin. When combined together, they can induce skin irritation, burns, and even allergies.

Lactic Acid goes well with Alpha Arbutin, PHA Lactobionic Acid, and Ferulic Acid. It increases each other's efficacy. 

Ideally, Lactic acid should be used in concentrations ranging from 5-8%. 

5 Things to Remember: 

  1. Sunscreen- Lactic Acid makes your skin sun-sensitive by decreasing melanin production and exfoliating the dead layer hence you must always wear a skin and lip SPF before stepping out in the sun.
  2. Side effects- Although Lactic acid does not burn even on sensitive skin it's best to consult your dermatologist or doctor before introducing any new active ingredients in your skin and lip care regime.
  3. Pregnancy- AHAs have not been studied in pregnancy, but because only small amounts are absorbed into the skin, they are considered low risk. Still, to be safe, it's best to use them only in a limited amount and concentration.
  4. Layering- When layering two or more active ingredients together, keep in mind if they go well together or alter each other's efficacy in any way. 
  5. Patch Test- Always do a patch test and wait for 24 hours to see if your skin reacts to the acid or not.

Do you know Cleopatra used to bathe in milk?

When milk sours, the bacteria transform milk sugar lactose into lactic acid. 

Whenever alpha hydroxy acids, such as lactic acid, are spread onto the skin they cause the veneer layer to peel off, leaving fresh, smoother blemish-free skin underneath. Undoubtedly our predecessors knew the benefits of "active ingredients" before the term even got widespread. You do not have to jump in a sour milk tub, You can try Lactic Acid, luckily it is now available in various forms and concentrations for you to pick one according to your skin type.


Lactic Acid is a great chemical exfoliator that is suitable for all skin types and does not cause any damage to the skin barrier. It is safe, gentle, and super effective. You can incorporate it into your skin as well as your lip care regime for making them smooth, pigmentation free, young, and glowing. 

Frequently Asked Questions: 

  1. Is Lactic Acid safe for Sensitive Skin?

Lactic acid has a larger molecular size. It does not go deep inside the skin. It is super safe for sensitive skin as it does not cause any burns or irritation.

   2. Is lactic acid good for oily and acne-prone skin?

Lactic Acid reduces sebum production and unclogs pores. So it is super effective for oily skin. It does not rip away natural moisture and oils. It prevents acne, pimples, and blackheads.

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