Ingredient Spotlight: Lactic Acid

 In Blog, Ingredient Spotlight, Skincare

You’ve probably seen this ingredient listed in quite a few skincare products, or had it mentioned to you, but do you actually know what it is and what skincare benefits it has if you use it?

Well, my aim here is to clear the hazy mist and pull back the curtain on Lactic Acid, in the first of the Ingredient Spotlight series, where I dive into a specific ingredient you may (or may not!) have come across, what its benefits and drawbacks are and ultimately, to educate you in what you are slathering on your skin!

So, let’s dive in!

What is Lactic Acid?

Lactic Acid goes back a very very long way in history, and is actually what Cleopatra used to bathe in.  Back then, she didn’t know the science behind its benefits, she just knew it made her skin look tip top and left it feeling velvety smooth.  

Lactic Acid belongs to the family of Alpha Hydroxy Acids, or AHAs for short.  They’re the most commonly used family of acids in skincare and are often found in our food.  

Although Lactic Acid is derived from milk, more often than not nowadays it is synthetically made to make it more stable, vegan-friendly and prevent any chance of allergies.

What are AHAs?

AHAs are a family of acids with similar properties.  They help to gently exfoliate the skin, stimulate collagen production to tighten, firm and lift, as well as helping to reduce wrinkles, improve your skin’s natural moisture levels (as they increase Hyaluronic Acid production), and help to regulate skin cell turnover (natural exfoliation).

What benefits does Lactic Acid have on my skin?

Lactic Acid works by gently exfoliating the skin, which it does by nibbling away at the glue that holds the skin cells together (think Pac-Man).  This means it helps to rid your skin of rough, scaly patches and normalises the stratum corneum (the outermost layer of the epidermis, and the layer we see).

It also helps to regulate pH and calm any inflammatory and pigmentary conditions such as rosacea, acne and hyperpigmentation.  Adding to this, with its collagen and Hyaluronic Acid inducing benefits, it also helps to pause and rewind the signs of ageing, smoothing fine lines and tightening a lax skin.

Lactic Acid is also hugely hydrating as it is a powerful humectant (attracts water to it), so is perfect for anyone with a dull, dehydrated or dry skin, as it will instantly brighten and soften.

Can I use Lactic Acid if I have sensitive skin?

Lactic Acid has got quite a superficial action as it’s got a larger molecular size than let’s say Glycolic Acid, meaning that it doesn’t penetrate very deeply into the skin, so is generally fine for all skin types as it doesn’t irritate the skin in any way.

Very few people know, but it is actually found within the skin naturally as it forms part of the skin’s natural moisturising properties and helps to regulate and keep the acid mantle (our skin’s protective barrier) healthy.  If this isn’t intact and healthy, our skin can easily become irritated, sensitive and inflamed, so it is actually a really important ingredient to add into a sensitive skin’s homecare routine.

Are there any ingredients that work well alongside Lactic Acid?

It is a fantastic primer for the skin before using actives such as Vitamins A (including Retinol) and C, as it helps to make these hero ingredients penetrate into the skin better (hello, Environ Moisturising Toner!).  

Can Lactic Acid help with pigmentation concerns?

Lactic Acid is an important staple to use in a skincare routine for hyperpigmentation (any brown areas on the skin due to UV exposure), as it acts as a tyrosinase inhibitor, which basically means that it stops the pigment in these concentrated areas being produced to the extent they are being.    This makes it a very important skin lightening ingredient. 

Pair this with Vitamin A to repair the melanocyte DNA and stop pigment being constantly fired out, and Vitamin C to lighten to existing pigmentation and prevent new pigmentation forming to help provide a multi-pronged attack at a stubborn skin concern!

Does Lactic Acid help acne?

Although Lactic Acid is great for calming inflammation that is present in the skin with acne, there are actually other ingredients that are better suited for helping to clear the actual acne itself.  

Salicylic acid is fantastic for an acne skin, as it penetrates into the hair follicle (pore) and does a bit of a Taz effect (spins really fast), whipping up any excess oil and dead skin and lifting it out of the follicle to remove congestion.

The ideal world would combine both together as an acne skin will benefit from both, and this is a concept adopted within the Alumier Prescriptive and Glow Peels, when treating this skin condition.

So there we go!

So that’s the lowdown on Lactic Acid!  I hope you’ve found it useful and picked up some useful nuggets of information!

As always, if you have any questions or you’ve enjoyed the blog, please do leave me a comment below – I’d really appreciate it!

And if you have any ingredients you’d like me to cover in a future blog, let me know below or by emailing me at hello@velvetbeauty.co.uk

Helen x

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