Lactic acid is an antiwrinkle and pigmentation-fighting ingredient found in over-the-counter (OTC) and professional-grade skin care products.
Derived from milk, lactic acid belongs to a class of anti-aging ingredients called alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs). Other examples of AHAs include glycolic acid and citric acid.
Keep reading to learn how a lactic acid peel can improve your skin, OTC products to try, what to expect from a professional peel, and more.
A chemical peel works by using a chemical — in this case, lactic acid — on bare skin. It removes the top layer of skin (epidermis). Some stronger formulas may also target the middle layers of skin (dermis).
Despite the name, your skin doesn’t noticeably “peel” off. What is noticeable, though, are the effects underneath the removed epidermis: smoother and brighter skin.
Lactic acid is specifically used to treat hyperpigmentation, age spots, and other factors that contribute to a dull and uneven complexion. Other benefits of AHAs like lactic acid include improved skin tone and reduced pore appearance.
However, unlike AHAs such as glycolic acid, lactic acid is a bit milder. This makes a lactic acid peel a better choice for sensitive skin. Lactic acid may also be an option if you’ve tried another AHA in the past and found the product too strong.
Despite the milder nature of lactic acid, it’s still considered a powerful AHA.
Its “peeling” effects will make your skin more vulnerable to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays, so sunscreen is key. Make sure you apply sunscreen every morning and reapply as needed throughout the day.
Over time, unprotected sun exposure can lead to more age spots and scarring. It may even increase your risk for skin cancer.
Lactic acid peels can also cause irritation, rash, and itchiness. These effects are usually mildand improve as your skin gets used to the product. If your side effects persist after the first few applications, discontinue use and see your doctor.
You shouldn’t use a lactic acid peel if you have:
If you have naturally darker skin, talk to your doctor or dermatologist before use. Chemical peels may increase your risk of hyperpigmentation.