Lactic Acid, and what you need to know.
Lactic Acid is an Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA). It is a unique AHA as it exfoliates the skin but also hydrates the skin. Perhaps this is why Cleopatra was well known for taking milk baths, while she likely did not know why it made her skin soft, or made her appear more youthful, she must have noticed the beneficial effects to continue to do so.
Lactic Acid is usually derived from sour milk, however can sometimes be found in vegetable sources, such as fermented pumpkin. Fun Fact: Pumpkin skin care products are super popular, because in using them you get the benefits of one of the top three strongest natural enzymes (the other 2 being pineapple and papaya), in addition to the benefits of naturally occurring lactic acid. Although you probably never even thought about why it worked while you were using that pumpkin mask you love, now you know why it makes you glow!
Lactic Acid is the must have ingredient in treating hormonal acne, ageing skin, and post inflammatory hyper-pigmentation. Ageing skin with hormonal acne is a bit more complicated than treating acne or ageing one at a time because unlike teenage acne once we are over 30 our skin is typically drier, so our previous go to’s such as salicylic, benzoyl peroxide, or sulfur are too drying and can make hormonal acne worse because the overly dry surface skin can clog the pores more.
Lactic Acid Specifically benefits the skin by:
- Exfoliating while hydrating
- Stimulating collagen production
- Brightens complexion, without causing redness
- Lactic Acid peels are mild enough there is typically no down time, however you will instantly see a more glowy appearance
- Fades Sun Spots
- Decreases fine lines and wrinkles
- Being the only AHA gentle enough for use on skin with rosacea or eczema
While exfoliation is important for preventing acne, and premature signs of ageing, we also have to hydrate the skin and increase barrier function. That sounds crazy and complicated right? Yes it is, how do we increase barrier function while removing dead skin cells? Well, it is a complicated answer:
- Use a cleanser that contains lactic acid as an active ingredient.
- Use an excellent moisturizer that contains small amounts of glycolic acid in additon to lactic acid.
- If a Glycolic Moisturizer is too harsh for you (it sure is for me), consider an antioxidant moisturizer to fight free radical damage and prevent inflammation.
- Consider enzyme treatments over chemical peels first as enzymes only digest dead cells, and do not go after live cells, while peels have no distinction.
- Don’t buy a drug store serum, your serum is the single most important step in your daily skincare regimen, get a good one! A few of my favorites are A vitamin C serum, an AHA serum, or an antioxidant serum.
- Exfoliate once every 2 weeks or up to 3 times a week, depending on your skin, while my sensitive skin can only handle gritty exfoliation every 2 weeks or so some of my clients with more durable skin need to exfoliate a few times each week. Remember just because something worked great on your sisters skin, your skin is unique to you, and you might require something completely different. And remember your skin might need a very gentle exfoliant, while someone else might need a medium strength, and someone else might need something more heavy duty,. Don’t know whats best for you? Just email me, we will get you set up with a correct routine! email@example.com.
- Mask at least once per month. I like a good resurfacing lactic acid mask, but my sensitive skin can only handle something like this every once in a while because it can be drying, but it sure does give me a complete resurfacing at home. For a gentler enzyme exfoliating mask at home a papaya/ pumpkin can be used 2 times per month.
- Always wear an SPF daily, for the rest of your life. Active ingredients can make you more sensitive to sun exposure, and sun exposure is the #1 cause of premature ageing.
Keep in mind Lactic Acid containing products should be avoided if you are on certain medications such as Accutane or Retin- A, as too much exfoliation can strip your acid mantle (your skin barrier), and cause your skin to be over processed (just like your hair, this is not a good thing!)
Ultimately talk to your skin therapist, or dermatologist to determine what is best for you and your skin. Keep glowing, friend!