Lactic acid for skin – a complete guide for beginners

When it comes to skincare, not all acid exfoliators are equal

lactic acid for skin
(Image credit: Getty Images)

When it comes to skincare, not all acid exfoliators are equal

Like many other chemical exfoliants, lactic acid is an increasingly popular skincare ingredient in many a beauty lover's regime.

Not that well-versed in this AHAs magical skincare powers, though? Here's everything you need to know about it, and whether it's right for your skin type.

What is lactic acid?

'Lactic acid is one of the larger molecules of the alpha-hydroxy acid family, water-soluable like glycolic acid, but stays more on the outer layers of the skin,' explains The Inkey List co-founder Mark Curry. 'Our lactic acid acid comes from milk and fruit sugars.

'Staying on the outer layers of the skin, it un-glues dead cells to reveal brighter, more even skin, as well as provide additional moisture to the outer skin layers.

'It suits all skin types who want brighter, more even and hydrated skin. This should be one of the first exfoliating acid people go to if they are more sensitive or cautious about exfoliating.'

lactic acid for skin

Lactic acid peel

Max-strength chemical peels are performed by a professional, but it's possible to buy slightly weaker AHA peels you can perform in the comfort of your own home. Kate Somerville's ExfoliKate Treatment, for example, is a mega-tingling formula that sloughs all the dead skin cells from your face, leaving you positively glowing.

Don't fancy the fuss of applying a peel and sitting around waiting for it to do its thing? Peel pads, like those made by Skyn Iceland are an easy way to exfoliate fuss-free both morning and night.

Beauty Drawer

Serums and creams

These are leave-on formulas enriched with AHA exfoliating prowess and can be left on overnight to smooth out the skin, or applied as a 10-15 minute wash-off treatment, depending on the instructions on the bottle.

Similarly, creams gently resurface the skin while you moisturise for a smoother finish to your complexion over time. If you have sensitive skin, higher concentrations of lactic acid may still cause your skin to become irritated, so always do a product patch test beforehand.

Keep scrolling for team Marie Claire's top five favourite lactic acid skincare products you can shop now. Happy peeling!

Lucy Abbersteen
Beauty Contributor

Lucy is a freelance beauty editor and contributor at Marie Claire, and has written for titles including Glamour, Refinery29, Popsugar, woman&home and more. She was previously Marie Claire’s junior beauty editor. During her career, she’s covered everything from backstage beauty at fashion week to interviews with famous faces like Drag Race royalty and Little Mix. As for her beauty ethos, she’s a big advocate for not having to spend a fortune on beauty products to get good results, and when she’s not got beauty on the brain you’ll find her reading or hanging out with dogs.