Lactic acid is the skincare hero you needed like, yesterday. Here's why.

Has anyone else tried to dip their toes into the whole AHA (alpha hydroxy acid) thing, only to completely annihilate the top layer of their skin? Cause SAME. No good.

If you've just started using acids and your skin is red, flaky, shiny or sensitive - you may be using the wrong type of acid for your skin. Because while you may know that salicylic and glycolic acids can be good for glowing skin, these ingredients don’t always agree with everyone’s skin, and can often leave sensitive skin types feeling irritated and pissed off.

Watch:'s how to know if your skin needs vitamin A or vitamin C.

Video via Mamamia

The answer? Lactic acid. This guy is a serious all-rounder and works wonders on all skin types. Unlike his more intense cousins, lactic acid is way less irritating. While it'll still do all the good stuff like brighten and exfoliate dull skin, minimise pigmentation and prevent congestion, it won't mess with your moisture barrier. In fact, it'll actually help boost your skin's hydration levels. What a show off!

Keen to know more? We chat to Dermal Distinction's Dr Giulia D'Anna to find out what lactic acid does, the benefits and where to find it.


Listen to Mamamia's podcast for your face, You Beauty, where host Kelly McCarren interviews Instagram's queen of glowy skin, Alisha Bhojwani. Post continues below.

What exactly is lactic acid?

Derived from milk (don't worry lactose intolerant peeps - it won't hurt you!), Dr D'Anna said lactic acid is the gentlest version of the alpha hydroxy acid family. "Being a larger molecule than glycolic acid, it tends to work on the skin more gently. Lactic acid is a humectant, meaning that it helps to draw moisture from the skin's surroundings, helping to hydrate and moisturise the skin." 

"Lactic acid is great for sensitive skin because it has a larger molecule size than other AHAs out there. A larger molecule size means that it takes longer for lactic acid to penetrate the skin, so it doesn’t act deeply. What this means for your skin is a mild, more nourishing effect without redness or stinging."

What benefits will you see?

Lactic acid helps to lift dead skin cells from the surface of the skin, providing a gentle exfoliation. 

"Your skin will look hydrated, brighter and more vibrant. Lactic acid can also help reduce pigmentation, resulting in an improvement in skin texture."

"In professional treatments, lactic acids are often used in different concentrations as an illuminating and brightening chemical peel. It leaves your skin feeling soft, smooth and hydrated afterwards."

How good! So how often can we use it?

While lactic acid is definitely one of the more gentle acids, you should still use it with care. "Lactic acids come in a variety of concentrations. Cleansers are usually the mildest, with serums containing heavier-hitting concentrations to target particular concerns, such as pigmentation," Dr D'Anna said.


"Lactic acid is gentle enough to use every day, but if you are unsure or worried, go easy! Perhaps use your cleanser once a day - say, in the morning. Once you are more confident, use the AHA cleanser at night time too. Then graduate to incorporating some AHA serums in your routine to give your skin a boost."

So baby steps, you guys! Just don't go slapping it on like your hyaluronic acids and oils.

"Applying great skincare can sometimes take some getting used to. Even your skin will do a little purge too. This might mean you get the odd blemish or two, but this is really your skin just removing and shedding the toxins and trapped debris. Give it at least a month before you decide that your skincare is not working for you. A little patience will reveal smoother, brighter skin."

Thank you for your brain, Dr D'Anna!

Now you're probably going to want to know which lactic acid products are best. Here's a few goodies to get you started:

The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA 2%, $12.70

The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10%. Image: Supplied. 


Grown Alchemist Enzyme Exfoliant Papain & Amino Complex, $70

Grown Alchemist Enzyme Exfoliant. Image: Supplied. 


Skinstitut L-Lactic Cleanser, $34.10

Skinstitut L-Lactic Cleanser. Image: Supplied. 


Sunday Riley Good Genes Lactic Acid Treatment, $136

Sunday Riley Good Genes. Image: Supplied. 


Dermalogica Age Smart Skin Resurfacing Cleanser, $68.50

Dermalogica Skin Resurfacing Cleanser. Image: Supplied. 


Have you tried products featuring lactic acid? Let us know your faves in the comments below. 

Feature Image: Getty