woman with her hair pulled back applying Lactic Acid Serum to her right cheek using a light touch of her finger tips

Lactic Acid Skin Care: Beginner’s Guide

“Lactic acid is key for revealing bright and smooth skin!”

Shani Darden, Celebrity Esthetician

    Do you ever feel like your skin is always dry, no matter how much moisturizer you use? You’re not alone. This is a common problem for those who have dry skin as opposed to other skin types. Many things can cause dry skin, including extreme weather, an ill-fitting skincare routine, hormone fluctuations, and even water temperature. 

    If you have chronically dry skin, you may want to consider incorporating lactic acid into your skincare routine. Lactic acid is a popular form of AHA that is best known for its smoothing and hydrating properties, and you can find traces of it in many popular skincare products. If you’re new to lactic acid and don’t know where to start, read on for some helpful information for beginners!


    What Is Lactic Acid, Anyway?

    Lactic acid is a popular alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) derived from fermented milk. Other forms of AHAs include glycolic acid and citric acid. These acids are naturally occurring substances, but lactic acid is produced in your own body as part of its natural hydration processes. 

    For centuries, skin care specialists have used lactic acid as a hydrating and brightening serum. In fact, Queen Cleopatra of ancient Egypt was known to bathe in fermented milk for youthful, glowing skin. Today, lactic acid is still known for reducing the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines, all while hydrating your skin for a more radiant glow.

    What Are the Benefits of Lactic Acid?

    Lactic acid is perfect for anyone who wants these four things:

    • Improved skin texture
    • Thorough exfoliation
    • A more even skin tone appearance
    • Deep hydration

    This exfoliating skincare ingredient will help you achieve smoother skin by clearing away dead skin cells and supporting healthy cell turnover. This means that you may enjoy more moisturized, soothed skin. Cell turnover rate partly contributes to glowing, lustrous skin.

    Lactic acid will also reduce fine lines and help even your skin tone. Because most fine lines and shallow wrinkles occur in the top layer of skin, exfoliating that top layer away can help reveal smooth, new skin underneath. Common hyperpigmentation like freckles, age spots, dark spots, and even mild blemishes may fade with frequent lactic acid treatments.

    Lactic acid not only exfoliates and smoothes skin but also helps your skin stay hydrated. Lactic acid itself provides much-needed hydration for your skin, but it also helps your skin create and retain its own moisture. If you have dry skin, you can soothe your skin by incorporating lactic acid into your skincare regimen.

    How Can I Add Lactic Acid to My Skincare Routine?

    Are you ready to add nourishing lactic acid to your skincare routine? 

    There are a number of ways that you can incorporate lactic acid, including a cleanser, a serum, and a mask or peel. The type of product that you should choose is closely related to how sensitive your skin is, so read on for our recommendations.

    1. Cleanser

    All skincare routines should start with a cleanser. You’ll want to wash your hands first because common acne-causing bacteria are frequently transferred through touch. 

    Once your hands are washed, you’ll cleanse your face using lukewarm water. Water that is too hot has a greater chance of exacerbating any current skin conditions and can make your skin dry out quicker. 

    If you have sensitive skin, you may want to incorporate lactic acid into your skincare routine through a cleanser. A cleanser with 5% lactic acid will be more gentle on sensitive skin and is less likely to aggravate your skin. This is because you wash off cleansers while serums and masks are designed to sit on your skin.

    2. Serum

    Next, you’ll move on to the serum stage. Here, you can choose to either do serums, masks, or peels – or a combination of both! If you choose to use a lactic acid serum, you’ll want to pat it on damp skin for the best effects. 

    As a beginner, you’ll want to slowly introduce lactic acid into your skincare routine, taking care not to irritate your skin. Try starting with a serum with 10% lactic acid or less, like Shani Darden’s Lactic Acid Serum. This serum is made for beginners and is the perfect way to introduce your skin to lactic acid.

    As your skin adjusts, you may want to incorporate higher concentrations of lactic acid into your skincare routine. To do this, you may look for serums with a higher percentage of lactic acid, or you may want to consider peels or masks.

    Lactic acid-based peels and masks can range from 10% to 30% lactic acid. To set your skin up for success, start low and work your way up. Also, make sure that you only perform the peels or masks every other day, as daily use may irritate your skin.

    3. Moisturizer

    As with any chemical exfoliant, you’ll want to make sure that you moisturize your skin regularly. Removing dead skin cells exposes new skin, which can dry out more easily than weathered, older skin. Your third step is to moisturize to help support your fresh skin.

    When you apply moisturizer, make sure you apply it from the center of your face outward. This encourages your skin to absorb more product and also helps to seal the lactic acid against your skin for better results. Properly moisturized skin is more elastic, so applying moisturizer daily will help your skin stay resistant to wrinkles and fine lines.

    The type of moisturizer that is right for you largely depends on your skin type. If you have dry skin, you may want to use a moisturizer that targets your skin for deep hydration. You’ll likely need a lightweight and oil-free formula designed to ease oil production if you have oily skin. And if you have combination skin, a mixture of both might serve you well.

    4. Sunscreen

    The last step of every skincare routine should be sunscreen every morning. All skin is susceptible to sun damage, but freshly exfoliated skin is especially sensitive to the sun. This is because your new skin has not been exposed to sunlight and does not yet have resistance to damage. 

    Makeup with SPF will not adequately protect your skin from the sun. To keep your skin fresh and wrinkle-free, make sure you apply sunscreen with SPF 30 or above daily. Make sure also to reapply as directed to protect your skin properly.

    For anyone new to lactic acid, we recommend Supergoop!’s Play Everyday Sunscreen Lotion. This lightweight formula not only has an SPF of 50 but also doubles as a moisturizer to help your skin stay healthy and young.

    What Are Some Tips for Beginners?

    Are you excited to use your lactic acid? Here are a few more things to know before you put it on for the first time. 

    First, you will want to double-check all of your current skincare products to ensure that they are safe to use with lactic acid. If you are unsure about a product, consult your dermatologist. You should exercise particular caution around products that contain retinol. Since retinol and lactic acid are chemical exfoliants, using both in the same routine may irritate your skin. If your skin already has a tendency to be dry, irritating it will just lead to increased dryness and flakiness.

    If you would like all of the benefits of retinol and lactic acid, we recommend Shani Darden’s Retinol Reform. This serum combines both retinol and lactic acid to encourage deep hydration and clear, vibrant skin. To properly use this product, just use it as a serum after your cleanser, and make sure to moisturize!

    Second, try a patch test. If you’re anxious about trying a new product on your skin, it can’t hurt to perform a small test. To conduct a patch test, blend a small amount of the product onto a patch of skin and monitor closely. If you notice any burning or inflammation, contact your dermatologist. If you notice a slight tingling, that’s the lactic acid doing its job.

    Put it All Together

    Lactic acid is a time-tested exfoliator that provides deep hydration and helps smooth out fine lines and wrinkles. To incorporate lactic acid into your skincare routine, start with a cleanser, followed by serum, and then moisturizer. A few products utilize lactic acid, but for best results, start with a diluted serum and work your way up.

    Make sure you include daily sunscreen into your beauty routine and ensure that your current beauty products will be compatible with lactic acid. If you have any questions, consult your dermatologist. Lactic acid is perfect for soothing dry skin and restoring your skin’s natural glow. Try it out for yourself!



    Cleopatra and Sour Milk—The Ancient Practice of Chemical Peeling | Dermatology | PubMed

    Epidermal and dermal effects of topical lactic acid | PubMed

    A 14-day Controlled Study Assessing Qualitative Improvement with 15% Lactic Acid and Ceramides in Skin Moisturization and Desquamation | PMC

    Dual Effects of Alpha-Hydroxy Acids on the Skin | PubMed Central


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