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Oh, Sunday Riley. It only takes a quick scroll through reviews of your bestselling Good Genes to see that this all-in-one lactic acid treatment is dabomb.com. It’s great for acne, scarring, pigmentation, dark spots and wrinkles. But not your bank account. If only there was a cheaper alternative…
You might have added it to your basket before, but hovered nervously over the ‘proceed to payment’ button, because it’s £85 for 30ml and you have no idea if it’s really worth all of the hype and money.
To help you decide on the purchase, I’ve been hunting around for some budget friendly alternatives. I came across The Ordinary’s Lactic Acid 5%+HA 2% serum and put them both to the test.
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The ingredients: It has a pH of about 2.6. Sciency lingo aside, this means that even though it has the same 5% lactic acid as The Ordinary’s, the lower pH means more it’s more acidic, so it stings more on contact with the skin and provides stronger exfoliation. It also contains licorice to help fight pigmentation and boost radiance, while arnica helps to soothe irritation.
On the skin: Even if you don’t have particularly sensitive skin – this is going to pinch! The stinging eventually subsides and the lotion texture actually feels comforting. This is better suited for night-time use, as it can cause redness and doesn’t sit well under foundation. You can also apply this in a thicker layer and use it as a mask for 10 minutes for a flash facial.
The results: I used it overnight and woke up with seriously glowy skin – I was quite literally gleaming. As it’s quite potent it’s easy to over-exfoliate the skin if used every day. Once or twice a week delivered the best results for me. It helped renew the texture of my skin and lighten up scarring dramatically. My skin also felt moisturised and plumped.
The ingredients: At 5% lactic acid, it’s the same strength as GG. It’s also got hyaluronic acid to hydrate and Tasmanian pepperberry to soothe sensitivity caused by the lactic acid.
Additionally, it has a pH of 3.8, which is perfectly matched to lactic acid’s pKa of 3.8. WTF is pKa I hear you ask? This indicates the acid’s availability in the product, meaning when pKa is similar to the pH, there is an ideal balance of acids, which meaning you’re getting a good amount of acid, with minimal discomfort.
In short, this is very good news as you’re getting the exfoliation benefits, without any irritation.
On the skin: It's a very mild exfoliant, so you don’t get the classic ‘sting’ associated with AHAs. You also won’t experience any redness, which is great. The texture is quite watery, so it sinks in well and won’t disturb your make-up if you wear it during the day.
The results: I didn’t see any overnight results. However, after a few weeks my skin texture improved and my scarring started to fade nicely. However, I did find that once my skin got used to it, the serum was not as effective. At this point I probably needed to bump it up to The Ordinary’s Lactic Acid 10%+HA 2%, £6, which has a stronger percentage of lactic acid.
RELATED: What is lactic acid?
It’s a difficult one as it’s down to preference. In this case, The Ordinary is the tortoise and Sunday Riley is the hare. The Lactic Acid 5%+HA 2% gives similar results to GG over the course of a few weeks, but for quick results, you can’t beat Sunday Riley’s for instant gratification – if you can bare the sting.
If you’re new to acids, or have very sensitive skin, I would give The Ordinary’s a go first to see how your skin tolerates the lactic acid. It’s very inexpensive and the formulation is really good.
However, if you’re already using AHAs/BHAs like glycolic or salicylic acid, I would opt for Good Genes, as your skin is likely to take much better to this and handle the higher exfoliation. If you have very sensitive skin, this should is best avoided.
Yes, it is expensive, but you’ll be pleased to hear you only need half a pump to cover your entire face, and if used once or twice a week it’s going to last you a long time. It does tackle a whole range of skin issues in one hit, almost instantly, so you get what you pay for. And if you weren’t blessed with good genes, it’s reassuring to know that at least you can buy it bottled instead.
Now find more winning serums with our personalised beauty quiz – we can match a serum to your skin type and budget in seconds…