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What is it?
A byproduct of sour milk, lactic acid is one of a whole host of Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA) that break down the glue substance responsible for keeping skin cells together. It's not as scary as it sounds; the acids essentially exfoliate away dead skin, preventing pore blockage and keeping the skin's surface bright and beautiful. In fact, our old Egyptian pal, Cleopatra, used to bathe in sour milk for its skin-smoothing, softening and clearing benefits – and that’s all thanks to lactic acid.
What can it do for skin?
Although all AHAs (like glycolic or mandelic acid) exfoliate, not all are as gentle as lactic acid. As well as smoothing out the texture of skin, making pigmentation and age spots look significantly less obvious and preventing and easing acne, it’s also one of the better AHAs for hydrating skin – and we all know that a little hydration goes a long way. The skin’s outer layer also contains lipids that act as a barrier, protecting it from things like pollution as well as locking natural oils and water in, and lactic acid boosts production of these lipids, meaning super healthy functioning skin.
Who needs it?
If you’re new to AHAs, this one is a great place to start because it’s as gentle as they come and tackles a number of different skincare concerns. Similarly, if you’re dry or sensitive, you will reap the benefits of introducing a lactic acid-infused product to your routine.
However, despite the fact that it’s gentle, you still need to use it wisely; too often or in too high concentration and you’ll have red, angry, irritated skin. Start by using a cleanser or serum a couple of times a week and see how your skin reacts. And, at home, never use a product that contains over 10 per cent lactic – that’s best left to the professionals.
Where you can find it
AHAs like these make the skin far more susceptible to sun damage so ensure you wear a high SPF (30 or higher) every day to protect it. Here are our favourite products:
Sunday Riley Good Genes Treatment, £85 - One of the best we’ve found for brightening, refreshing and exfoliating skin – use this every evening after cleansing and you’ll wake up glowing.
Ameliorate Softening Bathing Powder, £19.50 - Do as Cleopatra did and add a few scoops of this powder to your bath for skin that's as soft as cashmere afterwards.
Ren Micro Polish Cleanser, £20 – Not only will this foamy creamy cleanser wash away the day’s grime, but it’ll also gently exfoliate skin. Not one for those with super sensitive skin, it also contains stronger AHA, Glycolic, which will go to town on fine lines and pigmentation.
Find more cleansers perfect for your skin type by clicking below.