The use of lactic acid as a skincare ingredient dates back to ancient Egypt, when Cleopatra bathed in sour milk to improve the texture and appearance of her skin.1 A natural byproduct of plant and dairy fermentation (though most often created in a lab today), glycolic & lactic acid  is a gentle alpha-hydroxy acid that helps promote the skin’s natural exfoliation process.

Important Things to Know about Lactic Acid

  • Lactic acid is a gentle yet effective exfoliating ingredient for rough, dry skin anywhere on the body, especially scaly skin on your legs, bumpy skin on the backs of your arms, elbows, knees and calluses.

  • Lactic acid is often used with other skincare ingredients because its gentle exfoliating effect may help reduce the layers of dead skin cells that can get in the way of product absorption. A combination of alpha-hydroxy lactic acid and beta-hydroxy salicylic acid can be especially effective in products for improving the texture of rough or bumpy skin since both of these ingredients are mild exfoliating acids.

  • Lactic acid is an exfoliating alpha-hydroxy acid that helps promote the shedding of dead skin cells. By gently eliminating the buildup of dead cells, this ingredient helps soften and smooth your skin and improve its overall texture.2 In addition, lactic acid is a component of the skin’s natural moisturizing factor, or NMF, which is a blend of compounds naturally found in the skin that helps it hold on to moisture.3 Bathing or washing with soaps and cleaning products can reduce the levels of NMF in the outer most layers of the skin.4

  • It’s important to always use broad-spectrum sunscreen to protect any skin exposed to UV rays. However, lactic acid’s exfoliating effects can leave your skin more vulnerable to sun damage, so taking extra sun protection measures (such as limiting sun exposure and reapplying sunscreen at least every two hours during extended periods of time outdoors) is recommended.

  • Lactic acid is helpful for smoothing and softening rough or scaly skin. Products containing this exfoliating ingredient can be suitable for dry and  sensitive skin  because it is one of the gentlest alpha-hydroxy acids, and it offers hydrating benefits as well.5

  • Many products with lactic acid can be used daily to improve rough, dry skin and maintain soft, smooth skin, however it’s important to read the usage instructions to be sure.

  • Lactic acid is commonly found in lotions and creams that are formulated to help improve rough and bumpy skin due to its gentle yet effective exfoliating effect.

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