The Clean Beauty Dossier: What is Lactic Acid?

Skintellect's Clean Beauty Dossier is a series where we highlight our favorite good-for-you, non-toxic beauty ingredients that promote healthy, glowing skin. Each edit features a list of coveted products: face, body, and gut, that we have recommended just for you.


The not so science-y explanation is that Lactic Acid is sour milk. But hear us out, it's a little more than that when it's backed by research and science on how it helps with breakouts and fine lines. Ultimately, it is a form of alpha hydroxy acid, lactic acid is known as a peeling agent or exfoliant that is commonly suitable for acne-prone skin.


Good for sensitive skin, as an hyper-effective exfoliant, lactic acid is essential for speeding up cell turnover rate, kill skin infection and acne causing bacteria, and help with skin firming to relieve a brighter, healthier looking skin. Ideally, if your skin is prone to acne, we recommend using the selections, or similar, to perform surface treatments for a more "polished" appearance. Think: smooth, firm, and brighter (not lighter) complexion.


Typically found in serums, toners, and exfoliants, start slow by applying small amounts to clean skin during your nighttime routine. Avoid excessive sun exposure when including acids in daytime routine.



Retinol, other alpha hydroxy acids (unless formulated with), and benzoyl peroxide. Also avoid using on peeling, sensitive, and compromised skin. Always use sunscreen.





Not surprisingly a sold-out star, this multi-functional and hyper-effective peel was formulated to unclog, resurface, and brighten the skin to reduce build up signs of premature skin aging, from dullness to fine lines. Super potent and not to be taken lightly, soothing plant extracts along with salicylic acid, glycolic acid, lactic acid, mandelic acid, malic acid, and tartaric acid are all safely combined to work effortlessly to reveal the most ultra-glowy complexion.

Recommended for: Mature skin. Do not use on sensitized skin



Gentle peeling serum Lactic Acid 10% + Acerola Extract, Typology ($14)

Packed with Lactic Acid and Acerola extract, a diligent antioxidant, Typology's gentle chemical exfoliant serum set out to reduce dullness and even skin tone without coldly penetrating the skin's deepest layers. Though gentle enough for everyday use, it's best applied 1-2 times per week to avid over exfoliating the skin's healthy barrier.

Recommended for: All skin types. Patch test for sensitivity.



Known for their super effective, single ingredient products, The Ordinary's high strength lactic acid doesn't disappoint. Though not a single ingredient product, this formula contains a well studied Tasmanian Pepperberry and Hyaluronic Acid to help soothe and reduce irritation that is usually associated with acids. 

Recommended for: All skin types. Patch test for sensitivity.




Gentle enough for everyday use (but still wouldn't recommend to), this multi-purpose AHA tonic / toner has uber outstanding benefits including exfoliate, brighten, tighten, and hydrate to revive deprived skin. Formulated with Lactic Acid, Willow Bark, and Azelaic Acid you'll find your skin boosted with a renew glow and even toned. Pro tip: for extra sensitive skin, dampen your cotton pad with water then toner to dilute the strength of the acids. The benefits will be equally as good.

Recommended for: All skin types. Patch test for sensitivity.


Featured image via Paula's Choice.

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