Lactic acid can be summed up in one visual:

That’s in the simplest of terms – of course, but if you want a gentle acid that most skins can get on with, that gently exfoliates the surface of the skin, doesn’t penetrate too deeply and cause deeper irritation and redness, try lactic, aka the Pac Man of acid.

Traditionally derived from milk, a lot of lactic acid in skincare these days is actually synthetically derived, making it safe for people who had previously avoided it because they were worried about allergies/veganism etc..

As one of the core AHAs (alpha-hydroxy acids), lactic is readily available in a lot of products although my personal preference is to use it at the toner/post-toner stage. Easy to use, it stays on the skin and you can follow with your usual routine. I don’t tend to use acids in cleansers as I am so used to rubbing them into my eyes that you just know I would be the person that does themselves a serious injury.

You can expect lactic to gently exfoliate, smooth out lines, help fade pigmentation (help, not eradicate) and stimulate cell turnover. One added bonus is that it does this without further drying out your skin. It works brilliantly with a good mist over the top, followed by your serum/moisturiser/spf etc.

It’s safe for all ages, skin types, people and conditions including pregnant, breastfeeding and darker skin tones. Obviously, if you have psoriasis, eczema or broken skin for some other reason, don’t be putting acid on it please.

Some excellent products including lactic acid are:

Summer Fridays Soft Reset AHA Exfoliating Solution:

Pestle & Mortar NMF Lactic Toner:

Tarte Knockout Tingling Treatment:

Dr Dennis Gross Gentle Alpha Beta Peel Pads: 

OSKIA Liquid Mask Lactic Acid Micro-Peel:

The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + 2% HA:

Allies of Skin Bright Future Overnight Facial:

Kate Somerville ExfoliKate Glow Moisturiser:

Paula’s Choice AHA Treatment:

The Inkey ListLactic Acid Serum:

Renee Rouleau Triple Berry Smoothing Peel:

Joanna Vargas Exfoliating Mask:

Deviant Skincare Gentle Resurfacing Liquid: