Lactic Acid Peel: All You Need to Know Before Booking
Lactic acid peel can help improve your skin, without any risks other skin resurfacing treatments carry. Let’s see how this treatment works.
A lactic acid chemical peel can be used for pretty much any skin type.
Like any other chemical peeling treatment, a lactic acid peel can help treat many skin conditions. It helps fight early signs of aging and skin imperfections, and since it doesn’t require virtually any downtime, why not avoid more invasive options?
Let’s get into what the lactic acid treatment can do for your skin.
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What Is a Lactic Acid Peel?
Lactic acid belongs in the alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) category of chemical peels. This ingredient is derived from milk and is used as an anti-aging and pigmentation-fighting ingredient.
It works by penetrating the epidermis and breaking the bonds that are holding the skin cells together. This causes the upper skin layer to peel off and reveal a new one with fewer lines, wrinkles, and other imperfections underneath.
Like any other chemical peel, this treatment is very customizable and the concentration of the acid itself can be tailored in a way that improves a wide range of skin conditions, from mild to moderate.
To get a more detailed intro into chemical peels in general, read this guide.
Image source: Freepik
What Does Lactic Acid Peel Do for Skin?
The molecules of this ingredient are quite large so they can’t penetrate as deep as, say glycolic acid, which has very small molecules. Compared to acid as potent as that, a lactic acid skin peel is quite mild.
Lactic acid face peel can be used in all 3 different intensities.
Stronger formulas can penetrate until the middle skin layer (dermis), however, this type of acid is mostly used as a light to medium peel that just removes the top layer of skin (epidermis).
Let’s take a look at what lactic acid peel results can be achieved with different concentrations of the acid:
- Light lactic acid skin peel is suitable for sensitive and acne-prone skin. This is also the recommended strength for beginners who have never had a lactic acid skin peel before.
- Medium lactic acid peel is the optimal dosage to rehydrate dry and dehydrated skin. It’s suitable for normal skin that needs some repairing.
- Deep lactic acid peel is the most intense concentration. This dosage is most often used on mature skin, to help decrease fine lines and wrinkles.
Consult your dermatologist to determine the best treatment option for you.
Combining Lactic Acid Peel with Other Treatments
A study published in the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology states that when an area of the skin is treated with a combination of peels, the improvement has shown to be significantly higher compared to a single chemical peel.
Using both glycolic and lactic acid peels together is not uncommon. Both acids give similar benefits, but their structures are different – beyond the sizes of their molecules. Lactic acid is a safer alternative to glycolic acid, without the same efficacy.
It’s not uncommon to add TCA peeling agent into the mix, as TCA in general is most often used in combination with AHAs. When combined, TCA lactic and glycolic acid peel address many skin imperfections and leaves you with glowing, smooth skin.
If you require extensive exfoliation, you can alternate using lactic acid with a more potent exfoliant like salicylic acid, which will remove dead skin cells and thoroughly clean your pores.
Other than mixing in other chemical exfoliants, a lactic acid skin peel can also be combined with other skincare treatments like microneedling, dermaplaning, etc.
Image source: Instagram @electric_estii
What Conditions Does a Lactic Acid Peel Treat?
A lactic acid skin peel can be categorized into the lactic acid face peel and lactic acid body peel. While it’s mostly used for its lightening and texture-improving properties, lactic peel helps treat quite a few conditions:
Lactic Acid Peel for Collagen Production
Like other chemical peels, lactic acid also helps stimulate collagen formation. The new cells that form help fill out indents that are caused by acne scarring or fine lines.
So this treatment is a great solution if you’re looking to aid in preventing anti-aging or improving skin texture.
Lactic Acid Peel for Acne
The lactic acid peel helps kill bacteria that cause acne. It contains antimicrobial qualities that prevent infectious agents. It’ll help reduce skin inflammation and – due to the hydrating properties of lactic acid chemical peel – it’ll lessen redness and irritation.
And not only is it helpful in reducing acne – the lactic peel is great for prevention as well!
Image source: Instagram @skinritualsstudio
Lactic Acid Peel for Acne Scars
Wherever the skin is damaged deeply, there’s a scar that forms over the surrounding tissue.
This is the case with cystic acne which develops due to clogged pores that lead to an infection that travels deep into the dermis. Ruptured cysts can break the follicle wall and cause the infection to damage surrounding skin cells.
Due to the encouragement of collagen production, chemical peels help repair some of this damage by filling out the lesions. This makes skin texture more even and the visibility of acne scarring is reduced1.
Lactic Acid for Dark Spots
Superficial (acne) blemishes heal quickly so it’s unlikely they’ll leave a scar but there is a possibility that they’ll leave dark spots. Since the lactic acid peel is used to lighten the skin, it’s really good for targeting dark spots and hyperpigmentation.
By dissolving the bonds between the skin cells and lifting dead, overly pigmented skin cells from the surface, it lessens discoloration. Plus, the lactic acid peel also increases skin cell turnover and suppresses melanin formation2.
Lactic Acid Peel for Hyperpigmentation
Most pigmentation is superficial so a light lactic acid peel can successfully alleviate some of the discolorations3. If there’s no need to use stronger ingredients, the lactic acid peel is a great solution as it isn’t as harsh as other available options.
However, if the pigmentation is rooted deeper in the dermis, this might not be enough and higher concentrations or combinations of different ingredients might be necessary.
Image source: Instagram @elevatedbeautyandwellnessbyaby
Lactic Acid Peel for Rosacea, Eczema & Psoriasis
If you have eczema, psoriasis, or rosacea it’s generally recommended you stay away from chemical peels. This however doesn’t exclude lactic acid.
Despite exfoliating, this peel doesn’t trigger any sensitivity or erythema (redness). Lactic acid is actually used in many pharmaceutical creams that help treat these conditions because it acts as both an exfoliant and a humectant.
It also helps encourage better and healthier lipids to form which increases the skin’s capacity to retain moisture and as such, is an excellent choice for dry and flaky skin.
Lactic Acid Peel for Under Eye Wrinkles
What makes the lactic acid peel different from other peels is that it’s also a humectant. This means that it draws water molecules into the skin, restoring hydration. Plus, it helps plump up the skin and make wrinkles less visible.
Image source: Instagram @beautifybyandrea
Lactic Acid Peel for Dark Lips
Lactic acid makes your lips plumper and helps lessen pigmented areas, helping the lips’ natural pink color become more visible.
Lactic acid has a large molecular size that prevents it from penetrating the skin too deeply and causing irritation or harm, so it can be safe to use on the lips.
However, this effect may be better achieved using products that contain this ingredient, rather than applying the acid straight to the lips.
Lactic Acid Peel for Dark Underarms
Applying acids to the underarms is relatively safe as long as very low concentrations are used.
The peel helps dissolve the dead skin cells and melanocytes (pigment cells) that cause darkening and hyperpigmentation.
This speeds up the process of shedding the piled-up dead skin and aids in getting rid of microorganisms that cause odors by bringing down the pH of the skin.
But be careful! If the skin barrier gets disrupted by applying the acid too frequently or in high concentrations, it could result in irritation and even worsening pigment.
Image source: Instagram @thedermastudio_clinic
Lactic Acid Peel for Dark Knees
Our daily activities (such as leaning on our elbows, kneeling, etc.) put a lot of friction on the knees and elbows, which speeds up the creation of melanin there as a skin-protection defense mechanism.
Lactic acid peel results in the inhabitation of the activity of tyrosinase and decreases the formation of melanin. This helps regulate the skin’s melanin overproduction over time.
Besides, the skin on the knees and elbows is thicker so it’s more likely to get dry and accumulate dead skin cells – which this kind of peel can treat.
Lactic Acid Peel Limitations
Although lactic acid peels are great for a number of skin conditions, they are not the cure-all treatment designed to fix all skin problems. Let’s take a look at lactic acid peel limitations:
- Remove loose or sagging skin
- Improve deep scars
- Change pore size
Individuals with fair to light skin generally get better results from chemical peel treatments like a lactic acid treatment; however, individuals with darker skin tones can also have lactic peels.
How to Prepare for a Lactic Acid Peel
A low-concentrated lactic acid peel doesn’t require any preparation. Just discontinue the use of retinol and other harsher active ingredients from your skincare routine a few days before the treatment.
Higher concentrations or a combination of other ingredients with a lactic peel require a week or two of preparations by using specific skin care.
What Happens During Lactic Acid Peel?
The procedure will begin with proper cleaning and prepping of the treated area. If a higher concentration is used, the technician will apply protection (vaseline and cotton pad) to the sensitive areas to minimize the irritation.
Then, the lactic acid peel gets applied. You may feel some slight stinging or tingling upon the application.
The skin’s reaction is then monitored by the technician. Depending on the skin’s tolerance, additional layers may be applied.
After the designated amount of time has passed, the technician will inactivate the peel and apply an ointment and sunscreen to soothe and protect the treated skin.
How Long Does It Take for the Lactic Acid Peel to Work?
Once the solution is applied, it will take 60 seconds to 3 minutes for the acid to do its magic. But the amount of time it stays on your skin depends on the severity of the skin condition you’re looking to treat.
What Happens After a Lactic Acid Peel Treatment?
After this treatment, your skin might be red, irritated, and feel tight. After a few days, flaking will start. Depending on the concentration, lactic acid peel results can be visible instantly or after a few days.
- Light peels: These heal in 1–7 days and can be repeated every two to five weeks. You may need multiple sessions to see desired results.
- Medium peels: They heal in 7–14 days. An aftercare regimen and a follow-up appointment will be necessary.
- Deep peels: The recovery time ranges from 14 to 21 days. These are serious treatments so they require multiple additional follow-up visits.
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How Often Should You Do a Lactic Acid Peel?
It’s best to use lactic acid skin peel every few weeks, but that obviously depends on the concentration used.
Although this ingredient isn’t as irritating as other acids, it can be used more often than harsher ones like salicylic or glycolic acid.
However, there is always a limit. Using too much at once can lead to irritation, inflammation, rashes, and even chemical burns.
Is Lactic Acid Peel Safe? Risks + Side Effects
The main side effect of a lactic acid peel is that it can still make your skin more sensitive to the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays after the treatment.
Due to its peeling effects, the sensitivity of the skin is increased so there might also be some irritation and itchiness. The most frequent side effects resemble a light sunburn.
When a higher concentration is used, there may even be some redness and swelling.
Usually, these symptoms go away in a day or two. In case they don’t – contact your doctor immediately.
It’s always a good idea to talk to your dermatologist in order to fully understand the potential risks before having a lactic peel. Especially if your skin tone is darker, as chemical peels can increase the risk of post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation.
How Much Does Lactic Acid Peel Cost?
The price of lactic acid peel will vary depending on a few factors:
- The intensity of the peel
- The credentials and experience of the technician
- Whether it induces other services as well.
According to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons, a lactic acid peel’s average price is $519.
The average price seems so high due to the fact that deep peel is considered a serious medical treatment. It requires anesthesia or a hospital stay, so it could be $3,000 or more. A light peel may be as little as $100.
Lactic Acid Peel at Home
If you’re considering doing a lactic acid peel at home, stay clear of professional-grade products. Using such high concentrations by yourself is unsafe.
At-home use products are made to be safe to use by non-professionals as they typically have a lesser concentration (no more than 10%) of the peeling agent and higher pH levels (3.5 and up).
Lactic acid can be used in products other than peels. Weaker concentrates can often be found in cleansers and face washing products, face masks, etc.
These products are formulated to be gentle enough for everyday use, however more potent formulas (like serums) may need to be introduced slowly into your routine – especially if you have sensitive skin.
When it comes to doing a lactic acid peel at home, the patch test should not be skipped! Perform it 24 hours in advance to establish whether you are able to apply it to the face safely.
Here’s What We Recommend
Here’s a list of high-quality products you can look into:
Lactic Acid Peel The Ordinary
Lactic acid peel serums by The Ordinary are one of the most affordable options on the market. You can find them at a 5 percent and 10 percent strength.
A higher percentage obviously means that the product is stronger so the result will be more prominent. But that doesn’t mean this is the right option for your skin.
5% is more suitable for sensitive skin types and beginners. So don’t rush to the results, they take time. It’s better to take it slow and avoid irritation than to damage the skin barrier and not be able to use this product anymore.
Alternative Products with Lactic Acid
If you don’t want to go with a straight-up peel, you can find many high-quality products that contain this ingredient:
What to Apply After Lactic Acid Peel
Since lactic acid temporarily compromises your skin’s protective barrier, make sure you reinforce it by using quality moisturizer.
Don’t use any other exfoliators – physical like scrubs and brushes, chemical-like acids, and retinol at least 3-4 days after the lactic acid skin peel.
Don’t forget to use SPF and try to avoid sun exposure. Also, drink more water to avoid dehydration.
Here are some product recommendations:
Lactic Acid Peel – Main Takeaways
Lactic acid peel is the most gentle chemical exfoliant on the market. It benefits everyone as it’s suitable for even the most sensitive skin (and skin conditions). This treatment carries the least amount of risks and side effects and doesn’t take nearly any recovery time, so it’s the best option for beginners.
- Nofal, Eman, et al. “Combination chemical peels are more effective than single chemical peel in treatment of mild‐to‐moderate acne vulgaris: A split face comparative clinical trial.” Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology 17.5 (2018): 802-810.
- Sandin, Juliana, et al. “Application of lactic acid peeling in patients with melasma: a comparative study.” Surgical & Cosmetic Dermatology 6.3 (2014): 255-260.
- Sharquie, Khalifa E., Mohammad M. Al‐Tikreety, and Sabeeh A. Al‐Mashhadani. “Lactic acid as a new therapeutic peeling agent in melasma.” Dermatologic surgery 31.2 (2005): 149-154.