When I tell people that I regularly put lactic acid on my face, they usually seem to think that I do this:

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And then I’ve got some explaining to do.

First up, it good to know that the skin is acidic anyway, so putting any acid on it, will depending on strength and PH, be like putting like to like. Products advertising that they be PH balanced are therefore actually acidic, meaning it’s not a scary concept after all.

In beauty blogs and on YouTube, you will often hear references to AHAs and BHAs in product reviews and recommendations. AHA stands for alpha hydroxy acid (short AHA). AHAs are exfoliators meaning they help remove dead skin cells. They do this by breaking up the cement between cells. BHAs are beta hydroxy acids, they work by dissolving oil and sebum, effectively cleaning out the pores. So despite both being acids, they do different things.

AHAs are staples in effective anti-aging. In numerous studies, higher concentrations (12% to 15%) have been found to lead to an increase in skin thickness and a reduction in lines. Plus, freshly exfoliated skin looks glowing. As this is done chemically, it can be referred to as chemical exfoliation rather than mechanical such as done by a scrub.

The most common AHAs found in products are glycolic and lactic acid. These acids have differing natural sources, glycolic being a fruit acid and lactic from milk and work slightly differently.

Glycolic acid has the smallest acid molecules and penetrate the skin more deeply than lactic. Due to this it is perceived that it is more effective at boosting collagen production. But people with sensitive or dry skin may find their skin irritated by it. Lactic acid is a good humectant; it attracts moisture into the skin making it more suitable for sensitive skins. Both types are effective exfoliators and help to retexturize the skin. Word of warning: they increase photo-sensitivity, which is why they are best used evenings.

I use glycolic and lactic. Twice per week I use the Ordinary Lactic Acid at 10% concentration topped with Philosophy’s Hope in a Jar Night which has around 4% glycolic acid. The alternate night I use retinols. I have also enjoyed Ren Skincare’s Glycolactic Radiance Renewal Mask.

I find that these products do a great job of exfoliating my skin and since starting the regime around 3 months ago my skin is far smoother and more radiant.

Other products commonly recommended are Sunday Riley’s Good Genes with around 5% lactic acid (to be used every day) and Drunk Elephant’s T.L.C. Framboos Glycolic Night Serum (12% glycolic acid).

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