What is it? Where does it come from? How does it work? Is it Safe? Who needs it? Is it Right for Me? Why do I need it? When do I use it?
What is Lactic Acid?
Lactic Acid is an Alpha Hydroxy Acid. Alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) is a term for a variety of fruit acids such as Glycolic, Citric, Lactic, Malic and Tartaric. These acids, when used correctly, help to smooth the skin, enhance the effects of other skin rejuvenation treatments, keep problem skin under control, aifract moisture to the skin, even the texture and complexion of skin and reverse some of the effects of UV damage. They can be used to achieve these goals over a period of time with regular use. AHA's are now a common additive to numerous skin care products including moisturizers, cleanser, toners, and masks. Lactic Acid in particular is a non-irritating rapid yet thorough skin exfoliator.
Where does it come from?
Lactic acid comes from milk. Cleopatra is reported to have bathed in sour mild (lactic acid) to improve her complexion. It has been safely used for thousands of years as a skin rejuvenating product. An ideal skin softener, lactic acid is frequently used by dermatologists to cut through thick, rough skin. Lactic Acid products are also great for softening rough elbows, knees, hands and feet.
How does it work?
Lactic Acid very effectively works by removing the outer layers of thickened or damaged skin leaving a smoother and healthier appearance. Lactic Acid can penetrate to the deeper layers of the skin, increasing the rate of dead cell shedding, new skin cell production and collagen formation.
Lactic AHA helps dissolve the "glue" that holds dead, dry skin cells to the surface of the skin, allowing them to be removed without causing friction or irritation to sensitive skin. By doing so the epidermis is exfoliated leaving a silky texture and feel. Removal of this external barrier encourages new cell growth and enables easier and better penetration of other skin treatments and products as well. Lactic acid works both as an exfoliator as well as helps hold water within the skin.
Is it safe?
Lactic Acid is the safest of all the AHA's especially when used according to directions. The amount of AHA in the product and the pH are the determining factors of a product's strength and irritation you may experience. Don't forget this is an acid -too high of concentration can cause skin irritation or burning.
Medical strength AHAs start at a concentration of 8%. This is the baseline of where truly effective results will begin to be obvious. When using AHA-containing products purchased at the drug, grocery, or department store, the percentages are generally going to be negligible. The average AHA you may come across may be around 3%, which is not very effective at skin rejuvenation. If you are entering a regime that is more goal and rejuvenation oriented, you will want a professional strength Lactic Acid. Start out by leaving it on the skin for only a few minutes and gradually increase the time so your skin can become acclimated slowly to avoid unnecessary irritation. Skin rejuvenation is a long-term commitment, so be patient and you will experience the benefits. There has been a trend for some companies or physicians to offer extremely high concentrations of glycolic acid, 40% and up. Often this is being done on the internet. These are products that can have significant side effects such as burning, temporary or permanent skin discoloration and even scarring. Buyer beware!
FDA Guidelines on Alpha Hydroxy Acids
Because of concerns over the side effects of alpha hydroxy acids, the FDA in 1997 announced that alpha hydroxy acids are safe for use by consumers with the following guidelines:
• The AHA concentration is 10% or less
• The final product has a pH of 3.5 or higher
• The final product must have an effective sunscreen in the formulation or warn people to use sunscreen products
If you want the best results from using an AHA. then you need to also rely upon a good sunscreen of at least 15 SPF that contains avobenzone, titanium dioxide or zinc oxide for both UVA and UVB protection. Exfoliation due to any product, including AHAs, causes sensitivity to sun exposure so you must strictly use a sunscreen liberally on a daily basis. The skin is more susceptible to the elements and must be protected. Sun protection is always important, but when you are using an exfoliating agent it becomes mandatory!
Recently an article appeared regarding AHA's, suggesting they may cause cancer. However, the concerns were really about increased sun burn potential and side effects due to the caustic nature of the acid. There is no evidence of AHA' s causing any type of cancer.
AHAs are typically considered safe to use while pregnant or nursing. As always, it is a good idea to discuss your use of all products with your doctor during this special time.
Who needs it?Look at a child's skin- it is in perfect condition. It appears smooth, bright and taut. Collagen provides the skin's firmness and volume. Collagen and elastin production is stimulated in the second major layer of your skin called the dermis. As we age the collagen thickness decreases and flattens allowing the top layer to flatten or sag. Collagen loss is greater in certain areas due to specific reasons, such as sun damage or facial expressions and the surface reflects those losses as wrinkles since these areas dip below the surface. Elastin gives your skin expandability to change shape and not break. If you pinch your skin and it doesn't bounce back, the elastin is in very poor condition. Your skin should snap back into place like a rubber band. Try gently pinching a baby's skin then your own to see the difference.
Age takes a toll by thinning your skin, your body stops readily producing collagen and elastin around the age of 28. From here on out skin care products stimulating the production of collagen and elastin are needed to keep your skin healthy and youthful looking.
Lactic Acid works fast to slough off dead skin cells and can be more suited to those who prefer a gentler, safer yet effective peel, or for more sensitive skin types.
Lactic Acid is recommended for those that are new to peel and exfoliating agents in skin care products, as well as those that have used other exfoliators for a long time and want to improve their results. For instance, if you've been using Glycolic and wish to reinitiate effective exfoliation, you will be surprised at how effective Lactic can be at boosting cell turnover - just like when you used Glycolic for the first time!
With prolonged use, Lactic Acid has been found to be beneficial in improving dry skin, treating age spots, improving oily and acne prone skin and decreasing fine lines and wrinkles.
AHAs can help to enhance other treatments such as lightening therapies as well. By ridding the skin of dead cells, the treatment product (such as an acne medication or anti-aging serum) is able to reach the site where it is needed without unnecessary interference.
Is Lactic Acid Right for Me?
If you feel that your skin is looking dull, lifeless or uneven, using an AHA product like Lactic Acid may benefit you. As the skin ages, it can lose that lustrous youthful glow. Lactic Acid can quickly restore a fresh, healthy appearance. If you have a sensitive skin condition such as rosacea, Lactic Acid should be your choice. You may find that other AHAs are not appropriate for your skin as they may increase your redness and/or cause stinging. If you are using any prescriptions that affect your skin or you suffer from a specific skin condition such as Rosacea, be sure to check with your Dermatologist.
However, many rosacea patients actually have oily, tougher skin and can tolerate the use of stronger AHA's. In that case, they can be beneficial for both oil reduction and pore cleansing, as well as provide rejuvenation benefits, esp. Salicylic Acid, which is a Beta Hydroxy Acid, and the most effective on oily or acne skin.
So, what's the point? Dead skin cells cling to our skin, making it look and feel dry, flaky, and dull. In order to renew and refresh our skin, we have to exfoliate.
Benefits of Lactic Acid
• The texture of your skin will improve within the first few weeks.
• Skin tone should even out after 3 months.
• Collagen and elastin improvement will become more evident after 6 months, reducing wrinkles and firming your skin.
• Hormonal acne breakouts can occur up to a year after starting AHA's but should improve each month.
• Small scar reduction can take 6 months to a year for improvement.
Everybody improves at a different rate so have patience. The nice attribute of Lactic acid is that your skin will keep improving with time.
Remember: AHA products are also great for softening rough elbows, knees, hands and feet.
How to use Lactic Acid
After cleansing apply a small amount of Body Joy Lactic Acid Gel. Leave on the skin 2-3 minutes and then rinse well with cool water. Use 1-2 times/week gradually increasing the amount of time it's on your skin.
Lactic Acid Gel 4 oz. $45.95