Lactic Acid Peels

Information about lactic peels and what they do |

Lactic acid peel

Similar to glycolic acid peels, lactic acid peels are alpha hydroxy acids (AHA). Derived from milk, they are very mild chemical peels with little to no downtime. Because lactic acid is a natural human metabolite, there is less chance of an allergic reaction with this type of peel.

Therefore, they are a good choice for first-time peel users or for those with sensitive skin. However, dry or oily skin types can also use this peel and get good results. Lactic acid is especially good for to use for mature skin.

Keep reading to learn more about how lactic acid peels can repair damaged skin and what to expect when you get one of these peels.

What do Lactic Acid Peels Do?

The benefits of lactic acid peels include:

  • Exfoliating the surface of your skin
  • Deep cleaning pores
  • Fading dark marks
  • Improving hyperpigmentation
  • Evening out skin tone
  • Brightening and lightening skin
  • Improving the appearance of light wrinkles
  • Stimulating natural collagen production

Overall, lactic acid peels are a great way to treat common skin concerns. How great a lactic acid peel will be at fixing a skin problem will depend on a number of factors though. These include how your skin reacts, the strength of the peel (lactic acid peels usually range from 40-70%), the number of peels you get (you will usually need more than one to get your desired skin results), and how well you take care of your skin post-peel.

Lactic acid vs. Glycolic acid peels

Lactic acid and glycolic acid are two of the more common peel solutions. Because they can do similar things to your skin, it can be confusing to decide which one of these two chemical peels you should use.

Texture wise, lactic acid is a thick (but not thick like honey), sticky, and yellowish solution while glycolic acid is a very watery, clear liquid. Lactic acid is more expensive, which is why lactic acid facials usually cost more. Both peels yield similar results, though lactic acid peels are less harsh and tend to fade hyperpigmentation better.

If you are deciding between a glycolic acid peel and a lactic acid peel and don't know which to get, go with lactic acid if you have never gotten a peel before or if you have lots of dark marks you want to fade. Once you find you can tolerate lactic acid just fine, you can try glycolic acid the next time you get a peel.

What to Expect from a Lactic Acid Peel

Before the lactic acid peel solution is put on your skin, your skin will first be thoroughly cleansed. Facials oils will prevent the peel from effectively penetrating your skin, so often a prep solution will be applied before the peel to make sure your skin is clean, oil-free, and primed.

After the peel is applied to your skin, the person giving you the peel will set a timer for when the peel should be neutralized. The longer the peel is left on your skin, the more penetrating and potentially irritating it will be. You generally work your way up to longer peel times and higher strength peels as you get more follow-up peels.

During the lactic acid peel, your skin will feel warm and turn pink. This post-peel pink skin could last for a few hours or a few days. It's normal and will go away on its own, as long as you wear sunscreen, stay out of the sun, and avoid exfoliating or scrubbing your skin until after your skin heals. Lactic acid peels don't burn or make your skin physically peel unless they are at a really high concentration.

Is there any downtime?

Unlike TCA peels or laser treatments, there isn't any significant downtime associated with lactic acid peels. Most people have their skin return to normal in 3-4 days, only experiencing some redness, dryness, and skin flaking in the first two days post-peel. This redness is annoying, but can easily be covered up with makeup. The short time it takes to recover from lactic acid peels is what makes it one of the more popular chemical peels out there.

Lactic acid peel side effects are not as pronounced as other stronger or deeper peels, but instructions and precautions for lactic acid peels are the same as the ones for glycolic acid peels, so please consult that section for more information.

When will you see results?

Like with all chemical peels, lactic acid peels take time to work. People tend to expect their skin to show drastic improvements right after they get a peel done, but these improvements don't happen the next day. And just because your skin doesn't look any different immediately after you get a peel, it doesn't mean the peel didn't work. Your skin continues to get better in the days following the peel.

For certain skin issues, like fading dark marks and erasing fine lines, it will take multiple chemical peel treatments to see results. 1-2 treatments for 6-8 weeks will usually give you optimal results. Again, these results will depend on your skin, the strength of the peel, the frequency of the peel, and how well you take care of your skin post-peel.

Because lactic acid peels are mild, they can be safely used 1-2 times per week. However, it depends on your skin, the strength of the lactic acid peel, and what other products you are using. For example, if you are using retinoids, it would be smart to not be as aggressive with lactic acid peels because your skin is already getting a strong dose of exfoliation.

Like glycolic acid peels, lactic acid peels are a great way to treat superficial skin damage. A lactic acid peel every 2-3 weeks will revitalize and brighten skin, keeping it young and healthy.

Last updated: September 21, 2012

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Mandelic Acid Peels

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