Can you exfoliate sensitive skin with acids?
Short answer: it depends on the acid. Glycolic is out. Lactic is in.
Long answer? Glad you asked…
What The Heck Is Lactic Acid And Why Should You Use It?
Lactic acid is the gentlest member of the Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA) family.
Like all AHAs, it works by dissolving the “glue” that holds skin cells together. When the top layer of damaged skin cells sloughs off, skin is softer. Smoother. Brighter.
Lactic acid goes a step further. It’s also a humectant, a fancy way of saying it attracts water from the air into the skin. Or, put even more simply, it exfoliates and hydrates skin at the same time.
The best part? Lactic acid is so gentle, even sensitive skin can use it.
The catch? Lactic acid is rarely used alone. It’s usually paired with glycolic acid, which is not suitable for sensitive skin. But fret not, I’ve found a couple of products where lactic acid plays solo (and one where it doesn’t 😉 ).
Here are the best exfoliant with lactic acid even sensitive skin can tolerate:
Best On A Budget: The Ordinary Lactic Acid 5% + HA 2% ($6.79)
The Ordinary Lactic Acid 5% + HA 2% uses a very mild concentration of lactic acid to slough off dead cells. Plus, Tasmania pepperberry extract to soothe any potential irritation. Add hyaluronic acid, a moisture magnet that attracts water from the air into your skin, and you’ve got a clever little exfoliant that plumps up your skin, boosts its hydration and makes it glow. Seriously, if even this bothers your skin, stick to a washcloth.
Best For Brightening: Sunday Riley Good Genes All-In-One Lactic Acid Treatment ($105.00)
Warning: In Europe, Sunday Riley Good Genes contains Glycolic Acid, Not Latic Acid
Do you need to spend $100+ to get your lactic acid fix? Nope. But if you’re into luxury skincare, Sunday Riley Good Genes is one of the few products that’s worth splurging on. It has enough lactic acid to do the exfoliating job easily, which alone is enough to give your skin a subtle glow. Plus, it has a sprinkle of licorice extract, a natural skin-brightener. If you have mild pigmentation, this is worth checking out. For severe hyperpigmentation, check out these other (more effective) options.
Available at: Sephora
Best For Antiaging: Allies Of Skin Bright Future Overnight Facial ($120.00)
Warning: Allies Of Skin Bright Future Overnight Facial may have lactic acid but is not for sensitive skin. Lactic acid is joined by its little brother glycolic acid. Together they amp up the exfoliating game, smoothening out skin’s texture and brightening the complexion. There’s also retinal, a cousin of retinol. It does the same thing (reduces wrinkles + boost collagen) but gentler. Plus, a handful of peptides and a bunch of antioxidants to firm skin and prevent wrinkles. I could do without the fragrant oils (citrus, geranium and lavender) but if they don’t bother your skin, there are enough goodies here to make up for them.
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