Lactic acid can be found in all sorts of products these days, but the best lactic acid products are balanced out by other, more targeted ingredients to boost your skin's clarity, smoothness, and glow. You can find lactic acid in cleansers, masks, serums, and even body lotions — so the best product for you is the one that you'll be able to easily incorporate into your existing route.
As with any new skin care ingredient — but particularly with acids — it's always wise to start off slow. Use your lactic acid product a couple of times a week at first, and see how your skin reacts. If your skin seems to be tolerating the product well, you can progress to every other day (or even daily) use. Of course, this depends on the type of product. Peels and masks, for example, should only be used occasionally, while cleansers, serums, and lotions can be used more frequently, so be sure to read the product's label carefully.
Finally, when using lactic acid (or any chemical exfoliant), be extra vigilant about your daily sunscreen application, as the ingredient can make your skin more sensitive to the sun.
To discover six of the best lactic acid products on the market right now, keep scrolling.
1. Best Serum
You can't talk about lactic acid products without mentioning Sunday Riley Good Genes. It's a highly concentrated treatment/serum that does basically everything you could want from a single product: helps reduce the appearance of hyperpigmentation and congested pores, promotes a smoother and more even-looking complexion, and generally makes your skin look glowy, bright, and clear. In addition to lactic acid, it contains lots of hard-working botanicals, like radiance-boosting licorice root, soothing arnica and prickly pear, and refreshing lemongrass. Though intended as a leave-on serum, the brand says it can be used as a mask if you prefer, meaning you'd leave it on for 15 minutes before rinsing it off.
Sunday Riley is a PETA- and Leaping Bunny-certified cruelty-free brand, and Good Genes is free from fragrance, parabens, and phthalates.
2. Best Peel
This affordable peel from InstaNatural pairs lactic acid with two other AHAs: glycolic acid for more intense chemical exfoliation, and malic acid to smooth and hydrate. It also contains blemish-busting salicylic acid and brightening vitamin C, as well as hyaluronic acid, aloe, and sunflower seed oil to keep skin moisturized and hydrated. For best results, leave it on for up to a minute before rinsing it off. Over time, you may be able to leave it on for a bit longer, but however you use it, it's a quick and effective way to slough away dead skin and even out your complexion. Note that this product is also vegan and Leaping Bunny-certified cruelty-free.
3. Best Cleanser
Since they stay on your skin for such a short amount of time, cleansers are a great, entry-level way to try out a new ingredient, especially if you have sensitive skin and find chemical exfoliants a bit harsh. If that's you, consider this face wash from derm-favorite brand PCA Skin. In this formula, lactic acid works to smooth and exfoliate skin, while moisturizing aloe vera and soothing allantoin keep things balanced. It's free of fragrance, sulfates, and parabens, so it shouldn't irritate sensitive skin.
4. Best Mask
This purifying mask from clean beauty brand Follain contains three types of clays (kaolin, bentonite, and montmorillonite) and three categories of acids (a BHA, a PHA, and two AHAs, including lactic acid). Together, these ingredients work to clear out pores and soak up excess oil, so it's great for anyone dealing with blackheads and/or acne. Though lots of clay masks tend to leave your skin feeling tight and dry, this one contains grapeseed oil and glycerin for a more moisturizing experience.
5. Best Body Scrub
Ideal for anyone dealing with keratosis pilaris or just generally rough, bumpy skin, First Aid Beauty's KP Eraser Body Scrub uses lactic and glycolic acids for chemical exfoliation, while tiny pumice beads provide some physical exfoliation as well. At the same time, soothing oatmeal, licorice root, and green tea extracts prevent the scrub from being too harsh, so it shouldn't dry out or irritate your skin (still, be sure to follow up with a nice body lotion). Like all FAB products, this product is cruelty-free, vegan, and safe for use on sensitive skin.
6. Best Body Lotion
Thanks to lactic acid's skin-smoothing benefits, this AmLactin body lotion is a popular pick among dermatologists and consumers for treating dry, bumpy, or rough, flaky skin. It comes in a massive, 14-ounce bottle (or you can choose one of the smaller 2- or 7-ounce bottles), so you'll be set for ages. Over 7,500 Amazon reviewers left this a glowing review or rating after purchasing, with one person hailing it a "KP Holy Grail Product."