Can I use lactic acid in addition to AHAs?


Thanks to modern technology and increased common sense about skincare ingredients, acids no longer have the bad reputation they once did. Worries about burning or peeling skin are a thing of the past, but does that mean we can use acids as much as we want?

It’s true that skincare formulations have now advanced to the point where each active ingredient works effectively together with little to no side effects, but can the same be said when different acids are layered on top of each other? That’s where our blog post comes in today, and with any luck, we’ll answer the question: “Can I use lactic acid in addition to AHAs?”

What are AHAs?

AHAs, also known as alpha hydroxy acids, are a group of chemical exfoliants that are typically derived from plant and animal sources.

AHAs are commonly added to a number of different skincare products, such as serums, toners, cleansers, masks, and moisturizers.

Some of the most commonly used acids are glycolic, lactic, malic, mandelic, citric, and azelaic acids.

AHAs are the most water-soluble and work on the outer surface of the skin. They remove layers of dead skin cells and debris that can build up and cause blemishes, blackheads and flaking skin.

Some AHAs can penetrate deeper into the skin, clearing dirt, bacteria, debris and excess sebum from pores.

AHAs boost the production of collagen and elastin in the skin, making it firmer, plumper and more youthfully elastic.

They target areas of hyperpigmentation, visibly reducing dark spots, age spots and sun damage on the surface of the skin.

Improves signs of skin aging, such as fine lines and wrinkles.

AHAs prevent acne flare-ups and reduce the likelihood of blemishes forming on the surface of the skin.

If you want to learn more about AHAs and their benefits for your skin, read our dedicated blog post. 

What is Lactic Acid?

Obtained by harvesting fermented compounds contained in lactose from acidified dairy products such as milk.

Known as the gentlest of the AHAs, as its larger molecular size prevents it from penetrating too deeply into the skin and increasing irritation.

Helps break up the bond between dead skin cells and the skin’s surface, which can lead to acne, flaking, signs of aging and a dull complexion.

Gently exfoliates the skin, freeing up the surface barrier to help other ingredients absorb quickly.

Has unique hydrating properties, which means it draws moisturizers into the skin and locks them on the surface. This means the skin barrier contains the right levels of water and oil, and is strong enough to resist damage from free radicals such as pollution, UV rays, central heating and other environmental aggressors.

Reduces signs of aging such as fine lines and wrinkles, hyperpigmentation, loss of firmness.

You can learn more about this smart acid in Beauty Insider.

Can AHAs and Lactic Acid be used together?

Yes, you can, but be careful about layering ingredients with different pH levels. Ideally, you should wait around 15 minutes between each application, as this gives the skin enough time to rebalance its pH and prepare for the following active ingredients.

The order in which you use each acid depends on the skincare formulation. Needless to say, there is a specific way to apply your products to ensure they all deliver the best results, from the thinnest consistency to the thickest. Lactic acid and other AHAs are often included in similar formulas, so it really depends on your own preferences and the products you use in your skincare routine.

If you have a sensitive skin type that is prone to redness, then using lactic acid alone may be most helpful. Layering with other acids may cause unwanted irritation, redness, itching, and discomfort. To avoid these negative effects, build skin tolerance first, then slowly introduce other acids and apply in layers. If you have concerns about using lactic acid with other active ingredients, talk to your doctor or dermatologist.

There are also some examples of using lactic acid with AHAs, such as:

Alternate between ingredients at different times of the day. Try using lactic acid in your morning routine and then taking another AHA in the evening.

Alternate between lactic acid or AHAs on different days. You don’t necessarily need to use chemical peels every day, especially if your skin is prone to sensitivity. Instead, you can choose when to use active ingredients to keep your skin healthy and happy.

If you find that your skin tolerates the combination of these active ingredients well, you can use your skincare routine in a way that works for both you and your skin.

What can lactic acid be applied to?

Hyaluronic acid is considered the best ingredient to combine with lactic acid. Although hyaluronic acid is called an acid, it does something different for the skin and instead provides moisture to the skin. Due to its hydrating properties, hyaluronic acid can help attract and retain moisture in the skin. This extra hydration will give you a plumper, healthier, clearer complexion, and reduced fine lines and wrinkles. 

How to add lactic acid to your skincare routine?

A lot depends on the formulation of the product containing lactic acid. As I mentioned before, there are many different products to choose from. From cleansers to serums. If you are new to lactic acid or other acids, I recommend using your products first in your evening routine. This means you can reap the benefits without having to worry about overexposure to free radicals (such as UV rays), pollution, and harsh climates.

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