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We Asked an Esthetician how to Exfoliate Your Face the Right Way with Lactic Acid

JAN 11, 2022 · Written by Melissa Arpino for Stripped Beauty


Exfoliation is an amazing way to help heal and prevent acne on your face and body. Although it’s great, too much of it can do more harm than good. Whether it’s chemical or physical, it helps maintain healthy, smooth skin and can also make other products absorb better. Today, we’ll talk about chemical exfoliation specifically with lactic acid and some essential tips for using it.

Lactic Acid is an AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acid) known for its gentle effects to remove dead skin cells without irritating sensitive skin types. Commonly derived from fermented foods like corn starch, beets, and other sugar-rich foods, it works by loosening the bonds between dead skin cells to reveal a more radiant complexion and is one of the most used AHAs. 


Like any exfoliating acid, over-exfoliation is possible, which is why you should start slow. Most of the time, you don’t need to do it every day; 1-3 times a week is plenty. Some signs you might be over-exfoliating are burning, peeling, inflammation, tiny pimples, and increased sensitivity to other products in your routine. It's all about how your skin reacts; listen to it.


We asked esthetician Leah Yacos some Lactic Acid basics; here's what she had to say.


How often should someone use Lactic Acid?


"When starting off, go slow. Lactic Acid (in a toner) could be used frequently but not constantly. Over time, Lactic Acid can reduce texture, redness, discoloration, but it can also cause irritation and dryness with overuse. Shoot for 2-4 times a week at night. You're going to get the best use from consistency, as this ingredient works over time. Remember, you don't need to do anything every day other than SPF...some products do not gain a benefit or need to be used every day."


What are the dos and don'ts when using Lactic Acid? 


"Always use an SPF during the day; AHAs increase your skin's sensitivity to the sun. Also, it's best not to use exfoliating products on days you use retinol since both are potent ingredients. Alternating between the two will help avoid irritation. Slight tingling or redness is normal when first using Lactic Acid. If you experience anything more intense, talk to your derm or esthetician."


Do you have any tips on preventing over-exfoliation? 


"Look and listen! Pay attention to what your skin is telling you. If you start to notice more redness, dryness, itchiness, or flaking, take a little break from any products with exfoliants. Usually, exfoliating back to back can result in irritation, so it's best to avoid it. Start slow. You only need to exfoliate 1-2 times a week at first. Depending on your skin behavior and needs, you can gradually increase it to 2-4 times a week."

Exfoliating is a great addition to your weekly skincare routine and will give you glowing results when done consistently. Keep a lookout; you might see Lactic Acid in a Stripped Beauty reformulation coming this weekend (Flower Hour, hehe). Progress doesn't happen overnight, so remember to go slow and always read and follow the instructions on your product packaging. Your skin cycle is roughly 28 days, so stick with it and re-evaluate then. 


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