A Look Inside Lactic Acid
by Rhonda Allison
(Excerpts from April 2016 issue of Dermascope magazine, featuring the Vivoderm Anti-Aging Mask).
Milk has been used throughout history to care for the skin. Many people are familiar with Cleopatra’s fabled milk baths and, as it turns out, numerous other noble women throughout history followed suit. These women realized the youth-preserving benefits that milk provided the skin. Milk is immensely rich in nutrients, including proteins, lipids, vitamins, minerals, and, of course, the ingredient that is responsible for its cell-regenerating abilities: lactic acid.
Today, lactic acid is used in aesthetics and skin care to deliver a host of benefits to the skin and correct signs of aging, acne scarring, dehydration, discoloration, and more.
What is Lactic Acid?
L-lactic acid is a keratolytic alpha hydroxy acid that is also known as ‘milk acid.’ It is gentler than glycolic
acid and provides exfoliation without provoking irritation. It also softens the skin, increases desquamation, stimulates cell regeneration, improves the skin’s texture, and has natural brightening abilities.
(Chemical / Technical Details)
Lactic acid is also chiral in that it contains two optimal isomers. Essentially it has two parts: a left-handed part and a right-handed part. This is why lactic acid is often accompanied by an ‘L.’ This letter denotes the
chirally-correct molecule of the acid is being used. The ‘L’ form is absorbed more easily by the skin and increases the overall performance.
The body naturally produces lactic acid during normal metabolism and exercise. When the demand for energy spikes in the body, such as during strenuous or power workouts, glucose is broken down and oxidized to pyruvate, which then stimulates the production of lactate. This process is beneficial because it helps ensure energy production is maintained. Even during rest, lactate continues to be produced as a result of metabolism in red blood cells that lack mitochondria.
Some research has even shown lactate to play an important role in early-stage development for brain metabolism and as an energy source for the brain in the metabolism of neurons.
L-lactic acid is an important alpha hydroxy acid that may be used in peels, facials, and homecare regimens to help correct the signs of aging, hyperpigmentation, some acne and acne scarring, uneven tone and texture, and more.
While many alpha hydroxy acids are derived from fruit, lactic acid is most-commonly derived from fermented milk or sugar (or yogurt) and is considered a non-toxic, active, and organic substance.
Common Uses for Lactic Acid
Although L-lactic acid may be used to help correct numerous skin issues, it is particularly beneficial in the treatment of aging. It also works well for sensitive skin and skin of color, which may be more prone to dryness, post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, and discoloration. Acid selection will, of course, always vary by person and should be chosen based on specific skin type and goals.
In treating aging skin, L-lactic acid really shines. It stimulates cell turnover and collagen production to firm sagging skin, sheds pigmented cells, brightens the overall tone, and delivers hydration beyond the surface. Because of its exfoliating capabilities, this acid allows for more efficient penetration than other pro-youth ingredients.
It also increases dermal and epidermal thickness, thus revealing more firmness and less fine lines and wrinkles. While lifting epidermal cells, lactic acid stimulates the synthesis of collagen and hyaluronic acid at the cellular level, resulting in smoother and younger-looking skin. In the treatment of acne, L-lactic acid helps to loosen follicle impactions, reduce corneocyte cohesion, and thicken the corneum layer. It also helps stimulate cell turnover and tissue regeneration while delivering important hydration and brightening benefits.
For hyperpigmentation and other sun-induced discolorations, L-lactic acid is beneficial for many skin types and provides exfoliation and skin-brightening support. It is also gentler than glycolic acid and typically does not induce skin irritation.
When properly used, L-lactic acid is an invaluable tool in the treatment room and at home to correct the visual signs of aging, effectively treat acne, and brighten and even the skin tone. Taking a daily milk bath is not necessary, but a daily dose of lactic acid will provide many benefits for your skin.
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