Lactic Acid Peels Explained: What You Need To Know

lactic acid peel

When most people think of chemical peels, uncomfortable side effects like flaking skin and redness are the first thing that comes to mind. But chemical peels cover a wide range of strengths, and they don’t all cause the same reaction. 

The lactic acid peel is one of the most gentle peels. It can be an effective way to achieve glowing, healthy, and clear skin without any downtime or painful side effects. 

What is Lactic Acid?

Lactic acid is a type of alpha-hydroxy acid. It’s a chemical produced by sour milk that has been used for thousands of years as a beauty treatment. Ancient Egyptian Queen Cleopatra is known for having used lactic acid for its anti-aging and beauty-boosting properties.  

What Does Lactic Acid Do to Your Skin?

Like most chemical peels, lactic acid helps to increase cell turnover and boost collagen production. A lactic acid peel also:


A lactic acid peel removes dead skin, excess oil, and impurities to rejuvenate your skin. It’s also a collagen-boosting treatment, stimulating the body to naturally smooth away wrinkles and fine lines for younger-looking skin. 


If you suffer from dry skin, a lactic acid peel can be an effective moisturizing treatment. The lactic acid strengthens the skin’s natural barrier lipids, helping to lock in moisture and providing deep hydration.

Evens Out Skin Tone

A lactic acid peel can be a great beauty tool to address uneven skin tone by removing the superficial layer of dead skin. Over a series of treatments, skin becomes more even-toned, smoother, and clearer. 

Which Skin Concerns Can A Lactic Acid Peel Treat?

You can address several different skin concerns with a lactic acid peel, including:

  • Uneven skin tone
  • Fine lines and wrinkles
  • Dull complexion
  • Age spots

The number of treatments required depends on the skin concern you want to treat and the strength of the peel. For example, aging skin with deep wrinkles may require a series of treatments to achieve desired results. On the other hand, most people need only a single treatment two weeks before a social event for fast skin rejuvenation.

Lactic acid peels usually vary from 10% to 85% concentration. The higher the concentration, the more dramatic the results. A 2014 study found that an 82% lactic acid peel is an effective treatment for improving the appearance of melasma with only a temporary mild burning sensation as a side effect. 

What Happens During A Lactic Acid Peel Treatment?

For a low concentration lactic acid peel, there is no special preparation required. However, for a stronger concentration peel, you may need to prepare your skin for up to two weeks before treatment by following a skincare regime recommended by your clinician. 

During the procedure, the area is cleansed and prepared for the peel. The lactic acid is then applied to the skin. You may experience a mild tingling sensation while the lactic acid is in contact with your skin. 

Your clinician will leave the peel on the treated area for a limited period before using a neutralizing agent to inactivate the lactic acid. The skin is then cleansed before a rejuvenating serum is applied. 

In total, a lactic acid peel takes around 30 minutes in the clinic. 

Are There Any Side Effects?

There is a risk of skin irritation, redness, and flaking if the peel is left on the skin for too long or applied at an excessive concentration. A lactic acid peel could also cause a burning sensation and irritation if you have damaged skin or acne. 

You can reduce the risk of any side effects by using an experienced skin clinic with trained clinicians. 

There is no downtime after the treatment, but your clinician may recommend that you avoid any strenuous exercise and hot environments (saunas, hot baths, hot showers) for 24 hours. It’s also essential to protect your skin from sun exposure for up to 2 weeks post-treatment to maximize the results of your peel. 

What Should You Do Before a Lactic Acid Peel

Depending on the strength of the lactic acid peel, your clinician may recommend a skincare regime to prepare for the treatment. You should avoid skincare products with active ingredients that dry the skin and exfoliation products. You also shouldn’t have any other cosmetic treatments in the area for up to 2 weeks before the chemical peel. 

It’s also important to avoid picking, scrubbing, or damaging the skin before a chemical peel. Your practitioner will examine your skin before treatment to ensure there are no abrasions that could cause painful side effects. 

A lactic acid peel can be a secret weapon for youthful, clear skin. But you need to make sure you use a professional clinic with an experienced team to avoid any side effects and maximize the results.