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8 Best Lactic Acid Peels To Resurface Rough, Dull Skin

Say goodbye to the lack of radiance and enjoy a bright and smooth complexion.
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Brand courtesy / Dermalogica

Do your goals currently revolve around finding a gentle peel that won’t dry out your skin yet is powerful enough to make your complexion glow? Then the answer is a lactic acid peel. Peels containing lactic acid are the perfect balance between exfoliation and hydration and are usually the most sought-after by people with dry, sensitive skin. So in this article, we delve into the best lactic acid peels and how to use them to maximize their potential in your skincare routine. But first, let’s break down the basics.

What does lactic acid peel do to your skin?

Lactic acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid (AHAs) that works to remove the buildup of dead cells from the skin’s surface. It’s often used in chemical peels in concentrations above 10% to boost cell turnover and enhance the firmness and radiance of the skin.[1] Now buckle up because there are a lot of reasons to use lactic acid peels.

Firstly, compared to other peels such as glycolic acid, lactic acid is gentler and less aggressive due to its large molecular size that doesn’t allow it to penetrate deep into the skin layers, where it can trigger irritation.[2] Secondly, lactic acid acts as a humectant, meaning it attracts water and binds it to the skin, increasing moisture retention. Finally, lactic acid promotes ceramides synthesis, mimicking the skin’s own natural moisturizing systems and helping consolidate the protective barrier.[3]

Thanks to the exfoliating abilities, the best lactic acid peels are known to be effective in treating multiple skin concerns like:

  1. Hyperpigmentation
  2. Sunspots and age spots
  3. Dull, rough skin
  4. Clogged pores
  5. Discolorations, uneven skin tone
  6. Breakouts

Who should use lactic acid peels?

So, a lactic acid peel not only exfoliates in a delicate fashion, but it’s also moisturizing and easily tolerable. Therefore, literally anyone can use lactic acid peels. However, due to its gentle and hydrating nature, lactic acid peels are especially preferred by beginners in chemical peels, people with dry or sensitive skin, and those who cannot tolerate other harsh peels. 

How to use lactic acid peels

  1. First thing first, use the lactic acid peel in your PM routine since it can make your skin susceptible to sun damage. 
  2. Make sure your skin is cleansed and completely dry.
  3. Apply the peel evenly across your face, avoiding the eye area.
  4. Leave on for about ten minutes and rinse off. Note that you may experience mild tingling, redness, and dryness. These reactions are expected at the beginning, as this is how chemical peels work: by causing controlled damage to the skin tissue in order to accelerate the healing process. Once your skin builds tolerance, you shouldn’t experience them anymore. 
  5. Once the peel has been rinsed, apply a hydrating and replenishing moisturizer to soften irritations and calm the skin — like these ones
  6. In the morning, apply sunscreen.

The best lactic acid peels

Now that all your questions are answered, scroll on to find your perfect chemical peel match. Below are the best lactic acid peels for a smooth, clean and radiant complexion.


The best chemical peel for dry skin

Dermalogica Rapid Reveal Peel

It turns out that one of the best lactic acid peels for dry, problematic skin comes from Dermalogica. Here’s where all the magic comes from. The peel uses 10% lactic acid to reduce the appearance of wrinkles and resurface skin texture without causing dryness, plus the antioxidant-rich pumpkin fruit enzyme to further support the skin’s renewal process. There’s also the Australian caviar lime extract working to reveal a more radiant look. In other words, your skin will instantly look softer, brighter, and more even with Dermalogica Rapid Reveal Peel — most reviewers say the same.


Elemis Best Lactic Acid Peel for Dry Skin

Elemis Peptide4 Overnight Lactic Acid Peel

This overnight peel combines the renewing power of lactic acid with a complex of four amino acids and other AHAs derived from the hibiscus flower to purify and revitalize the skin. Imagine it as a cell turnover booster on steroids that revives even the roughest, most tired complexion. More reasons to love this lactic acid peel include squalane, a superb moisturizer that makes the skin nice and smooth, and yeast extract, an antioxidant that protects, hydrates, and brightens. Ah, I almost forgot to mention that anyone can use this peel since it’s suitable for all skin types. 


The Ordinary Lactic Acid Peel for Dry Skin

The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10%

If you aren’t ready to splurge on the best lactic acid peel, there’s always a pocket-friendly product by The Ordinary that delivers skin-changing results at an affordable price. Their formulas aren’t just known for being simple and clean but super effective, and this peeling solution is no exception. It contains 10% lactic acid to offer an intense yet soft exfoliation that won’t mess up with the skin, while hyaluronic acid and Tasmanian pepperberry calm post-treatment inflammations, reduce redness, and enhance skin moisture. You’ll instantly notice how wrinkles, acne spots, dull skin, and uneven texture start to fade after using The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10%.


Perfect Image Lactic 50% Gel Peel

Perfect Image Lactic 50% Gel Peel

Perfect Image Lactic 50% Gel Peel is your best ally for improving the look of skin clarity, tone, and blemishes. It’s a high-strength peel packed with 50% lactic acid and tons of natural brighteners, including bearberry, kojic acid, licorice, and green tea extract. This combination improves the skin’s appearance on all fronts, balancing skin texture and reducing discolorations, sunspots, and acne scars. Although 50% lactic acid may intimidate you, the peel uses cucumber’s soothing and refreshing properties to increase its tolerance and alleviate irritations. 


Biossance Squalane Resurfacing Night Serum

Biossance Squalane + Lactic Acid Resurfacing Night Serum

This is for natural skincare enthusiasts. It’s a gentle, lightweight serum that works the night shift to leave your complexion feeling and looking plump, soft, and energized by morning. Even though the serum isn’t advertised as a peel, it’s formulated with 10% lactic acid, which is strong enough to deliver transformative benefits. The addition of squalane locks in moisture and makes the product just a bit more friendly for the skin. It’s ideal for beginners as well as for dry, sensitive, rough, or easily reactive skin. 


ASDM Beverly Hills Lactic Acid Peel

ASDM Beverly Hills Lactic Acid Peel

If you want to step up on the medical-strength territory of chemical peels, reach for ASDM Beverly Hills Peel. It contains pure lactic acid in concentrations as high as 90%, ideal for detoxifying the skin and treating hyperpigmentation and deep age spots. As you’d thought, this lactic acid peel is not joking at this strength and can compromise your skin, causing redness and itchiness if not used correctly. So please don’t leave it for more than five minutes on your face, and don’t forget to neutralize the solution with baking soda and water. P.S: It can be used on the body as well.


Perfect Image Hydro-Glo 40% Peel Pads

Perfect Image Hydro-Glo 40% Peel Pads

Perfect Image made another best lactic acid peel, but this time in the form of pads. The ingredient list is at least promising, with 40% lactic acid on top of the list, followed by mandelic and kojic acids. One more star ingredient in this product is glutathione, an antioxidant and key component for skin regeneration that not only regulates pigment levels but improves skin elasticity and reduces cellular damage. Using this killer combo, the peel promises to even out the skin tone, get rid of dark spots and fight off wrinkles. Don’t worry, as these pads are also enriched with replenishing natural extracts such as green tea and chamomile to offset irritations and soften skin.


Lancer Gentle Peel Pads

Lancer Gentle Exfoliating Peel Pads

If your skin isn’t used to acids yet, Lancer Gentle Exfoliating Peel Pads are a great way to build your tolerance. Though these pads are soaked in a powerful solution of 7% lactic acid to wipe out the dead skin cells, they’re super soft thanks to the addition of betaine, oatmeal, and niacinamide. More than that, the pads contain potent anti-agers such as bakuchiol (a natural retinol alternative) and papaya fruit extract to skyrocket the results. 

The takeaway

Hopefully, with the best lactic acid peels I’ve shared above, you can make your way to a glowing and smooth complexion and finally say goodbye to the lack of radiance, uneven tone, and rough texture. Still, to successfully use lactic acid peels, you need to know your skin and learn how it reacts to the different strengths of peeling solutions. That means you constantly need to change things such as the concentration or frequency of the peel until you find the right recipe that works for your skin.

Related:

  1. Chemical Peels for Dehydrated Skin
  2. Chemical Peels for Sensitive Skin
  3. Chemical Peels for Oily Skin
  4. Chemical Peels for Hyperpigmentation
References
  1. Smith WP. Epidermal and dermal effects of topical lactic acid. J Am Acad Dermatol. 1996 Sep;35(3 Pt 1):388-91. doi: 10.1016/s0190-9622(96)90602-7. PMID: 8784274.
  2. Smith WP. Comparative effectiveness of alpha-hydroxy acids on skin properties. Int J Cosmet Sci. 1996 Apr;18(2):75-83. doi: 10.1111/j.1467-2494.1996.tb00137.x. PMID: 19245467.
  3. Rawlings AV, Davies A, Carlomusto M, Pillai S, Zhang K, Kosturko R, Verdejo P, Feinberg C, Nguyen L, Chandar P. Effect of lactic acid isomers on keratinocyte ceramide synthesis, stratum corneum lipid levels and stratum corneum barrier function. Arch Dermatol Res. 1996 Jun;288(7):383-90. doi: 10.1007/BF02507107. PMID: 8818186.
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