Q&A: Lactic Acid – Is It Vegan-Friendly?

Q: I’ve come across lactic acid in several skincare products – can I still use these items if I’m vegan?

A: Despite the name and the similarity to the word ‘lactose’, lactic acid as a chemical compound is vegan-friendly. Lactic acid is “produced industrially by bacterial fermentation of carbohydrates (sugar, starch)” and is often referred to within the skincare realm as an AHA (alpha-hydroxy acid).

So now that you don’t have to discontinue use – what will it do (or not do) for your skin?

Lactic acid (at the correct percentages) can improve the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles & increase firmness in your skin – discussed in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology article ‘Epidermal and dermal effects of topical lactic acid’ where it is noted, “Treatment with 12% lactic acid resulted in increased epidermal and dermal firmness and thickness and clinical improvement in skin smoothness and in the appearance of lines and wrinkles.” 

You will see similar effects with regular use from a 5-10% AHA/lactic acid product, keeping in mind that you should slowly build up to a twice-daily application of this kind of product to reduce the risk of skin irritation.

Lactic acid alongside other AHAs have been suggested to “reduce the Ca ion concentration in the epidermis and remove Ca ions from the cell adhesions by chelation…when Ca is decreased, cellular adhesions are disrupted and exfoliation takes place.” This exfoliation occurs alongside other discussed biological actions of increased dermal hyaluronic acid production, epidermal thickness and “collagen gene expression.” All of this translates to reduction in the effects of photoageing, and more youthful skin cell behaviour.

All of these proposed effects are detailed in “Clinical, Cosmetic & Investigational Dermatology”, ‘Applications of hydroxy acids: classification, mechanisms, and photoactivity’.

Have you tried a skincare product with AKA included? Do you like the effects, did you see any at all with prolonged use? Let us know in the comments below!

XX Holly

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