Glycolic Acid vs. Lactic Acid Peel: Which One Is Best For You?

glycolic vs. lactic acid peel


Skin is your body’s largest organ. It acts as the first level of defense, insulation, and storage of essential nutrients for the rest of your body. Your skin is also your fastest growing organ. On average, humans lose 30,000 to 40,000 skin cells a minute through regular activity. As old, dead skin cells slough off, new skin cells replace them. Much of the things we think of as a sign of beauty--smooth, soft, bright skin--are really just signs of renewing skin cells.

Skin cells renewed about every 28 to 32 days. However, an alpha hydroxy acid peel can speed up that process through chemical exfoliation. Generally the peel is applied to the skin for about half an hour or less before rinsing. Acid strengths can vary, with the lower percentages being sold over the counter and the high percentages being regulated to application by the professionals. There are lots of alpha hydroxy acid peels out there, but glycolic and lactic acids are two of the most commonly used in the beauty market.

Glycolic Acid and Lactic Acid Peels

Glycolic acid is a type of chemical peel based on an alpha hydroxy acid derived naturally from sources like sugarcane. Benefits include removing layers of dull or dead skin and softening fine lines. It also penetrates skin pores, which dries up acne and promotes a rosy glow. Overall, it encourages better penetration of other skin care products by clearing those pores.

Lactic acid is another chemical used in facial treatments to exfoliate skin cells. It was first derived from sour milk in 1780 by a Swedish scientist. Using it as a facial peel can rid you of dead skin, which makes your face look smoother and younger. It deep cleans pores to prevent blemishes. It also can fade dark spots and hyperpigmentation. Finally, it stimulates collagen production, which contributes to a younger looking skin.

Which Type of Chemical Peel is For You?

So as you can see, glycolic acid and lactic acid peels are pretty similar. Both work to exfoliate skin and can smooth away imperfections. The biggest difference is that glycolic acid peels are a little harsher on skin than lactic acid peels. Usually lactic acid requires little to no downtown. On the other hand, glycolic acid is stronger and can sometimes burn sensitive skin. Sometimes it’s necessary for you to give your skin time to bounce back after a glycolic acid peel. Keep in mind that both types can cause irritation if left on the skin for too long.

Lactic acid is helpful for more superficial issues like dark spots. For deeper issues, like fine lines, consider using glycolic acid. If you’ve never had a skin peel before, start with lactic acid first. After observing how your skin reacts to it, you can then try the glycolic acid peel the next time. If you notice any burning or prolonged irritation, stick with the milder lactic acid.

Are you still unsure whether glycolic acid or lactic acid peels are for you? Click here to contact Skin by Kay Leigh for a free personalized skin assessment and customized care routine. Mention this blog post and receive 10% your first service!