Lactic acid and other alpha hydroxy acids are ingredients that are commonly found in anti-aging skin care products, as well as used in a variety of chemical peels. However, these ingredients may not be the safest or gentlest on your skin, and, according to the FDA, could increase the risk of sun damage to your skin. So before choosing a new anti-aging product, take a closer look at its ingredients to determine whether or not it might be right for you. Here’s what you need to know about lactic acid and other AHAs in skin care.
What Is Lactic Acid?
Lactic acid is a type of alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that can be derived from milk, fruit, and vegetables. Because it is known to accelerate the skin’s natural process of desquamation, or exfoliation, which may help to improve the appearance of lines and wrinkles, lactic acid is commonly found in many anti-aging creams and serums.
For this same reason, chemical peels typically contain a type of alpha hydroxy acid in order to peel away the outer layer of dead skin cells to reveal the smoother layer underneath. However, chemical peels can be very harsh on the skin, especially if you have a sensitive or reactive skin type, so caution needs to be taken when opting in for these procedures, whether performed professionally or at home .
FDA Warns of Increased Sun Sensitivity
Another problem with using lactic acid and other AHAs in skin care products and treatments is that these ingredients have been shown to increase sun sensitivity of your skin, which could lead to sun damage. According to the FDA, four weeks of topical application of AHA ingredients results in increased skin redness due to the sun’s UV rays of 18 percent, as well as a 50 percent increase in skin sensitivity to cellular damage caused by the sun .
While sun sensitivity due to AHAs appears to improve when products containing these ingredients are no longer used, sun damage that has already occurred can leave behind lasting effects, including discoloration and wrinkles. In addition to lactic acid, glycolic acid, citric acid, and malic acid are commonly used in skin care products and can all lead to an increased risk of sun damage.
Gentler, Safer Anti-Aging Ingredients
The good news is that products containing alpha hydroxy acids aren’t the only solution to signs of skin aging. In fact, amino acids and peptides are some of the most effective and safest skin care ingredients for improving the look of age spots, lines, and wrinkles . Because amino acids join together to form various proteins, including the collagen and elastin in your skin, they are excellent anti-aging ingredients that can stimulate your skin’s natural production of these proteins, as well as help to rehydrate, nourish, and naturally exfoliate the skin. When choosing amino acid skin care products, be sure to take a close look at the ingredient lists. Ideally, you want to see all or nearly all of the 20 amino acids contained in the genetic code and used to synthesize proteins. AminoTherapy by AminoGenesis is an excellent example of an amino acid skin care product that utilizes all 20 of these ingredients in a single, expertly-formulated anti-aging serum to maximize your results.
Similarly, peptides are larger molecules that are created when single amino acids combine via peptide bonds. Since different peptides are made up of different combinations of amino acids, each one can perform specific functions within your skin, providing a unique set of benefits. Many anti-aging formulas utilize specialized peptides to help stimulate collagen production and give the skin a smoother, brighter, and younger-looking appearance.
The Bottom Line
Before adding a new anti-aging skin care product to your daily regimen, do a little research on the ingredients that it contains. Swapping harsher ingredients like alpha hydroxy acids for gentler, more effective alternatives like amino acids and peptides can have a significant impact on the look and feel your skin.
 ABC News
 U.S. FDA