PSA: Lactic Acid Peels Are the Secret to Youthful-Looking Skin

We know, we know, a chemical peel sounds a little intense. Your mind probably immediately pictures skin shedding, burning, and extreme redness. But the truth is not all chemical peels act as aggressively on the skin. Meet lactic acid peels, the gentler peel of the pack that works just as effectively to give your skin a major glow-up even on its dullest day. Lactic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid that’s essentially sour milk used to produce smooth skin and balance your skin’s PH level. It lightly exfoliates by dissolving dead skin cells and has been used by ancient Egyptians for centuries to improve the overall aesthetic of skin.

Haven’t tried a peel yet? If you have slightly sensitive and dry skin, start out with a lactic acid peel. It has tons of skin benefits: the power to clear out toxins, dead cells, debris, and boost collagen production. It also has amazing hydrating benefits and will leave your skin feeling cushion-soft and moisturized. 

After several treatments, it can improve the look of fine lines, wrinkles, and even out the appearance of your skin tone. In terms of my skin’s dryness and sensitivity, on a scale of one to 10, I’m a 15 (not even being a little dramatic). The moment my managing editor, Lindsey, recommended that I try Dr. Jart+ Demaclear Micro Milk Peel ($42), I was down. According to the brand, its inspired by popular milk peel procedures done in Asia.

This was my first ever at-home peel, so I carefully read the instructions. It comes with these delightful little pads: one side meant for exfoliating and the other has a softer texture for sensitive skin. After cleansing my skin, I used the soft side to lather an even amount of the peel all over my skin. It felt cool, but not tingly at all. After two minutes, I second-guessed whether or not it was even working because I didn’t feel a thing. After three minutes, my inherently dry skin quickly absorbed all of the product. I left it on for about a minute longer and washed it off with lukewarm water.

Then I went in again with the exfoliating side of the pad mixed with water to give my pores another deep clean. I looked in the mirror and was shook. My skin was glowing, but not a normal glow—like I just had the most amazing facial of my life kinda glow. For the first time in a long time, it looked like my skin had just drunk a gallon of water. My roommate instantly wanted to try the peel after seeing my skin’s luminous glow from such a gentle option.

I’m sold on lactic acid peels, and I think you will be too (if you aren’t already). But before trying anything, it’s best to know exactly what your skin’s getting into. We called on skincare expert Rachel Roff, who is the founder of Urban Skin RX products and Urban Skin Solutions Medspa based in Charlotte, North Carolina. I was scared of chemical peels for years but decided to enlist in Roff’s help for my first one ever. I loved the results, so I knew she’d be the best person to call on for all things to know about lactic acid peels. Read on for the ultimate lactic acid guide.