This Chemical Exfoliator Gave Me Smooth, Clear Skin—And It's So Affordable

It really works.

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4.7

The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA

the ordinary lactic acid 10% + HA

Byrdie / Joline Buscemi 

What We Like
  • Extremely affordable

  • Reduces discoloration

  • Smooths and clears the skin

What We Don't Like
  • May be too strong for some

  • Increases the skin’s sun sensitivity

The Ordinary's Lactic Acid 10% + HA is a super affordable way to exfoliate the skin without drying it out or causing irritation.

4.7

The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA

the ordinary lactic acid 10% + HA

Byrdie / Joline Buscemi 

We purchased The Ordinary's Lactic Acid 10% + HA so our writer could put it to the test. Keep reading for our full product review.

If you’re still turning to scrubs or Clarisonic-like brushes for a good exfoliation, it may be time to try something new—namely a chemical formula, like The Ordinary's Lactic Acid 10% + HA. Instead of physically removing dead skin cells, this one uses lactic acid, an alpha-hydroxy acid with a whole lot of benefits, to help you score glowing skin. Plus, it costs less than a drugstore mascara.

When I opted to review this product, I was hesitant to think that something so affordable could really transform my skin, but after testing it out, I’m ready to share whether it deserves a spot on your vanity—or not.

The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA

Best for: All skin types

Uses: Targets uneven skin tone, fine lines, dullness

Active Ingredients: Lactic acid, Tasmanian pepperberry

Clean?: No, contains triethanolamine

Price: $6.80

About the Brand: Canadian brand The Ordinary is known for offering highly affordable skincare products that are backed by science.

About My Skin: Managing discoloration and dark spots

My skin is prone to acne, and while it’s mostly normal, it’s erring on the dry side now that cooler and drier winter air has moved in. But besides keeping my skin clear, my biggest skincare concern is discoloration leftover from breakouts—which is also where I saw the most potential for this product.

While the instructions suggest working up to a once-a-day application, I like to give my skin a break from everyday exfoliation. So while testing this product, I not only stopped other acid products (like Biologique Recherche P50), but I also only applied this every other day.

This product can be mixed with other products to dilute it, but because I have a lot of experience with chemical exfoliants, I applied it directly to my skin after cleansing at night. After application, I didn’t use any other products except for a heavy moisturizer. If you’re new to acid exfoliants, err on the side of caution and dilute it while you learn how your skin tolerates it. (Also, if you have any doubts, test it on a less-sensitive patch of skin somewhere else on your body.)

the ordinary lactic acid 10% + HA
 Byrdie / Joline Buscemi

Ingredients: 10% Lactic acid exfoliates and hydrates

Lactic acid, an alpha-hydroxy acid, is a unique chemical exfoliant. It has larger molecules than other AHAs, like glycolic acid, which means it doesn’t penetrate the skin as deeply. Instead, it works more superficially, giving skin a glow. It also means it can cause less irritation. But what does it actually do, besides making skin look great? It can be amazing for curbing acne, increasing cell turnover, and, at high enough concentrations, reducing the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles. The 10% formulation in this product is just shy of the 12% used in one study that showed it reached deeper skin layers to smooth wrinkles. 

The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA also contains hyaluronic acid, an ingredient lactic acid works especially well with, to moisturize the skin. This, along with Tasmanian pepper berry, helps reduce any inflammation and sensitivity that can sometimes occur with exfoliation.

the ordinary lactic acid 10% + HA
 Byrdie / Joline Buscemi

The Feel: Just thicker than water

The Ordinary's Lactic Acid 10% + HA is a watery formulation with just a little bit of viscosity. I use about half a dropper, but sometimes more if I’m applying it down my neck. Because of how thin it is, it spreads easily and sinks in quickly. 

This product doesn’t sting my skin at all, but if you’re new to acids or if you have any breakouts or cuts, you may feel it. If you don’t though, don’t worry—it’s still working.

Typically, I like to let this product sit on my skin for a few minutes before applying moisturizer. It’s best applied at nighttime, so there are no concerns about how it feels under makeup. However, if you do use it during the day, be aware that AHAs like lactic acid can make the skin more sensitive to the sun, so be sure to layer your SPF over it.

The Results: Glowy skin and reduced discoloration

I’m happy to share that The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA actually made a big difference in my skin. After only a few uses, I noticed a difference in my post-acne pigmentation. I had a small pimple that I’d picked at that was showing all the signs of sticking around for a while, but after using the acid, I could see that it was healing up quickly. I also had a few clogged pores, and while I noticed a small difference in them, they weren’t completely cleared out. Having said that, though, my skin stayed clear the whole time I was using the peel, and it didn’t cause any new breakouts or clogged pores.

The day after using it, my skin always feels super smooth and soft.

One word to the wise: This product can be drying, so make sure you pair it with a strong moisturizer. Overall, I didn’t notice any irritation or sensitivity, and because it’s a mild exfoliation, you shouldn’t experience any actual skin peeling.

the ordinary lactic acid 10% + HA
Byrdie / Joline Buscemi 

While I wouldn’t recommend using this product every day, I really like it as a way to give my skin a boost without having to worry about irritation. I’m keeping this one on-hand to use whenever I notice my skin getting a little dull, as well as to boost my other discoloration-reducing products.

The Value: Worth more than it costs

At less than $10, this product is priced very low compared to similar products, even though it's just as effective. So when it comes to this product, the price shouldn’t keep you from trying it out.

A bottle of The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA is only $6.80, which feels like a steal when considering how well it works.

Similar Products: Lactic acids at different price points

Sunday Riley Good Genes All-In-One Lactic Acid Treatment: Good Genes is mentioned as a holy grail product time and time again, but at $85 (almost 12 times the cost of The Ordinary’s exfoliant), its price point is much less accessible. It has a creamier texture and more ingredients that target discoloration and skin tone, and while it only has a 5% concentration of lactic acid, its low pH still makes it powerful. 

the ordinary lactic acid 10% + HA
Byrdie / Joline Buscemi 

REN Ready Steady Glow Daily AHA Toner: Lactic acid works well in conjunction with certain other acids. This toner, which contains salicylic and azelaic acid, is a great example of that. Together, the acids exfoliate, minimize the look of pores, and reduce discoloration. This toner is $38, but the 8.5-ounce bottle should last you a while.

Final Verdict

With a low price and serious results, I wholeheartedly recommend The Ordinary's Lactic Acid 10% + HA. The inexpensive bottle packs a punch and delivers smooth, clear skin without irritation. Pair it with a good moisturizer and you’ll wake up to renewed skin.

Specs

  • Product Name Lactic Acid 10% + HA
  • Product Brand The Ordinary
  • SKU 769915190373
  • Price $6.80
  • Weight 1 oz.
  • Ingredients Water, Lactic Acid, Glycerin, Pentylene Glycol, Potassium Citrate, Arginine, Triethanolamine, Sodium Hyaluronate Crosspolymer, Tasmannia Lanceolata Fruit/leaf Extract, Acacia Senegal Gum, Xanthan Gum, Trisodium Ethylenediamine Disuccinate, PPG-26-Buteth-26, Ethyl 2,2-Dimethylhydrocinnamal, PEG-40 Hydrogenated Castor Oil, Ethylhexylglycerin, 1,2-Hexanediol, Caprylyl Glycol

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