Home > Beauty & Grooming > Skincare > Glycolic Acid or Lactic Acid: Which one to choose for your skin type?
Glycolic Acid or Lactic Acid: Which one to choose for your skin type?

As distinguished members of the Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) family, both Glycolic Acid and Lactic Acid are great at removing dead cells. But which chemical exfoliant of the two should you use for your skin type (and condition), we weigh in with expert opinions.

Science-backed skincare ingredients are the future of beauty. It’s no longer about choosing brands but about picking products (and ingredients) that work well for your skin type. AHAs for the uninitiated are a series of plant-derived acids that exfoliate in a non-abrasive manner. They are commonly found in skincare products such as toners, exfoliators and serums. The main advantage of using both glycolic and lactic is that “they dissolve the ‘glue’ that connects skin cells. With nothing binding these cells together, they can finally slough off your skin. Your skin becomes smoother and brighter as the superficial, damaged layer of skin gives way to the newer layer beneath. Wrinkles appear to be smaller. Dark spots gradually fade away. Your entire complexion has a subtle glow to it,” shares Dr Niketa Sonavane, Celebrity Dermatologist and founder of Ambrosia Aesthetics in Mumbai.

Sold on the efficacy of chemical exfoliants and the power they have in changing your skincare regime? Then read on to know the difference between glycolic acid and lactic acids as we talk to dermatologists to help you decipher which one to choose for your skin concerns.

Difference between Glycolic Acid and Lactic Acid and which one to choose?

What is Glycolic Acid?

One of the most popular chemical exfoliants, glycolic acid is derived from sugarcanes and therefore a fruit-based acid. It has a small molecular weight hence highly potent and easily sinks into your skin. “Glycolic acid is ideal if you have resilient skin with acne scars and wrinkles. It is a workhorse for sun-damaged, ageing, acne-prone, resilient skin,” shares Dr Niketa Sonavane.


What is Lactic Acid?

Also referred to as sodium lactate, this skincare ingredient is derived from milk and is the gentler cousin of glycolic acid. “Lactic acid is gentler and is great for all skin types, especially sensitive skin. This is due to the fact that it has a large molecule size so it doesn’t penetrate as deep as glycolic acid which has the smallest molecular weight which helps it to penetrate deeper even at very low concentrations,” shares Dr Shimona Garg, a consultant dermatologist with Derma Co.


Expert opinion on which one to choose between Glycolic Acid and Lactic Acid?

The main difference is that lactic is gentler, making it ideal for those with sensitive skin. However, if you want to see more dramatic results, glycolic acid is the way to go. If you’re new to chemical exfoliants, you should ease into using AHAs rather than overdoing it at first. Begin with lactic acid and work your way up to a moderate strength glycolic acid as your skin becomes more tolerant, recommends Dr Niketa Sonavane.

“Glycolic acid is the more potent of the two, although potency does not always imply superiority. Both lactic acid and glycolic acid can be used at varying doses to effectively treat a variety of skincare issues, including acne and skin texture improvement, fine line and discolouration reduction and sun damage and ageing signs reversal,” concludes Dr Geetika Mittal Gupta of ISAAC Luxe.

Header and Featured Images: Courtesy Shutterstock. All Other Images: Courtesy Brands.

Akshita Nahar Jain
Sr Associate Editor
Akshita Nahar Jain has worked with various publications, including Elle, Harper’s Bazaar Bride, and Time Out Delhi, and written extensively on fashion and lifestyle. A sucker for alliteration and stylish sitcoms, she enjoys scrolling the web for less travelled destinations.
Sign up for our newsletters to have the latest stories delivered straight to your inbox every week.

Yes, I agree to the Privacy Policy

Never miss an update

Subscribe to our newsletter to get the latest updates.

No Thanks
You’re all set

Thank you for your subscription.