Slough away dead skin cells with these top-rated lactic acid face serums

It's time to reveal your best and brightest skin yet

Beauty Crew Beauty Editor / February 19 2024

If you've got your ear to the ground when it comes to skin care, then it's highly likely that you've heard of lactic acid. What you may not be as clear on is what lactic acid does, and that's where BEAUTYcrew comes in. 

Lactic acid is a gentle, yet effective Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA), which helps to exfoliate away dead skin cells and promotes a healthy cellular turnover to reveal a brighter, more youthful appearance. When used regularly (think once or twice a week) lactic acid can smooth skin, leave it feeling more plump and hydrated, and minimise the appearance of fine lines, wrinkles and discolouration. 

This unique ingredient is also a NMF or natural moisturising factor, which means that it helps the skin to better retain moisture. It also aids the skin's natural ceramide-producing processes, which helps to reinforce the skin's protective moisture barrier too. 

In order to reap the most benefits from the exfoliating ingredient it's important to look for a formula with at least five to ten per cent lactic acid, plus, a pH of 4 or 5 to minimise potential irritation during application.

If you already use active ingredients such as retinol or benzoyl peroxide in your skin care routine, we'd advise you to alternate application with a lactic acid face serum to avoid irritating your skin (eg: lactic acid on a Monday and retinol on a Thursday), some skin care ingredients just shouldn't be mixed, you know?

Now that you know all about the many great things that a lactic acid face serum can do, you no doubt want to get your hands on a bottle to add to your skin care routine. Again, we've got you. Keep reading to discover our top picks in the category...

2024's Top 3 Lactic Acid Face Serums

The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA, $15, Sephora
Sunday Riley Good Genes Lactic Acid Treatment, $136, MECCA
Biossance Squalane + 10% Lactic Acid Resurfacing Serum, $114, Sephora

The Ordinary Lactic Acid 10% + HA
from $15 at Sephora

The Ordinary have taken 10 per cent lactic acid and paired it with Tasmanian pepper berry to create a mild peel that's gentle enough to use at home. Why Tasmanian pepper berry? Well the Australian native is known to reduce inflammation and sensitivity making it the perfect partner in crime for lactic acid.

Key features:

Gentle and mild exfoliation
Contains 10 per cent lactic acid
Anti-inflammatory Tasmanian pepper berry

Available at:

Sunday Riley Good Genes Lactic Acid Treatment
from $136 at MECCA

Undeniably Sunday Riley's most notable export, the brand's Good Genes serum helps to exfoliate skin to smooth texture and even skin tone. The formula contains purified lactic acid, as well as brightening liquorice extract and soothing arnica extract.

Key features:

Smooths skin texture
Unifies skin tone
Contains purified lactic acid
Liquorice extract brightens skin
Arnica extract to soothe

Available at:

Biossance Squalane + 10% Lactic Acid Resurfacing Serum
from $114 at Sephora

This vegan-friendly formula utilises 10 per cent vegan lactic acid to resurface the skin surface. The hero ingredient appears alongside clover extract, which protects skin from environmental aggressors and promotes the skin's natural renewal process. Biossance's signature sugarcane-derived squalane is also in the mix to help boost hydration.

Key features:

Contains 10 per cent vegan lactic acid
Renewing clover extract protects skin from environmental aggressors
Hydrating sugarcane-derived squalane

Available at:

Viviology Liquid Exfoliant
from $44 at Adore Beauty

Viviology has taken the dead skin cell sloughing powers of lactic acid and teamed it up with fellow AHA mandelic acid and polyhydroxy acids. Together they work to exfoliate, brighten, moisturise, support barrier function, and minimise texture and the appearance of fine lines. Sweet cherry extract further refines and brightens dull skin, while niacinamide brightens and moisturises, and flannel flower extract hydrates dehydrated skin. 

Key features:

Contains lactic acid, mandelic acid, polyhydroxy acids, sweet cherry extract, niacinamide and flannel flower extract
Supports barrier function

Available at:

Peter Thomas Roth Pro Strength 30% Lactic Acid Complex Pore Treatment
from $111.20 at Sephora

This wash-off lactic pore treatment has been formulated with a whopping 30 per cent lactic acid and witch hazel to effectively treat enlarged pores and excess oil in just three minutes. Simply apply a few pumps to clean skin and rinse off after two to three minutes for best results. The formula also features glycerin to aid in hydration and to keep the complexion balanced. 

Key features:

3 minute rinse off treatment
Contains 30 per cent lactic acid, witch hazel and glycerin
Minimises pore size and excess oil
Hydrates and balances

Available at:

  • usually $139 now $111.20 from Sephora

Got especially dry or dehydrated skin? Try these top-rated exfoliating products

Main image credit: @dualipa

Briar Clark got her start in the media industry in 2017, as an intern for Marie Claire and InStyle. Since then, her keen interest in fashion and beauty has landed her gigs as a Digital Content Producer and Beauty Editor with titles like Girlfriend, Refinery29, BEAUTYcrew and beautyheaven. She loves the way seemingly innocuous topics like skin care and style have the ability to put a smile on people’s faces or make them think about themselves a little differently. A big believer in self love and experimentation, Briar has made a point of becoming the Australian beauty industry’s unofficial guinea pig for unusual treatments and daring hair trends. When she’s not testing out the latest beauty launches, Briar is big on broadening her horizons, mostly in the form of food but she’s also partial to travelling to new destinations both near and far (and of course, allocating an extra bag to bring their best beauty offerings home with her).

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