Is Lactic Acid Vegan?

Chemical Index | Skin Care

Is Lactic Acid Vegan?


Chemical Index, Skin Care /

What are the benefits and risks of Lactic Acid? And is it vegan?

I admit that I was confused whether lactic acid is vegan or not for quite a while! To get right to the point, yes, lactic acid is vegan—so long as it comes from a non-dairy source. Huh? Read on to see what I mean.

Cover photo by Anthony Tran on Unsplash

Where does Lactic Acid come from?

Lactic acid does not necessarily come from milk, but it can be made this way. Traditionally, lactic acid has been associated with milk fermentation. However, lactic acid can also be produced during the bacterial fermentation of corn, beets, soy, fruits, and lots of other vegetables.

We typically associate the prefix “lac” with words like “lactose” or “lactate,” thus we assume it refers to milk. The “lac” in lactic acid is due to it first being discovered in milk. Although it was later realized that many foods create lactic acid as they ferment and break down.

The more common form of lactic acid used in the beauty industry today is synthetically produced.

What are the skincare benefits?

Lactic acid is an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) that is available in varying strengths to refine skin’s texture and discolorations. Lower percentages of this acid will gently and gradually smooth the skin’s texture and clear pores. While higher percentages (10 – 15%) will dramatically reduce red acne marks, slightly reduce pigmentation of sunspots, prevent pimples and blackheads, and reduces the size of active acne spots.

Lactic acid can also dissolve various plugs in pores, including keratosis (those tiny, hard bumps you sometimes get on the back of your arms and backside) and bumps that form around hair follicles. Because of its exfoliating nature, it can stimulate collagen production too. Unlike other AHA’s, lactic acid gradually improves the skin’s ability to self-maintain hydration through oil and fat production. Plumper skin looks younger and will be less prone to wrinkles.

Why I incorporated Lactic Acid into my skincare routine.

Used in combination with a balanced skincare routine, alpha hydroxy acids can work wonders. I am currently using the Lactic Acid Plus by Pure + Simple in my nighttime routine.

To be completely honest, the Lactic Acid Plus has saved me from the embarrassment of a random bought of pimples that popped up a few weeks ago. (I blame chronic stress.) Given that I’m four weeks away from my wedding, I was legit panicking. I had tried several masks and avoided wearing makeup, but nothing was preventing more clogs from forming. In my most recent YouTube video, Affordable Green Beauty Routine, I talk about this episode of unexpected acne.

While I was visiting my favourite clean-beauty spa, Pure + Simple, my facialist recommended a stronger lactic acid to me. My first concern was “but is lactic acid vegan?” She reassured me that their brand uses corn-based lactic acid. This week, I cautiously starting applying the Lactic Acid Plus at night. The product needs to soak in for 15 minutes before applying a moisturizer. Because of how potent this is, I always follow with something super nourishing like The Blue Cocoon by May Lindstrom.

After the first use, I saw an immediate difference in my skin. Active pimples had shrunk. Jawline bumps under my skin were flattened. My skin tone looked even. Four days, later my skin continues to look healthier! And no new pimples have come in.

Some things to consider.

Higher percentages (≥10%) of lactic acid will burn and tingle a little on contact, so avoid it if you have highly sensitive skin! I wouldn’t recommend applying higher-percentage lactic acid directly to skin that is prone to rosacea or eczema. Avoid contact with your eyes or any open cuts or scratches.

Lactic acid can cause your skin to be more sensitive to sunlight. Only use it at night. It is also recommended that you use sun protection the following day. Because AHA’s are chemical exfoliations, they should not be used at the same time as other skin-refining products, like physical exfoliants, refining serums, or higher-grade acne treatments. Too much of these products can irritate, strip, and dry-out the skin, which can cause more acne and excessive sebum production.

The Environmental Working Group gives Lactic Acid a rating of 4. Meaning, there are some things to look out for when using this ingredient. Mainly, lactic acid should only be used at lower concentrations. Lactic acid should always be mixed with other ingredients and never used in its pure state. (See the warning section above.)

How to tell if Lactic Acid is vegan?

Frustratingly, manufacturers are not required to label or disclose how their version is made. So the only way to know for sure is to ask.


If you found this article interesting, keep exploring the Chemical Index series here on The Purist Life.

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