Lactobionic Acid, Your New Favorite Skincare Ingredient, Explained

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Lactobionic Acid in Skincare

First of all, you’re welcome! I read the most boring scientific research papers of all time so that you don’t have to. No offense to the authors. More and more skincare brands are adding lactobionic acid in their products and it looks like we’ll be seeing more of it. Spoiler alert, lactobionic acid is about to become your favorite skincare ingredient for smooth, radiant, clear, and more importantly, plump skin.

We’re full to the brim with alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs) like glycolic acid and beta hydroxy acids (BHAs) like salicylic acid. Similar to them, lactobionic acid is also a chemical exfoliant. It works to remove the dead skin cells from the outermost layer of the skin, revealing smoother, brighter, and healthier skin. But it does this so much better and way gentler than your typical BHA or AHA.

What is Lactobionic Acid?

Lactobionic (LA) acid is a type of polyhydroxy acid (PHA) and it’s derived from milk. It’s actually a polyhydroxy bionic acid. Gluconolactone and maltobionic acid are in the same family, which are also exfoliating acids (1).

Due to its compounds and its atomic structure, LA is one of the least irritating chemical exfoliants. This can be a curse for some, but a blessing if you’re the right person for it.

LA is not as fast-absorbing or deeply penetrating as, say, glycolic acid. It works on the surface level of the skin which is as gentle as it gets.

It removes dead skin cells at a slower rate, so it doesn’t irritate your skin. These less penetrative properties make it significantly preferable for people with sensitive skin, eczema, and rosacea.

What Are The Benefits of Lactobionic Acid For The Skin?

1. It exfoliates without irritation.

All acids remove dead skin cells by plowing through the skin, which can damage the skin barrier. For that reason, people with an already compromised skin barrier can highly benefit from LA’s gentle exfoliation (2).

Additionally, this non-irritating characteristic of LA makes your skin less prone to inflammation, which usually happens with sun exposure after the use of AHAs or BHAs.

Several studies show that LA is the acid when it comes to exfoliating without irritating (3). All chemical exfoliants are irritating for the skin and not all skin types can tolerate this.

Plus, this irritation increases the skin’s vulnerability to the sun rays, making it prone to sunburn. So, LA is suggested as an alternative to mainstream hydroxy acids.

2. It protects the skin.

UV exposure, aging, and skin inflammation stimulate certain enzymes in the skin. These enzymes are called Matrix Metalloproteinases (MMPs). It’s a mouthful, I know.

But too much activity in the MMPs department actually causes damage to the outer layer of the skin, the skin barrier, and collagen cells. This results in wrinkles and saggy skin.

It turns out, lactobionic acid prevents these enzymes from damaging and eventually killing collagen cells. What’s more preventative and anti-aging than protecting your existing collagen cells?

3. It has antioxidant properties.

Additionally, lactobionic acid is used in preserving skin tissue from oxidation in cases like organ transplantation. Since oxidation and free radical damage from UV exposure is an important cause of aging skin, it’s suggested that lactobionic acid is majorly anti-aging because of its antioxidant properties.

4. It hydrates the skin.

Apparently, lactobionic acid is more humectant than regular humectants found in our moisturizers. You must have heard about glycerin or sorbitol from your favorite moisturizer. Well, lactobionic acid is able to attract and retain water better than those!

And when drying down, it forms a gel layer on the skin thanks to its strong ability to retain water (4). A dream come true for dry skin who also needs exfoliation sans the stripping.

5. It gives you clear skin.

The anti-aging benefits of lactobionic acid were tested on 31 females where they were instructed to use a face cream infused with 8% lactobionic acid. The women used this cream twice a day for 12 weeks.

The results are jaw-dropping on so many levels like improved skin thickness, wrinkles, pore size, and firmness. But the most impressive improvements are a 100% increase in skin clarity and radiance and a 70% improvement in rough skin texture (5).

6. It plumps up the skin.

As lactobionic acid is a strong humectant, it has amazing plumping effects on the skin. Because it’s able to hold and retain moisture, your skin looks plumper for longer compared to other humectants.

This is also handy when you have wrinkles because plump skin reduces the visibility of wrinkles. Lactobionic acid keeps the skin hydrated and gives it a fresh and radiant look.

The Best Lactobionic Acid Skincare Products

From toners to serums, below are the best lactobionic acid skincare products.

Elemis Pro-Collagen Tri-Acid Peel

Elemis Pro-Collagen Tri-Acid Peel

This one comes with an alpha-hydroxy acid, namely mandelic acid. It is a rinse-off face peel for your skin to get rid of all the built-up on the surface of the skin.

Besides hyaluronic acid to hydrate, it’s enriched with Asiatic acid aka Centella Asiatica for its anti-inflammatory properties, making it an amazing LA peel for all skin types.

Estee Lauder Perfectly Clean Multi-Action Toning Lotion/Refiner

Estee Lauder Perfectly Clean Multi-Action Toning LotionRefiner - lactobionic acid skincare

This is a super gentle exfoliating toner made with lactobionic acid. It’s the perfect way to introduce your skin to LA. The toning lotion also contains a rich blend of antioxidants to add glow to your glow.

The combination of zinc PCA and witch hazel manages oil production while algae extract and hyaluronic acid replenish the skin. The toner refines the skin texture and improves the skin tone while making sure it doesn’t dry out.

Neostrata Bionic Face Serum

Neostrata Bionic Face Serum - Lactobionic Acid Skincare

Here’s the thing you need to know about Neostrata. They also own Exuviance, the skincare brand right below. The two are practically the same company. But they are the two pioneers in incorporating PHAs into skincare products. PHAs are their thing.

Their prices are a little above average. But they know their way around these acids and make the best ones on the market. So whenever you’re on the lookout for a lactobionic acid or a gluconolactone product, their names will come up.

Formulated with 10% lactobionic acid, the lightweight serum provides gentle exfoliation. In doing so, it gets rid of the dead weight sitting on top of your skin messing up your glow.

The formula is fragrance-free. And it hydrates dry and sensitive skin and improves the skin barrier while providing the skin with antioxidant benefits against free radical damage.

Exuviance All-Out Revitalizing Eye Mask

Exuviance All Out Revitalizing Eye Mask

This is probably one of the best treatments for your delicate eye area. Because let’s face it, based on the facts about LA, it’s the only acid gentle enough to use around the eyes.

The brightening and radiance-boosting effects of LA come in an eye mask form and can be conveniently applied with pads. The 10% LA is enhanced with antioxidant-rich vitamins C and E.

Plus, the cucumber extract is perfect for cooling and soothing the skin. And because of the hydrating abilities of LA, you can plump up the eye area and improve the look of crow’s feet.

COSRX Hydrium Triple Hyaluronic Acid Moisture Ampoule

COSRX Hydrium Triple Hyaluronic Acid Moisture Ampoule - lactobionic acid skincare

As we’ve established, lactobionic acid is an amazing humectant. So it’s no wonder it comes in a lot of hydrating face serums. This Korean face serum contains different molecular weight hyaluronic acid for maximum absorption.

And to amplify the effects, it has panthenol (vitamin B5) and two polyhydroxy acids, including lactobionic acid, to quench dry, thirsty skin.

Exuviance Radiance Serum

Exuviance Radiance Serum

This polyhydroxy acid serum has both gluconolactone and LA, plus the gentle mandelic acid from the AHAs family. It gets more anti-aging as you go through the list of ingredients.

With retinyl palmitate, the serum is an antioxidant & fatty acid infusion for the ultimate skin rejuvenation. Additionally, vitamins C and E help to brighten, moisturize, and nourish the skin while warding off free radicals.

This is a powerful anti-aging serum that’s perfect for improving skin texture, softening the look of lines, and revitalizing the complexion.

Eve Lom Rescue Peel Pads

Eve Lom Rescue Peel Pads - Lactobionic Acid Skincare

These are multi-acid exfoliating pads. Besides lactobionic acid, the peel pads also contain glycolic acid and salicylic acid. So the concentration is a bit stronger. Having a PHA in the formula makes sure your skin doesn’t feel dry or tight after exfoliation.

If a glycolic acid peel feels uncomfortable, try these pads for a more balanced exfoliation. The peel pads help decongest skin, get rid of dead skin cells, and increase skin turnover without drying your skin out.

References:

  1. Grimes, P. E., Green, B. A., Wildnauer, R. H., & Edison, B. L. (2004). The use of polyhydroxy acids (PHAs) in photoaged skinCutis73(2 Suppl), 3–13.
  2. Algiert‐Zielińska, B., Mucha, P. and Rotsztejn, H. (2019), Lactic and lactobionic acids as typically moisturizing compounds. Int J Dermatol, 58: 374-379. https://doi.org/10.1111/ijd.14202
  3. Tasić‐Kostov, M, Lukić, M, Savić, S. A 10% Lactobionic acid‐containing moisturizer reduces skin surface pH without irritation—An in vivo/in vitro study. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2019; 18: 1705– 1710. https://doi.org/10.1111/jocd.12908
  4. Algiert‐Zielińska, B, Mucha, P, Rotsztejn, H. Comparative evaluation of skin moisture after topical application of 10% and 30% lactobionic acid. J Cosmet Dermatol. 2018; 17: 1096– 1100. https://doi.org/10.1111/jocd.12485
  5. Green, B.A. & Edison, Brenda & Sigler, M.L.. (2008). Antiaging effects of topical lactobionic acid: Results of a controlled usage study. Cosmetic Dermatology. 21. 76-82.

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