Is Lactic Acid Good or Bad for Rosacea?

lactic acid and rosacea: the truth

Lactic acid is a skincare superstar. As an alpha hydroxy acid (AHA), it’s loved for its ability to exfoliate and hydrate the skin. By gently removing dead skin cells, lactic acid reveals a smoother, brighter complexion while helping your skin retain much-needed moisture.

But if you have rosacea, you know that your skin plays by its own rules. Rosacea-prone skin is incredibly sensitive, often red, and easily irritated. This is because the skin barrier is compromised, leading to increased transepidermal water loss (TEWL). Simply put, your skin loses moisture quickly and struggles to protect itself from irritants.

So, you might be wondering: Is lactic acid good or bad for rosacea? Can it help your skin, or will it make things worse? Let’s explore this in detail to find the answers.

Quick Answer: Is Lactic Acid Good or Bad for Rosacea?

Lactic acid is generally not recommended for rosacea because it can cause stinging, burning, and irritation. Yes, it has some good qualities like moisturizing and strengthening the skin’s barrier, but it can be tricky to use if you have rosacea.

If you’re thinking about giving it a try, use it very carefully, ideally with other ingredients. Go for a low concentration and don’t leave it on your skin for long. And definitely check with a dermatologist to make sure you don’t make your rosacea worse.

The Lactic Acid Sting Test

Lactic acid isn’t just used for exfoliation and hydration; it’s also a common tool in dermatology for identifying sensitive skin. In fact, there’s a specific “sting test” that uses lactic acid to determine just how sensitive someone’s skin is. This test has been particularly telling when it comes to rosacea patients.

In a study that tested rosacea patients to see how sensitive their skin was, the results were pretty clear. Out of 32 rosacea patients, 75% experienced stinging after applying a 5% lactic acid solution. In comparison, only 19% of the 32 control patients (those without rosacea) felt the same stinging sensation.

Breaking it down further, all 7 patients with redness and visible blood vessels (erythematotelangiectatic rosacea) felt the sting, as did 17 out of 25 patients with bumps and pimples (papulopustular rosacea). These numbers are a strong indication that lactic acid can be a major irritant for those with rosacea.

Why Can Lactic Acid Make Rosacea Worse?

Rosacea-prone skin is like a delicate flower—it needs extra care and gentle handling. The compromised skin barrier means harsh ingredients can easily penetrate and cause trouble. Lactic acid, while great for exfoliating and hydrating, can be too harsh, leading to increased redness and irritation.

The bottom line? Rosacea skin is highly sensitive and doesn’t respond well to acids like lactic acid. For rosacea sufferers, lactic acid often causes stinging and irritation and should be avoided. While more research is needed on lower concentrations and combinations with other ingredients, it’s best to steer clear of lactic acid if you have rosacea.

What Do Dermatologists Say About Lactic Acid and Rosacea?

Dermatologists are clear: to avoid irritating your skin, steer clear of products containing lactic acid. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, lactic acid is one of several ingredients that can trigger rosacea flare-ups.

The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology (JCAD) also highlights lactic acid as a known irritant for rosacea-prone skin, causing stinging and irritation. They note that while some formulas with potential irritants might not always cause reactions, it’s generally best for those with rosacea, especially the ETR (redness and visible blood vessels) and PPR (bumps and pimples) types, to avoid such ingredients altogether.

Controlled Use of Lactic Acid

Not all hope is lost for lactic acid. Medical esthetician Kayla Kernel points out that in controlled doses, lactic acid can actually help strengthen the skin’s moisture barrier. A stronger barrier can better fend off external irritants.

The key is using a low concentration and opting for products that include a neutralizing step to prevent over-exfoliation and minimize irritation. This way, you can still benefit from lactic acid’s hydrating and barrier-strengthening properties without triggering a flare-up.

In summary, while lactic acid has some benefits, it should be used with caution and under professional guidance if you have rosacea.

Lactic Acid vs. Glycolic Acid: Which is Better?

For rosacea-prone skin, lactic acid is usually the safer bet compared to glycolic acid. Glycolic acid is stronger and goes deeper into the skin, which can cause more irritation and redness. Lactic acid is gentler and less likely to cause a bad reaction. However, both can still irritate rosacea-prone skin, so it’s important to use them carefully, in low amounts, and with advice from a dermatologist.

Final Thoughts and Tips

When managing rosacea, it’s best to avoid products containing acids like lactic acid. However, one acid that can actually help with rosacea is azelaic acid, so keep that in mind. To protect your extra-sensitive skin, focus on basic moisturizers that are specifically formulated for sensitive skin, and avoid those with strong active ingredients.

If you do decide to try lactic acid, use it in combination with other ingredients, especially those that neutralize its effects. Always perform a patch test first to ensure your skin can tolerate it. And remember, consulting with a dermatologist before introducing new products into your skincare routine is always a smart move. Your skin will thank you!

Keep Reading About Rosacea:

Mandelic Acid and Rosacea
Can Castor Oil Help Rosacea?
Rose Water for Rosacea
Chemical Peels for Rosacea

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