8 Topb Lactic Acid Cleansers for Super Smooth and Glowing Skin

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When it comes to skincare, facial cleansers, creams, and exfoliants have just kept getting better and better.

Brands are discovering new and exciting ways to help keep skin fresh, hydrated, clean, and smooth.

A woman with a face wash on her face.

And one of the now mainstays in skincare is facial care acids!

Some of the most popular facial care products today lining up the shelves of your favorite beauty stores contain acids.

But which of these products can help you get that smooth and clear skin you’ve always wanted? One of our top recommendations is lactic acid cleansers!

Lactic acid gently exfoliates the skin, boosts its moisture retention, and leaves it looking healthier, plumper, and more revitalized over time.

But with so many lactic acid products on the market, how do you choose the top one?

In this article, we’re going to be looking closely at what lactic acid is and how it works. 

We’re also sharing our top choices for the top lactic acid cleansers you need to try!

Murad AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser
Editor's Pick
  • A combination of lactic acid, salicylic acid, and glycolic acid
  • Contains jojoba beads
  • Skincare backed by science
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Exfoliating Cleanser
Budget Pick
  • Contains lactic acid, glycolic acid, and hyaluronic acid
  • Non-comedogenic 
  • Dermatologist-recommended
Dermalogica Smart Skin Resurfacing Cleanser
Premium Pick
  • Two-in-one cleanser and exfoliant
  • Gluten-free, vegan, and cruelty-free
  • Contains vitamin E and natural oils

What Is Lactic Acid?

You can’t walk about lactic acid without first discussing alpha hydroxy acids (AHA). If you are a beauty lover, you’ve definitely heard of AHAs.

AHAs are water-soluble acids and chemical exfoliants extracted from naturally occurring sugar in fruits and milk.

These acids help gently exfoliate the skin to help new, evenly pigmented skin cells to come to the surface.

So while the thought of putting acid on your face may seem scary, you can rest assured these acids are safe, gentle, and highly effective for different skin concerns and skincare goals.

They also help lock in moisture so skin looks plump, refreshed, and revitalized. This is why they’ve become popular ingredients in facial care products.

Lactic acid is one of the most popular AHAs, along with citric acid and glycolic acid.

As its name implies, it is derived from the sugar found in fermented milk. 

It’s composed of big molecules, so it doesn’t penetrate as deeply into the skin as glycolic acid, which is composed of smaller molecules that can penetrate deeper.

This makes lactic acid more gentle.

As such, lactic acid facial washes, cleansers, or creams are ideal for those looking for products with mild exfoliating properties.

What Are the Benefits of Lactic Acid?

If you have sensitive skin, lactic acid is a good chemical exfoliant for you. But it also offers plenty of other perks. 

Here are a few of the benefits of lactic acid cleansers.

1. Exfoliates the Skin

The most popular benefit of lactic acid is that it’s a gentle exfoliant that sloughs away the top layer of the skin to promote cell renewal and contribute to bright, glowing skin.

2. Increases the Skin’s Moisture

It also works as a humectant, which means that it works to attract and bind water to your skin, increasing skin hydration.

3. Helps With Acne

Lactic acid helps combat acne by exfoliating the skin and unclogging the pores, decreasing excess oils and reducing hyperpigmentation, and promoting the penetration of acne treatments.

4. Supports Anti-Aging

Because lactic acid helps promote cell turnover, it also has excellent anti-aging effects. 

It helps the skin produce new cells and eliminates the dead skin cells on the skin’s surface, which can help improve the appearance of age spots and other signs of aging.  

Additionally, lactic acid in higher concentrations can help the skin look plumper and firmer, promoting a smooth overall appearance and fewer wrinkles and fine lines. 

What To Look for in a Lactic Acid Cleanser

When choosing a lactic acid cleanser, it’s important to consider both your skin type and your facial care needs. This will help you decide which cleanser will work for you.

Here are some tips to consider when choosing your lactic acid cleanser:

1. Consider the Concentration

Over-the-counter lactic acid products are available in different concentrations depending on your needs. These can range from 5% to 30%. 

Don’t assume that a product with a higher lactic acid concentration is necessarily better. In fact, it may irritate your skin if you’re not used to the ingredient.

If it’s your first time using lactic acid, choose products that are gentle enough to use daily.

This means products that contain only roughly a 5% to 10% concentration of lactic acid.

If you choose more potent products, be sure to check how often they can be used in a week to ensure you don’t overdo it.

2. Choose Products With Additional Beneficial Ingredients

Lactic acid is a great ingredient for the skin, but many lactic acid cleansers are also infused with other beneficial ingredients.

You can look for cleansers with additional skincare support like BHAs (including salicylic acid and glycolic acid), hyaluronic acid, vitamins, or minerals. 

3. Avoid Harsh Chemicals

When choosing a facial cleanser with lactic acid, avoid any products that have alcohol, strong fragrances, parabens, or other harsh ingredients that can potentially irritate the skin.

Our 8 Favorite Lactic Acid Cleansers

Are you ready to give facial cleansers with lactic acid a try?

By using these products regularly, you will notice a youthful and radiant change in your skin.

Check out our top picks for lactic acid cleansers below:

1.
Dermalogica Smart Skin Resurfacing Cleanser

This rich and effective cleanser deep cleans and smoothens your skin while promoting a healthy and youthful glow.

Key benefits: Smoothens skin; boosts cell turnover; reduces hyperpigmentation

Features:

  • Two-in-one cleanser and exfoliant
  • Gluten-free, vegan, and cruelty-free
  • Contains vitamin E and natural oils

If you are looking for a good cleanser that exfoliates and offers anti-aging benefits, this is a great one for daily use.

If you want mild exfoliation that helps boost cell turnover for a more youthful look, this creamy cleanser does just that and reduces hyperpigmentation, fine lines, and wrinkles.

A bottle of dermalogica skin resurfacing cleanser on top of a table

It’s enriched with the antioxidant vitamin E, which provides nourishment and protects against free radicals and environmental elements.

Plus, it contains natural oils that soothe the skin and combat any irritations.

It’s the perfect lactic acid cleanser for sensitive skin because it’s gentle enough to be used twice daily.

2.
Murad AHA/BHA Exfoliating Cleanser

This top-notch lactic acid facial cleanser utilizes salicylic and glycolic acids to combat dull skin and leave you with a complexion that glows from all angles.

Key benefits: Smooths and polishes the skin’s surface; promotes bright and healthy skin; unclogs the pores

Features:

  • A combination of lactic acid, salicylic acid, and glycolic acid
  • Contains jojoba beads
  • Skincare backed by science

This creamy and smooth cleanser is powerful, effective, and perfect for biweekly use.

This cleanser by Murad offers users excellent skincare fueled by science.

This triple-acid treatment cleanser is fantastic for treating acne, brightening and smoothening the skin, and unclogging pores.

It combines lactic acid with salicylic acid and glycolic acid for stellar results and utilizes jojoba beads to help gently exfoliate the skin without any irritation or harsh chemicals.

However, because it’s so potent, it’s best not to use this cleanser daily.

Use it two to three times a week instead, and alternate it with a mild facial cleanser.

3.
Neutrogena Hydro Boost Exfoliating Cleanser

This highly effective lactic acid cleanser is from a brand we know and love. It can be used regularly without irritating or drying the skin.

Key benefits: Removes dirt, oil, and dry surface skin; increases skin hydration; lightweight

Features:

  • Contains lactic acid, glycolic acid, and hyaluronic acid
  • Non-comedogenic 
  • Dermatologist-recommended

If you want a lactic acid cleanser that you can use daily, this one is a superb choice.

The Neutrogena Hydro Boost Exfoliating Cleanser is probably one of the top lactic acid cleansers from a drugstore brand. 

You can rely on it to provide fantastic exfoliating results without drying out the skin.

Combined with glycolic and hyaluronic acid, the lactic acid in its formula provides a deep cleaning action that helps remove oil, makeup, and impurities while locking in moisture and keeping skin hydrated and smooth.

Moreover, this cleanser is oil-free, so it can be used daily to clear up acne and help eliminate dullness, revealing healthier, happier skin.

4.
Cosmedix Purity Exfoliating Clean Facial Cleanser

The Cosmedix Facial Cleanser is the perfect product if you struggle with acne but want something gentle on your skin.

Key benefits: Cooling gel cleanser; exfoliates and decongests the skin; helps combat acne

Features:

  • Contains 5% lactic acid
  • Infused with tea tree oil and peppermint oil
  • Smells minty and fresh

This gentle cleanser combines lactic acid with tea tree oil to help exfoliate the skin and keep breakouts at bay.

This SLS-free daily gel cleanser is gentle on the skin, and it has a minty scent that provides a soothing and refreshing feeling.

It’s highly effective at removing dirt while effectively exfoliating the skin and revealing a smoother and brighter complexion. 

It also has natural tea tree extracts for antibacterial and anti-acne benefits.

Plus, its formula is infused with antioxidant-rich botanicals that help reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

5.
Urban Skin Rx Lactic Glow Micropolish Resurface and Brighten Cleanser

Exfoliate your skin with a gentle lactic acid cleanser infused with nourishing ingredients.

Key benefits: Cleans and brightens the skin; improves uneven skin tone; effectively exfoliates

Features:

  • Contains nourishing hyaluronic acid
  • Combines lactic acid with malic and citric acid
  • Perfect for all skin types

If you want to reveal smoother, brighter skin while keeping your face hydrated, try this cleanser with nourishing ingredients.

This nourishing lactic acid face cleanser is created with malic acid and citric acid, which are also AHAs that serve as natural exfoliators with anti-aging ingredients that can help clear pores. 

The cleanser also contains jojoba beads to help slough away dead skin cells and reveal smoother, younger-looking skin.

Additionally, its formula boasts nourishing hyaluronic acid and green tea to soothe the skin and ensure it stays moisturized and soft.

6.
Toulon Gentle Milk Cleanser

This exfoliating cleanser contains lactic acid and antioxidants to ensure smooth and clear skin.

Key benefits: Exfoliates and unclogs pores; reduces fine lines and wrinkles, minimizes pores

Features:

  • Contains vitamins A and D
  • Organic and cruelty-free
  • Hypoallergenic

This cleanser is an excellent choice if you are looking for a budget-friendly but effective lactic acid cleanser.

This lactic acid milk cleanser by Toulon is gentle on the skin and easy on the pocket. It’s formulated to exfoliate, help minimize pores, and prevent breakouts effectively.

It’s also infused with vitamins A and D and aloe vera that help protect against free radicals and aging by reducing fine lines and wrinkles.

It’s organic, paraben-free, non-comedogenic, and gentle enough for everyday use. Plus, it’s versatile; it works on all skin types, including sensitive skin.

7.
Medik8 Surface Radiance Cleanse Mangosten Cleansing Gel

A multi-ingredient lactic acid cleanser that smoothens and cleans the skin while keeping it hydrated and radiant.

Key benefits: Smooths and brightens skin; dissolves impurities; maintains hydration levels

Features:

  • Combines AHAs and BHAs
  • Infused with natural mangosteen and raspberry extracts
  • Contains glycerine for hydration

Enjoy a refreshing and rejuvenating wash with this cleansing gel that hydrates and renews the skin.

This intense lactic acid cleansing gel focuses on unclogging the pores, sloughing off dead skin cells, reducing sebum, and regulating oil production.

Its unique combination of lactic acid with mandelic acid and red clover extract also helps minimize pores, and it contains salicylic acid that penetrates deep into the pores to combat acne powerfully.

And finally, it also has glycerin that works to hydrate the skin.

It’s an excellent formulation for those with oily and combination skin as it reduces shine and gives users a smooth and bright complexion.

8.
Glo Skin Beauty Hydra-Bright AHA Cleanser

This unique lactic acid gel cleanser is formulated with charcoal, providing a gorgeous mattifying effect.

Key benefits: Cleans and exfoliates the skin; mattifies for flawless appearance; reduces oil and breakouts

Features:

  • Contains lactic acid, blue lotus, and carnosine
  • Contains botanical extracts to maintain moisture
  • Formulated with charcoal and clay

Exfoliate and clean your skin with this creamy formula that helps unclog pores and combat acne for youthful, glowing skin.

This unique and gentle foaming cleanser is a great daily cleansing choice for acne-prone and oily skin. 

The lactic and glycolic acids help remove dead skin cells, while charcoal and clay provide a mattifying effect and curb excess oil production without drying the skin.

These ingredients are also excellent for enlarged pores and stubborn acne.

The foamy formula of this product also helps remove dirt, makeup, and residue from the skin, ensuring it looks and stays clean, refreshed, and beautiful.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Long Does It Take for Lactic Acid To Clear the Skin?

Everyone’s skin reacts differently to lactic acid cleansers, but you should start seeing results in roughly two weeks with regular and diligent use.

Is Lactic Acid Okay for Sensitive Skin?

It may depend on the product and concentration, but overall, the answer is yes.

Products containing this exfoliating ingredient are great for dry and sensitive skin because lactic acid is one of the gentlest AHAs.

Plus, it also offers hydrating benefits, so you don’t have to worry about it over-drying your skin.

What’s the Difference Between Lactic Acid Face Wash and Lactic Acid Cleanser?

You can use both face wash and cleanser to clean the face and remove makeup, oils, and dirt from the skin.

The main difference is that a face wash is a foaming substance, and a cleanser is not.

A face wash offers a deep clean while being gentler than regular soap, and a cleanser is even more gentle than a wash and usually more hydrating.

If you prefer something that foams and cleans deep, face washes with lactic acid might be your best bet. But if you prefer gentle cleansing and skin-hydrating products, use a lactic acid cleanser.

Which Skincare Ingredients Should I Avoid Using With Lactic Acid?

Be sure to avoid mixing lactic acid with vitamin C. Vitamin C is also an acid (ascorbic acid), so it’s not suitable to use with AHAs.

This is because vitamin C can be unstable, so layering with acids will render it useless.

Likewise, don’t use retinol with lactic acid.

This can cause dryness and irritation and may damage the skin’s moisture barrier. Together, they also increase sun sensitivity.

Lactic Acid Cleansers Can Help You Reveal Your Best Skin

Everyone dreams of having clear and gorgeous skin, and this dream can easily be a reality with the right cleanser.

If you want to reveal your best skin, look for a cleanser with lactic acid. This is a gentle chemical exfoliant and vital skincare ingredient that helps keep your skin clean and glowing. 

That’s why it’s so beloved amongst skincare enthusiasts. Once you try it, you’re sure to feel the same too. 

If you’re new to the world of lactic acid, check out our list of cleansers to help you find the perfect product with this ingredient for your needs.

And with regular use, it will give you renewed, radiant, and youthful skin.

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Author

  • Michelle Alejandro

    Michelle has had a lifelong love affair with makeup. After graduating with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Communications /Journalism, she began an illustrious career as a writer. Michelle penned a beauty and lifestyle national newspaper column for over a decade and became the Beauty Editor for Chalk Magazine and Editor-in-Chief for Metro Weddings for over nine years, working with some of the biggest makeup artists and trusted beauty brands in the business. During this time, she also completed a course in Creative Artistic Makeup Design and worked as a freelance makeup artist, beauty editor, and writer.

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