This up-and-coming ingredient gently exfoliates sensitive skin without irritating it

Does the idea of exfoliating make you slightly fearful? Lactobionic acid, a gentle exfoliant, could be the ingredient your skincare routine is missing.

Exfoliating is a step that is often overlooked in skincare routines. Maybe it’s because we focus more on skincare ingredients that penetrate deeply into our skin. Or perhaps the idea of exfoliating conjures up thoughts of red, burnt skin and harsh formulas. Either way: it’s actually an important step to any skincare routine.

As well as buffing away dead skin cells on the surface to make your complexion appear brighter, exfoliation also allows your other skincare products to penetrate into your skin deeper, making the formulas more effective.

If the thought of exfoliating scares you, then up-and-coming ingredient lactobionic acid may be just the ticket. Cropping up in more and more skincare products, this skincare ingredient is a gentler alternative to glycolic and salicylic acid.

Here, two skincare experts explain everything you need to know about the new ingredient in the spotlight.

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What is lactobionic acid and how does it work in skincare?

“Lactobionic acid is a polyhydoxy acid (also known as a PHA) and essentially a sugar molecule,” explains Dr Sana Sadiq, practitioner at Glowday. “It’s the little sister to other acids like glycolic and lactic acid and is fantastic for treating dullness, hyperpigmentation and acne.”

Dr Emmaline Ashley, founder of Ashley Aesthetics and Glowday practitioner adds: “It is much beloved amongst skincare enthusiasts for this exfoliating power. Lactobionic acidis derived from lactose (the same that you find in milk – which is why Cleopatra famously loved bathing in it) and works by increasing cell turnover.

What are its benefits in skincare?

“Lactobionic acid is a larger molecule and as a result, doesn’t penetrate as deeply as these other ingredients,” says Dr Sadiq. “This allows it to focus its exfoliating properties at the surface of the skin, rather than soaking deeper into the skin layers and causing irritation.”

Dr Ashley expands: “As well as a gentle exfoliant, it also works as a humectant to help lock in moisture from the environment or moisture that is already in your skin. It also has antioxidant effects, meaning it neutralises free radicals and protects our skin from the environmental pollutants we are all exposed to living in the modern world.”

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Which skin type is best suited to lactobionic acid?

“It can be ideal for those with more sensitive skin types who are prone to irritation with other exfoliants like glycolic acid,” says Dr Ashley. “There is always the potential for an exfoliant to cause slight irritation to the skin as it does its job, but lactobionic acid is the least like to do this. It may be helpful to slowly introduce it into your routine two to three times a week so you have a chance to get used to it.”

Can lactobionic acid irritate the skin?

“Where AHAs and BHAs can cause significant irritation, PHAs like lactobionic acid ofter a gentle alternative and should be well tolerated by sensitive skin types,” says Dr Sadiq.

Where does lactobionic acid fit in your skincare routine?

“This is a perfect follow up to cleansing, ideally applied once a day,” explains Dr Sadiq. “If you have particularly sensitive skin you can gradually introduce this to your routine, starting with three times a week, with the aim to use it daily.”

But Dr Ashley warns: “However, it is not usually recommended to be used with retinol and be cautious using it in conjunction with other exfoliants.”

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Main image: brands/designed by Matt Phare

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