Customers, estheticians, and physicians ask us this question often, so we decided to answer in the form of an article.
Many physicians and aestheticians assume that all alpha hydroxy acids are the same when nothing could be further from the truth! L-Lactic Acid stands alone as perhaps the most important molecule in every cell in the control of energy shifts to both make and disassemble proteins and enzymes. At Theraderm, we choose to use the AHA L-Lactic Acid instead of the commonly used Glycolic Acid. Lactic and Glycolic Acids are known to have definite effects on skin rejuvenation from their exfoliation ability. Any exfoliation speeds up cell turnover rate. A unique advantage of Lactic Acid is that it is the critical molecule necessary for new collagen formation by fibroblast cells, and it is necessary to strengthen collagen to its final structural form by creating crosslinks between collagen amino acid chains. Without Lactic Acid, there can be no wound healing or repair at the cellular level!
It is a superior humectant (attracts water to itself), enabling soft, pliable skin that is well-hydrated. It has been used in lower concentrations (less than 1%) for years in cosmetics just for this one quality. When either of these alpha hydroxy acids is used for six months or more, in concentrations of less than 10%, the epidermis might even be slightly improved (smoothness, increased epidermal thickness and more even pigment coloration). Concentrations of 10% Lactic Acid in unbuffered formulations have additional benefits to the dermis as well. These include increased dermal and epidermal thickness, longer and thicker (stronger) elastic fibers, increased number of collagen fibers, the absence of edema and reversal of basal cell atypia (J Am Acad Dermatology 1996; 35: 388-91).
Glycolic Acid has several potential disadvantages from a health standpoint. It must be eliminated from the body only by kidney excretion. Oral feeding of Glycolic Acid to rats in 2% concentration caused 75% to have weight loss preceding kidney failure over 6 months. Kidney failure was due to calcium oxalate crystal deposition in the kidneys (International Journal of Toxicology, Vol. 17, 1998).
Lactic Acid, however, has several important biological advantages that are related to human biology and biochemistry. In a normal human, when adequate glucose is present, up to 45% of glucose utilized is converted to Lactic Acid (Kreisberg, 1972). All cells in the body utilize Lactic Acid and its enzyme systems; therefore, there is no toxicity with Lactic Acid. The concentration of lactate in normal skin is three times greater than blood serum levels.
Lactic Acid utilizes normal human enzyme sequences in the process of exfoliation and is, therefore, less irritating to the skin. Lactic Acid may be used in higher, non-buffered concentrations at very low pH (2.5) values with minimal skin irritation. The immune system is regulated primarily in the skin by Lactic Acid, which is the principal stimulus for autocrine B-Cell and T-Cell production, and stimulates increased production of TNF (tumor necrosing factor), active in protecting from skin cancer changes.There is a significantly positive factor in the post-irradiated skin or to the skin of a person receiving chemotherapy or sun exposure.
We hope this helps everyone understand why Dr. Beckman made the choice he did. While Glycolic Acid has had the most marketing dollars behind it - it is not superior to L-Lactic Acid. This fits into Dr. Beckman’s promise to use only the highest quality and most effective ingredients on the market.
Theraderm Products That Contain Lactic Acid: