Although brands often don’t make a fuss about it, sodium lactate is an unsung hero ingredient that found its place in countless skincare products that address parched skin. So we decided to find out more about it and whether or not it deserves a place in your beauty routine.
What is sodium lactate?
Sodium lactate is the sodium salt of lactic acid produced from the natural fermentation of sugars found in corn and beets. Dermatologically speaking, sodium lactate is an essential component of the skin’s natural moisturizing factor (NMF).
NMF is a complex of humectants and other low molecular weight compounds (such as amino acids and hyaluronic acid) naturally present in the skin that bind moisture from the environment into the epidermis. In layperson’s terms, it has a key role in maintaining proper cell hydration and a healthy epidermal barrier.
As a part of NMF, sodium lactate deeply moisturizes the skin when applied topically and helps support a strong defense against bacteria, external irritants, and other harmful microorganisms.
What does it do to the skin?
All things considered, sodium lactate is a great ingredient to have in your skincare products, especially if you’re dealing with dry, cracked, and irritated skin. It’s a potent humectant with a very high water-holding capacity (twice as much glycerin) that boosts hydration by locking moisture into the skin. It also works as a buffering agent to balance and regulate the pH of the formula, making the product more stable and less likely to cause irritation. Better than that, using products with sodium lactate may adjust the skin’s pH, resulting in less dryness, sensitivities, and flaking.
Sodium lactate is also classified as a keratolytic agent, meaning it has exfoliating effects. There isn’t much evidence to back up this theory, but it’s believed that in concentrations higher than 5%, it can work to remove dead cells from the skin’s surface.
One study found that among sodium lactates, sodium PCA and lauryl PCA—all parts of NMF—sodium lactate had the most powerful moisturizing effects. It reached maximum skin hydration after 30 minutes of application and maintained it throughout the entire test duration. This means it provides both instant and long-lasting hydration.
Another research concluded that a cream containing urea and sodium lactate is both safe and effective for people with dry and sensitive skin and could be used to relieve skin conditions such as eczema.
More interestingly, it is hypothesized that sodium lactate can boost the skin-lightening effects of licorice extract and other brightening agents (think vitamin C, kojic acid) when used in the same formula.
Is it safe?
As it’s naturally found in the skin, sodium lactate is gentle and unlikely to cause adverse effects when applied topically. And the best part? Anyone can use it, including those with oily and acne-prone skin, since sodium lactate is non-irritating, non-comedogenic, lightweight, and not greasy. Moreover, sodium lactate is also certified by COSMOS and Ecocert as a natural and safe ingredient.
Products with sodium lactate
- Paula’s Choice Omega+ Complex Moisturizer
- Elemis SOS Emergency Cream
- Perricone MD Hyaluronic Intensive Moisturizer
- Ole Henriksen Strength Trainer Peptide Boost Moisturiser
At Women’s Concepts, we’re committed to providing you with transparent, complete, and accurate information on all things skincare. In addition to having a close relationship with dermatologists and experts in the field, we use an established editorial process to ensure we’re giving you the best possible content. All statements and claims we make have clear and legit references.