Ammonium lactate is an alpha hydroxy acid that helps relieve itching from eczema by hydrating your skin. But using too much, or applying it in the wrong places, can cause further skin irritation.

Ammonium lactate is a cream you can use to hydrate severely dry or itchy skin. It’s a topical alpha hydroxy acid, a class of compounds with known skin benefits. You can use ammonium lactate to ease symptoms of eczema and other uncomfortable skin conditions.

Ammonium lactate is available via prescription from a healthcare professional. You can also purchase it over the counter (OTC) without a prescription as a cream or lotion. AmLactin is a popular OTC brand of ammonium lactate products.

Read on to learn how you can use ammonium lactate to soothe eczema-affected skin.

Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that causes symptoms such as:

  • itching
  • severely dry skin
  • pain
  • swelling
  • redness on light skin or purple-gray patches on darker skin
  • scaly patches
  • flaking
  • rash
  • blisters
  • skin infections

Overly dry skin can cause or worsen eczema flare-ups. Ammonium lactate is a humectant, which means it reduces moisture loss in the skin. It alleviates eczema symptoms by deeply hydrating and moisturizing your skin’s outermost layer.

It may also remove dead skin cells from the skin’s surface. This allows moisture to reach the skin’s deeper layers.

Ammonium lactate isn’t an eczema cure. But it may make your skin more hydrated, less itchy, and less prone to scaling.

Other uses of ammonium lactate

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved prescription-strength ammonium lactate cream (Lac-Hydrin) to treat:

Doctors sometimes use it to treat keratosis pilaris in adults.

You can use OTC products containing ammonium lactate to treat dry skin caused by:

  • aging
  • hot, dry, or cold weather
  • exposure to harsh detergents and other household chemicals
  • skin conditions like dermatitis

Some people use ammonium lactate to fade dark spots on the skin. However, scientific data on its effectiveness for this purpose is lacking.

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Like other alpha hydroxy acids, ammonium lactate can irritate your skin. More is not necessarily better, so follow package directions or a healthcare professional’s instructions.

These instructions typically apply when using ammonium lactate:

  • Ensure your hands and the affected skin area are clean and dry.
  • OTC ammonium lactate products may contain several ingredients. If you’re using a lotion, shake the bottle before applying to mix the ingredients thoroughly.
  • Apply a thin layer of product to the affected skin.
  • Gently rub in until the product is fully absorbed.
  • Use twice daily, at the same time each day.

Make sure not to get ammonium lactate on open areas of skin, such as cuts, abrasions, or open blisters. If this happens accidentally, rinse the area thoroughly with cool water.

This product is for external use only. Do not ingest ammonium lactate. Avoid getting this product into your eyes, nose, mouth, genitals, or other mucous membranes.

Ammonium lactate may make your skin overly sensitive to ultraviolet (UV) light. Avoid sun exposure and artificial light on the areas of skin you’re treating while using this product.

Data is lacking on ammonium lactate’s potential effect on unborn fetuses and babies who are nursing. You may want to avoid ammonium lactate if you’re pregnant, trying to become pregnant, or breastfeeding or chestfeeding.

Can I use ammonium lactate on my…

  • Face: It’s best to avoid using ammonium lactate on your face since it can cause irritation on skin that gets a lot of sun exposure.
  • Hands: Yes, though you may have to reapply whenever you wash your hands.
  • Feet: Ammonium lactate is a common treatment for dry skin on feet.
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You may experience mild, temporary side effects from using ammonium lactate. They include:

If these side effects worsen or continue for a prolonged period, let a healthcare professional know. If you’re using an OTC product, you may wish to discontinue its use and look for a gentler alternative.

If your skin becomes severely irritated, starts to peel, or becomes overly dry and itchy, it may also be best to stop using this product.

It is possible to be allergic to ammonium lactate or another ingredient in the lotion you’re using. If you have an allergic reaction, stop using this product immediately and speak with a healthcare professional. Symptoms to look out for include:

  • hives
  • swelling of the affected area
  • swelling in the throat, lips, tongue, or mouth
  • blistering
  • fever
  • wheezing
  • trouble breathing

These symptoms sometimes indicate a severe allergic reaction, such as anaphylaxis. Severe allergic reactions to ammonium lactate are rare but can happen. Anaphylaxis is a medical emergency that requires immediate medical care.

Ammonium lactate is an alpha hydroxy acid. People use it to treat eczema and other skin conditions that cause overly dry, irritated, or itchy skin.

Ammonium lactate is available in prescription and OTC forms. Make sure to follow package directions or a healthcare professional’s instructions.

This product can help eczema-affected skin feel more comfortable. However, overuse can lead to skin irritation.

Side effects are common and usually temporary. They include redness, stinging, or a burning sensation.