Do you frequently experience skin flakiness? Do you regularly exfoliate, but battle skin irritation as a result? We’ve got good news for you: there may be a solution with PHA.
Polyhydroxy acid (PHA) is a type of chemical exfoliant, much like alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) and beta hydroxy acid (BHA). However, unlike its chemical cousins, PHA is known to be more mild for sensitive skin. It’s also ideal for those who have skin conditions such as eczema and rosacea.
So which products contain PHA? Is it safe for all skin types? And why is it better for sensitive skin than AHA and BHA?
Read on to learn more about adding this gentle exfoliant to your skin care routine.
Breaking it down: what is polyhydroxy acid?
Polyhydroxy acid derived from the creation of alpha hydroxy acid in the 1970s. The primary difference between AHA and PHA is the size of the molecule, which is larger in size for PHAs. As a result, PHA molecules doesn’t penetrate the skin as deeply. Thus, it is less irritation for those with sensitive skin.
PHA shows up on beauty product ingredient lists as gluconolactone, galactosen, and lactobionic acid. These various forms all work to exfoliate dead skin cells, leaving behind a smooth, fresh layer of skin for a more youthful appearance.
What are the differences between PHA and AHA or BHA?
PHA is a form of AHA that’s milder and less penetrative on sensitive skin. As a result, it doesn’t exfoliate as thoroughly. In addition, PHA acts as an antioxidant, binding moisture to ensure the skin is adequately hydrated.
Both AHA and BHA have different chemical bonds, and produce slightly different results. Overall, products that use AHA are a better choice for those with dry skin because it exfoliates the skin’s surface, whereas BHA is better for oily skin types due to its ability to sink deep into pores below the skin’s surface for thorough exfoliation.
AHA is naturally found in fruit, milk, and sugar cane, and its most powerful form is glycolic acid, which is an active ingredient found in many skin care products. BHA primarily refers to salicylic acid, which is derived from the white willow tree. It is fat-soluble and has anti-inflammatory properties, making it a great treatment for clogged pores and stubborn acne.
What results can I expect from using products with PHA?
You can expect two certainties from using products that contain PHA: exfoliation and hydration, both of which contribute to healthy cell reproduction and improved skin texture. Ultimately, this means a better base for makeup and a glowing complexion.
If you want to achieve fast, noticeable results, the use of 1% Vitamin A is recommended in conjunction with PHA exfoliants. Vitamin A works with the chemical to powerfully rejuvenate skin and reduce pigmentation. It can even be coupled with AHA or BHA for more effective results, but only if your skin tolerates such combinations. This is not recommended for sensitive or easily-irritated skin.
Is PHA safe for my skin?
In general, incorporating PHA into your skin care regimen is perfectly safe for most skin types. However, it’s important to note that PHA combined with other chemical exfoliants are best used in products that are formulated for such use (e.g. a serum containing a blend of PHA, AHA, and BHA). Purchasing and using several different chemical products can overwork and strip the skin of its natural oils.
An ideal PHA product will strengthen the natural skin barrier, creating a healthy and radiant complexion. To achieve this, look for PHA exfoliants that contain the following:
- Hyaluronic acid
All of these ingredients restore and lock in moisture for your skin.
Experts recommend that when introducing a new PHA product to your skin care regimen, you begin by using it on three non-consecutive days of the week. Monitor any reactions closely, and discontinue use if prolonged irritation or redness occurs.
What are some good PHA products to try?
Based on all of the info above, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best PHA products to try. These formulas are mild for sensitive skin, but can ultimately benefit all skin types.
Lixir Night Switch PHA/AHA 10%
The Lixir Night Switch PHA/AHA 10% is a night serum that combines three acids (lactic acid, lactobionic acid, and phytic acid) to soften and smoothen the complexion. It also targets fine lines, pores, and age spots over time. It’s a great option for all skin types, and you should begin to notice results after just two weeks.
Glossier Solution is a popular PHA exfoliator that works to gently remove dead skin, revealing a fresh and glowing complexion underneath. This product is a great example of a PHA, AHA, and BHA blend that’s effective without being too harsh. It’s highly-praised and mentioned in a variety of product recommendations, and is a fan favorite on the Glossier site.
Dermadoctor KP Duty Moisturizing Lotion
Switching gears a bit, moisturizers can also contain PHA, like the Dermadoctor KP Duty Moisturizing Lotion. The formula uses a patented blend of PHA, AHA, and BHA, as well as urea and green tea to exfoliate and hydrate dry, rough skin. This product also uses 8 essential ceramides, skin lipids, and botanicals to nourish and soothe not just the face, but the whole body. The end result? Softer, silky-smooth, and luxuriously moisturized skin.
Juice Beauty Green Apple Peel Full Strength
In the market for a facial peel? The Juice Beauty Green Apple Peel Full Strength packs a PHA punch to dry, dull skin. With an organic base of botanical juices and a blend of PHA, AHA, and BHA, this facial peel seems to deliver on its promises to combat the effects of aging, even out the skin tone, reduce inflammation, and provide adequate moisture, according to users.
Glow Recipe Avocado Melt Retinol Sleeping Face Mask
Who doesn’t love a luxurious, overnight face mask? The Glow Recipe Avocado Melt Retinol Sleeping Face Mask is a nourishing, antioxidant-rich cream that goes on before bed and stays on overnight for optimal recovery. Alternatively, it can also be used as a quick, wash-off facial. Made with avocado, exfoliating PHA, and encapsulated retinol (the most mild form of retinol), this face mask delivers the moisture skin needs while gently exfoliating dead skin.
A final word
If you struggle with a dull, yet sensitive complexion that’s prone to flakiness and dry patches, PHA exfoliating products could be the perfect fit for you.
Be sure to scan a product’s ingredients before using, and opt for formulas that contain ceramides, glycerin, hyaluronic acid, and peptides (though a combination of all four may not be necessary). Finally, remember to introduce the exfoliating product slowly to your skin care regimen to see how skin responds.