With new products, brands, and categories arriving every day, beauty can be a little overwhelming. back to basics This is our introductory beauty series that serves as a crash course in the science behind the best formulas in the game. This week we’ll be looking at polyhydroxy acids. For your skin.
Exfoliation is an essential step on the path to healthy, glowing skin. Naturally, skin cells are replaced every 40 to 56 days, and as cells mature, dead cells must be removed to expose new layers underneath. If you are a fan of chemical peels, you have probably heard about AHA and BHA. Although these two ingredients are effective at removing dead skin, they can be irritating for sensitive skin. Thankfully, there are gentle alternatives. Enter polyhydroxy acids, a skin care ingredient also known as PHA.
Also known as a relative of AHAs, this chemical exfoliant has a milder approach that is less likely to cause redness or irritation. As such, it is rapidly being incorporated into more and more product formulations. Online, many #SkinTok creators are cutting back on active ingredients from their routines to focus on barrier repair after using too many harsh products. Instead, they opt for lighter exfoliants, like PHA-infused toners, which improve shine and tone without the risk of further damage.
Ahead of this, TZR asked three dermatologists and one cosmetic chemist to outline the basics of this hot topic ingredient, including its potential side effects and how to incorporate it into your daily life.
What are polyhydroxy acids?
Dr. Lauren Penge, a board-certified dermatologist at MDCS Dermatology in New York City, says polyhydroxy acids are gentle chemical exfoliants that remove dead skin cells from the skin’s surface with little irritation. told TZR. Although PHA provides similar results to common her BHA exfoliants such as salicylic acid, PHA is most closely related to AHA because it is water-soluble and does not penetrate deeply into the skin layers. PHA, which has a large molecular weight, works only at the outer level to exfoliate, smooth, and brighten the skin. Because of this, it is much gentler than other exfoliating acids and For those with sensitive skin type.
What are the skin care benefits of polyhydroxy acids?
According to Dr. Penzi, there are three main types of PHA commonly used in skin care products: gluconolactonic acid, galactosenic acid, and lactobionic acid. Although the main purpose of this ingredient is to exfoliate, each type of his PHA has several other benefits. For example, gluconolactone and galactose occur naturally in the body and are essential for cell turnover and collagen production. “Lactobionic acid, on the other hand, works similar to lactic acid, acting as a humectant and increasing the amount of moisture in the skin,” says Dr. Kenneth Mark, a cosmetic dermatologist in New York City.
With its collagen-stimulating and moisturizing properties, PHA is also a great ingredient for anti-aging concerns like fine lines and wrinkles. Additionally, some scientific studies have shown that some PHAs can protect cells from harmful UV rays and photoaging, ultimately fading dark spots and other areas of discoloration.
Who should use polyhydroxy acids and what are the side effects?
Since PHA is mild, anyone can benefit from incorporating this ingredient into their daily routine. However, it is important to remember that these are still chemical acids and can have residual side effects if used improperly. “Like other exfoliants, PHA can also cause common problems such as redness, irritation, and peeling. However, given its mild chemical properties, it poses no risk when compared to other hydroxy acids. ,” says Dr. Blair Murphy-Rose, a board-certified cosmetic and medical dermatologist at Laser & Skin Surgery Center in New York.
How to incorporate polyhydroxy acids into your skin care routine
Cosmetic beauty chemist David Petrillo told TZR that PHAs are very easy to add to your existing routine because they don’t increase sensitivity to sunlight like AHAs and BHAs do. “PHA products can be used every day, morning or night,” he says. However, you should start slowly and monitor your skin’s reaction along the way. “Start with a low concentration to see how your skin reacts, and be aware of the number of products that contain the ingredient. PHA is found in many different types of products, so avoid over-exfoliating. Please,” he elaborates.
If your skin is extremely sensitive, Dr. Penge recommends choosing a cleanser with PHA that doesn’t need to be left on the skin for long periods of time to achieve results. If you have oily or dry skin types, she suggests using a toner or serum that contains PHA for optimal results. “While PHA is mild, it’s best to avoid combining it with stronger active ingredients such as retinoids or other highly concentrated chemical exfoliants, and always end your routine with SPF,” she says.
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