You’ve probably heard about AHAs and BHAs, having come across these pretty familiar acids in a couple of your chemical exfoliation treatments at your local Skin Renewal branch or your go-to products, like your favourite serum, for example. But how familiar are you – and your bathroom cabinet – with PHAs?
Enter Polyhydroxy Acids. PHAs for short.
Referred to as the less irritating cousin of AHAs and BHAs by the most skin-savvy among us, PHAs differ from their alpha- and beta-family members in that they’re second-generation AHAs.
A relatively new class of hydroxy acids, PHA molecules are larger than AHA molecules, meaning they don’t penetrate the skin as much, making them gentler. Simply put, this new ‘it’ acid is a saving grace for those with sensitive skins looking for the exfoliating benefits of hydroxy acids without the side effects.
What gives PHAs their PhD in glow-getting?
Antioxidant-rich Gluconolactone, Galactose, and Lactobionic acid are the most common PHAs. And similar to AHAs, they get to work exfoliating dead skin cells on the surface to achieve a more even skin tone and texture while stimulating epidermal growth and repairing skin damage.
What makes PHAs ‘buzz-worthy’ is that these hydroxy acids effectively fight glycation. This process occurs when digested sugar permanently attaches to the collagen in your skin, weakening it and lowering elastin levels, too. And while PHAs protect your skin’s ability to bounce back, these molecules are also teaming up with your other skincare ingredients to help them penetrate deeper and work more effectively.
Why say, “Yes, please!” to PHAs
As we age, so too does our skin. The effects of ageing include the thickening of the epidermis (the skin’s outermost layer), which means not only does your skin contain less collagen and hold less moisture, but it’s a magnet for cellular damage at a DNA level.
PHAs are a gentle but effective chemical exfoliant that removes dead, dull-looking cells to improve skin texture by revealing healthy cells and reducing hyperpigmentation in the process. PHAs are also not only great moisturisers, hydrating the skin by supporting the skin’s barrier function – locking in moisture. But they reduce fine lines and wrinkles, undo and prevent UV damage, kick pollution-induced free radical damage to the curb, and put you on the receiving end of “wow, you look so fresh and rested” compliments.
Before you add to the cart, call in support.
Found in cleansers, toners, moisturisers, masks and even pad form, PHAs appear on ingredient labels in all sorts of weird and wonderful ways, and it’s important to pair this effective exfoliator with a skin barrier strength-builder. Here’s what to look for on the label to make sure you’re getting a PHA-containing product that delivers an extra moisture-locking punch:
- Hyaluronic acid