Polyhydroxy Acids: A New Generation of Exfoliating Acids

If you are a true skincare junkie, you are definitely aware of the boom in cosmetic products with acids. Glycolic (AHA), lactic (AHA), and salicylic (BHA) acids are well known and can be found in any beauty store. What about polyhydroxy acids? Have you heard about this group of exfoliants? Although polyhydroxy acids (aka PHAs) were discovered in the 1990s, the peak of their popularity as independent components has been reached quite recently. Several studies suggest that PHAs can serve as a real competitor for alpha-hydroxy acids (aka AHAs) because they have a less irritative effect and cause less stinging. Sounds intriguing, right? Keep reading to learn more about polyhydroxy acids as a new generation of exfoliating acids.

polyhydroxy acids as a gentle alternative to AHAs

What Exactly are PHAs?

Polyhydroxy acids are the next generation of well-known alpha-hydroxy acids, which are exfoliants. They share a common structure, but polyhydroxy acids have additional two or more hydroxyl groups (“poly” in the name means “many”), which help to attract more water molecules to the skin. This upgrade can be comparable to the new generation of smartphones. We have the same “backbone” but with improved features. The most popular PHAs appear in two forms: gluconolactone (obtained from gluconic acid) and lactobionic acid (derived from plant extract and lactose in cow’s milk).

Benefits of Polyhydroxy Acids

  1. Reduces wrinkles, pigmentation, and post-acne scar
  2. Removes dead skin cells and excesses debris
  3. Evens out skin tone and texture
  4. Increases cell renewal
  5. Prevents photoaging
  6. Hydrates the skin

PHAs vs. AHAs

Polyhydroxy Acids

Based on the Edison study, PHAs have large molecules, making them penetrate the skin slower and cause less irritation, redness, and burning. So this group is an excellent alternative for sensitive and rosacea-prone skin. Also, with the enhanced mildness of PHAs, you won’t develop sun sensitivity, which means you can freely use them in the summertime. Besides that, the polyhydroxy group moisturizes the skin, which is a huge plus.

Alpha-Hydroxy Acids

Compared to PHAs, alpha-hydroxy acids have a smaller molecular size. As a result, they enter the skin faster and exfoliate harder, causing a stinging sensation, especially for people with sensitive skin. In other words, AHAs are for those who have dry and resistant skin. By starting using them, you should remember to wear broad-spectrum sunscreen regularly. Your skin becomes more susceptible to ultraviolet radiation even on days when you skip using products with acid.

How Long Does it Take for PHA to Work?

Based on studies, you may see the effect within 6 to 12 weeks of using polyhydroxy acid. But remember, there is no one standard rule for everyone. While one may see the result within days, the other may wait for several weeks. Every case is unique!

How to add PHAs to Skin Care Routine?

Today’s market is saturated with products containing polyhydroxy acids. You can choose between serums, sleeping masks, creams, tonics, or cleansers. For the first time, you should determine if a product with polyhydroxy acid can suit your skin – do a 24-hour patch test. Apply a small amount of product behind your ear or the side of your neck. After 24 hours, check the reaction. If there is no redness or irritation, you are free to go. Start using the product with PHA at nighttime three times a week in order to avoid any unwanted reactions during sun exposure. After a couple of weeks, your skin builds up a tolerance to the product and you will be able to use it every day.

Best Skin Care Products With Polyhydroxy Acids

Indeed Laboratories Toner is a gentle exfoliator that not only dissolves dead cells but also hydrates and soothes the skin. Alcohol- and paraben-free. This product contains gluconolactone 10% (poly-hydroxy acid) and betaine 5% (humectant) that works on the surface without causing any signs of irritation. When applied to the skin, the product quickly absorbs, leaving a nice and fresh feeling. Give it a try if you need a gentle remedy for dark spots, scaly patches, and uneven texture.

This leave-on topical acid is just a masterpiece. To be honest, our team was impressed when we checked the list of ingredients o this product. There are nothing extra but only useful components like gluconolactone (PHA), lactobionic acid (PHA), and mandelic acid (AHA). The formula gently exfoliates the skin, acts as an antioxidant, and brightens the overall complexion. It suits all skin types and is exceptionally perfect for those who are prone to eczema and dermatitis. Use it a few times a week before moisturizer.

This cleanser is formulated for people with very sensetive dry skin. Unscented. It contains simple yet effective ingredients that aimed to refresh your complexion and help other skincare products work more effectively. Foam-free and very creamy. It provides an extremely light exfoliating effect.

Take-Home Points

  1. Without a doubt, polyhydroxy acid is a gentle alternative to AHA. This group takes the benefits of AHAs up to the next level. They are less irritative and can hydrate the upper layer of the skin.
  2. PHAs perfectly suit dry, sensitive, rosacea-prone, or photodamaged skin.
  3. PHAs don’t cause sun sensitivity so you can use your favorite product in the summertime.
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