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    What Are the Benefits of Polyhydroxy Acid for Your Skin?

    Liquid exfoliants have been very popular recently. Most of you might already know alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids, but have you heard of polyhydroxy acid (PHA)? This is a new popular chemical exfoliator that is very beneficial for your skin. In fact, a lot of people in the beauty community have been calling it a game changer. 

    What is polyhydroxy acids?

    Polyhydroxy acids are often considered to be the cousins of alpha hydroxy acids. They are both chemical exfoliants and polyhydroxy acids (PHAs) are seen as the second generation of alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs). It is similar to AHAs because they are both known to exfoliate your dead skin cells on the surface of your face. This leads to your skin being more even tone and texture. 

    While PHAs are considered to be very similar to AHAs and BHAs, they are still slightly different. The molecules of PHAs are actually bigger than those of AHAs and BHAs. This means that the large size will make it harder to penetrate the deeper levels of your skin. In fact, most would consider that PHAs only work on the surface of your skin. 

    Some of the most common types of PHAs are lactobionic acid, gluconolactone and galactose. These three ingredients are the ones you should look for when finding a skincare product with PHAs. You can find PHAs in almost any type of skincare products, but it is most commonly found in serums, toners and moisturisers. 

    Lactobionic acid is a form of oxidised milk. It works as both an exfoliator and a hydrator. It is considered an humectant because it can help your skin retain moisture.

    Gluconolatone is probably the most commonly found PHAs. In addition to exfoliating your skin, it also has the ability to hydrate and might have antioxidant effects.

    Galactose is the sugar that is found in milk. 

    Better for sensitive skin

    Anybody can use PHAs, but it is well known that PHAs are specially great for those with sensitive skin. This is because PHAs should not cause any irritation to your skin unlike the other chemical exfoliants or peels. However, if you have really sensitive skin or are unsure, I would always talk to your dermatologist before starting PHAs. 

    Not only is PHAs gentler, it also has a hydrating factor included. So while it is exfoliating the surface of your skin, it is also helping to hydrate your sensitive skin as well. It is considered as a new generation of exfoliating acid because of the ability of PHAs to be super hydrating. When compared to AHAs and BHAs, they are able to attract water from the environment and help keep your face hydrated and your skin barrier healthy. 

    There has been studies that suggest that PHAs are almost as effective as the other exfoliating acids. This means that you are more likely to be able to tolerate them better if your skin is sensitive or you have conditions such as eczema or rosacea. In addition, you can also use PHAs as like a starter series to get your skin used to chemical exfoliants. It is a great mild and gentle way of getting your skin to acclimate to exfoliation. 

    Less sun sensitivity

    For those of you who use AHAs and BHAs, you might know that these ingredients can cause you to be at risk of sun damage. AHAs works to help exfoliate your surface skin and this might lead to your face to become more at risk to UV radiation, even on the days you don’t use it.

    Because PHAs have a larger molecular structure, it does not penetrate as deeply. Studies show that this makes your skin less sensitive to sun when compared to AHAs and BHAs. The ingredients of PHAs did not increase your risk to sunburn and therefore it would be better for those with sensitive skin. 


    As mentioned before, not only does PHAs exfoliate your skin, it also hydrates it. PHAs are considered to be humectants. This means that it has the ability to draw moisture into the top layer of your skin. Humectants are a type of moisturiser that works best in combination with another ingredient than alone. Humectant ingredients are known to help bind the water to your skin and restore skin elasticity and reducing fine lines.

    Inhibiting glycation

    Glycation is the process when sugar is linked to other molecules such as collagen and elastin in your skin. Collagen is a protein that is one of the main building blocks of your skin and hair. It is what keeps your skin from sagging and gives you the youthful look. Elastin helps your skin return to normal when it is stretched. 

    Once the sugar is linked to your molecules it leads to the molecules to become hard and inflexible. This will result in the loss of the elasticity in your skin. In addition, glycation also leads to free radicals and therefore accelerates your skin to age. It has been shown that PHAs have the ability to inhibit glycation. 

    The Inkey List PHA Toner

    Their PHA toner includes 3% niacinamide to help improve your skin. It’s a good affordable toner to help clear away your dead skin cells and keep your moisture locked in. Because it is gentle, you can use it both in the morning and at night. 

    When I used it, I usually stuck to using it at night. It is a great addition to my skincare routine. After cleansing my face, I used the toner and gently patted my face with it and then applied my serum and moisturisers. For those who have sensitive skin, this product is gentle and does not have any fragrance. 

    The toner is lightweight and easy to apply. After I applied it, my face felt nice and didn’t feel sticky at all. All in all, it contains a good amount of PHA and it is packaged in a bottle that prevents light from affecting the product. You don’t really need much to cover your face, therefore the packaging helps your toner stay fresher.

    Cosrx PHA Moisture Renewal Power Cream

    This is a lightweight cream that spreads quite well on your face. It contains around 3% of polyhydroxy acids (PHAs) to help remove the outer dead skin cells while also softening your skin. In addition to that, they include niacinamide and glycerin. 

    If you are looking for something to help moisturise your skin, this product is pretty good. It is great to help refresh your skin and add an instant boost of hydration. It was able to help my dry skin feel more hydrated and dewy. Since I have sensitive skin, AHAs don’t really do well on my face and this PHA moisture cream was able to work well on my face.

    Glow Recipe Avocado Melt Retinol Sleeping Mask

    I absolutely love this Glow Recipe product. It is a bit on the pricey side, but it is definitely worth it! It comes in a beautiful jar and includes a spatula. The cream is pretty nice and fluffy and applies on your face very smooth and rich without being greasy or heavy. 

    Since this is a water based formula, it is high in glycerin and hyaluronic acid. In addition to having PHAs, it also includes encapsulated retinol and avocado. The encapsulated retinol is a retinol that releases over time throughout the night. Since this product also has retinol, you should always use this at night and make sure you use sunscreen in the morning. 

    Not only does this help renew your skin, the many hydrating ingredients (including avocado) really helps keep my face moisturised. I felt like my face was a little brighter and smoother after using it for around 2 weeks. Even though the sleeping mask has retinol, I was able to use it on my sensitive skin without any issues. 

    Neutrogena Skin Balancing Purifying Gel Cleanser

    This gel cleanser contains 2% polyhydroxy acid (PHA) to help gently exfoliate and moisturise your skin. It is a pretty good cleanser to help remove the dirt clogging your pores while being able to help soften your face. 

    While it does say it is an exfoliant, I do think the exfoliation is gentle enough to use every day. It is not a strong exfoliant and therefore won’t completely strip away everything. As always, if you have very sensitive skin, you should always contact a dermatologist before trying out a new product. But for most people, I think it is possible to use this gel cleanser every day. 

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