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For anyone whose skin care acne involves acne, skin aging, pigmentation and dullness, acids can look good on your face. In their various formulations, AHA and BHA acids are the two most common chemical peeling agents used in products. Both remove blunt skin from the facial surface and promote cell turnover. With continued use of these ingredients, the skin may become clearer, smoother, and glowing over time.
Despite the benefits of chemical peeling, acid, as in the word itself, can trigger on sensitive skin types. The use of AHAs and BHAs can be a recipe for redness, dryness, and flaking for skin that is extremely reactive. Fortunately, PHAs are alternative soft acids that could be the solution for sensitive skin types that have not yet experienced how effective a chemical peel can be. (See: What type of exfoliant should you use?)
These "superacids" are increasingly appearing in skincare products, but how do PHAs differ from AHAs and BHAs, and what makes them the best acidity option for sensitive skin? Scroll down to get a complete breakdown of the PHA acids.
What are PHA acids?
PHAs is an abbreviation for polyhydroxy acids. They are a second generation of alpha hydroxy acids or AHAs as they are commonly known. If you're curious about whether PHA acids are included in some of the products you already use, gluconolactone, galactose, and lactobionic acid are the most frequently listed PHAs on the ingredient list. (Related: Here's everything you need to know about glycolic acid)
"As a category they act [PHAs] as an exfoliant and additionally stimulate cell turnover," says Ava Shamban, MD, dermatologist and founder of Beverly Hills of SKIN FIVE. "This can improve clogged pores and breakouts as well as the appearance of fine lines." These acids can also minimize pigmentation caused by photoageing, sun damage or UV rays directly affecting the melanocytes [skin cells that form melanin].
Similar to AHAs, Dr. Shamban notes that PHAs also attract and bind water molecules to the skin, which can help moisturize the skin.
How are they different from AHA and BHA acids?
PHAs have a larger molecular size than AHAs and BHAs, which means that they can exfoliate only the outer layers of the skin. "AHAs are the middle of the road," Dr. Shamban. "BHAs really dive deeper into the skin and dissolve sebum and dead skin cells in the pores, making them more suitable for oily skin and keeping acne away."
Although PHAs are not the ideal acid when acne is your primary concern, they are great for hydrating and showing signs of aging. "These acids are humectants, so they can help retain moisture in the extracellular matrix and give the skin a firmer, more plump appearance," Dr. Shamban. "They also make excess iron in the skin" inactive "by cleaning up an element that is often overdriven with age and can accelerate the cell aging process." (See also: Melatonin is the anti-aging ingredient you'll see everywhere.)
Why should you use PHA acids?
PHA acids are a great complement to a skin care routine that focuses on anti-aging or sensitive skin types that respond to other chemical peeling agents. "Even people with more sensitive skin or highly reactive skin can tolerate PHA more easily," says Dr. Shamban. "PHA products are safe for people with Roseaca or some skin conditions like eczema, which is not possible with AHA and BHA acid groups." (See also: Why It is Never Too Soon To Protect Collagen In The Skin)
Another reason for changing the PHAs: The sensitivity of the sun is not a problem. Many products with AHAs and BHAs recommend use at night or sunlight when used in the morning. Dr. Shamban says that PHAs can be used absolutely safely in everyday skin care, but do not wear sunscreen and a hat when you're out and about in a day.
How are PHA acids used?
From masks, serums to moisturizers, you can incorporate PHA acids into virtually every step of your skin care routine. Dr. Shamban says the ingredient can be safely used every day, but it suggests that you introduce a new PHA acid product into your routine three times a week and increase the frequency from there. Do not expect miracles overnight, but stick with them to see the best results. (See also: 1
Products have a handful of options that are suitable for a variety of skin care routines. Glossier's Solution is an Instagram-popular scrub toner that contains AHA, BHA and PHA acids to cleanse pores and reduce breakouts. The Avocado Melt Sleeping Mask by Glow Recipe combines the firming and moisturizing effects of PHAs with Zelens PHA + Bio-Peel Resurfacing face pads are a quick and easy way to exfoliate, and the Hydrating Serum by PCA boosts moisture content and body, to name but a few to call.
Why has nobody heard of PHA acids yet?
If you've heard of PHA acids for the first time, you're not alone. Salicylic acid, glycolic acid, ferulic acid and lactic acid are all extremely potent, which is why dermatologists and brands alike consider the gold standard of chemical peeling agents.
Dr. Shamban says that thanks to research into product developments and reasonable market prices, the skin care industry is finally starting to use PHA acids by formulating products with them.
This story appeared on InStyle.com by Erin Lukas.