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What You Need To Know About Polyhydroxy Acids (PHAs)

If you are aware of the skincare products you should and shouldn’t put on your face, chances are you’ve come across polyhydroxy acids, or PHAs. Although known for their exfoliating benefits, these skincare ingredients are also considered one of the best options for sensitive skin.

PHAs are now creating a buzz in the beauty world, so don’t be surprised if many of the products you’re currently using contain these ingredients. If you haven’t come across them before, read on to learn more about these game-changers in the skincare and beauty industry.

Understanding What PHAs Are

PHAs are considered cousins of alpha-hydroxy acids, aka AHAs, naturally found in milk, sugar cane and fruit. Common types of AHAs include glycolic acid, citric acid, tartaric acid and malic acid, to name but a few.

In reality, PHAs are second-generation AHAs, providing similar benefits but without causing the skin irritation that’s typically associated with AHAs. Since the molecules of PHAs are much larger than AHAs, they can’t penetrate as deeply into the skin. Instead, they work exclusively on the skin surface without disturbing the delicate layers underneath.

For this reason, PHAs are preferred by those with sensitive skin because they can easily tolerate these ingredients. Products containing PHAs, therefore, are generally safe for people with skin conditions like rosacea and eczema, something which can’t be said for products with AHAs.

How To Benefit From PHAs

PHAs are safe for everyday use. That means you can incorporate them into practically any step of your skincare routine, from masks to moisturisers and serums. Regardless of your complexion or skin type, you can enjoy the range of remarkable benefits PHAs offer, such as:

Gentle Exfoliation

PHAs are gentle exfoliants that eliminate dead skin cells from the skin surface without causing redness or irritation, leaving you with a smoother complexion and better texture. In addition, the exfoliating capabilities of PHAs can help unclog your pores, get rid of impurities and prevent acne breakouts. Regular exfoliating with PHAs can also make it easier for your other skincare products to penetrate the skin and improve its overall appearance.

Since PHAs are a gentler ingredient than their counterparts, they are recommended for hypersensitive, itchy skin. Using PHAs can help retexturise and smooth this kind of skin without causing further issues.

Skin Moisturisation

One of the best things about PHAs is their ability to support the barrier function of the skin. They help protect the skin against the constant attack of various environmental threats while simultaneously retaining moisture, making them an ideal option for those with dry skin. By sealing essential water in, your skin will look dewy, healthy and smooth.

Anti-ageing Effects

Skin elasticity grows weaker as we age since collagen production slows down. Many factors can hasten this process, factors that include pollution, certain lifestyle habits and sun exposure. Although ageing is a part of life, we’d rather not be constantly reminded of this each time we look in the mirror. Noone likes the wrinkles, saggy skin and fine lines that appear on the face as the years go by.

While it can be challenging to reverse the signs of ageing, PHAs can help reduce their appearance and make your skin look youthful. Thanks to their antioxidant properties, PHAs can help prevent free radical damage to skin cells and collagen caused by UV rays and pollution. The result is that anyone can achieve youthful-looking, healthy skin.

Combining PHAs With Other Ingredients

You’ll love the fact that PHAs are the most versatile of acids. They combine beautifully with other ingredients such as retinoids for acne treatment and photoaging. Furthermore, they’re found in many different product types, such as toners, masks, moisturisers or liquid exfoliants.

These acids can also be used in conjunction with some aesthetic procedures to boost the effectiveness of the treatments. For instance, your aesthetician may recommend using a PHA product after microdermabrasion or laser treatment.

Common examples of PHAs are gluconolactone, galactose and lactobionic acid. These ingredients can also be combined with BHAs, AHAs, or both. You can choose a product that combines these acids or just settle with PHAs alone if your skin can’t tolerate it. However, you don’t want to use different chemical exfoliants together.


No matter what formula you choose, it’s always best to first test it out on your forearm before applying it to your face. Take the reaction of your skin as a steer, and make sure you don’t overdo it. Once you find it’s right for you, your skin will reap the long-lasting benefits!

Book your complimentary appointment with Vinci Aesthetics to learn more about PHAs and other ingredients. Our skincare specialists can tailor a skincare routine designed around your unique requirements, as well as recommending anti-ageing treatments and procedures. Get in touch today!


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