A Guide to PHAs (Polyhydroxy Acids) in Skincare

If you are into skincare, then you must have heard about chemical exfoliants AHAs or BHAs or probably must have used one in your routine. PHAs, relatively a new acid to take over ingredients lists and the feeds of the beauty world, are trending in skincare right now. As much as the skincare community is overwhelmed with the products containing AHA and BHA, some of you, especially those with sensitive skin, might relate to the irritation that they may cause. That's when PHA comes into the picture. PHAs fall under the AHA family, but unlike AHA, they are gentler and work only on the skin's surface.

Let's find out what is PHA and how they differ from their alpha hydroxy acids and beta hydroxy acids.

What are polyhydroxy acids? or PHA?

Polyhydroxy acids — aka PHAs, are chemical exfoliant just like other hydroxy acids AHA and BHA, but it is the most gentle of them all. PHAs help to slough away dead skin cells and boost skin cell regeneration. Which helps reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles also. Similar to AHAs, PHAs work by exfoliating dead skin cells on the skin's surface, resulting in a more even skin tone and texture. They're also rich in antioxidants and help in skin repair. Although AHAs and BHAs are fantastic and have many benefits for the skin, they can be harsh and cause skin irritation. The most common PHAs are Gluconolactone, Galactose, and Lactobionic acid.

PHA 101: The most gentle and trending skincare exfoliant

Great for sensitive skin

As compared to other actives and exfoliants PHAs are a lot gentler on the skin because they have a larger molecule size. Thus they take a little longer to sink deep into the skin.


If you have sensitive skin, you'll probably want to consider PHA as it is a gentle exfoliator, and doesn't cause any stinging or skin irritation.

Keeps skin hydrated

PHAs moisturize and help repair the skin barrier


Although PHA is a chemical exfoliant, it gently works its way up to remove the dead skin cells, without causing any skin irritation


PHA will not only smooth your skin, and even out the skin tone. Being an antioxidant will also give anti-aging benefits

How are PHAs different from AHAs and BHAs?


Scientifically talking, the difference lies within their molecular structure. The molecules of PHAs are larger, and therefore PHAs cannot penetrate as deeply as their counterparts AHAs and BHAs. They work mainly on the surface of the skin. But they cause less irritation, hence making an excellent option for sensitive skin which cannot tolerate stronger acids.

Are PHAs good for the skin?

Although PHAs are mild and thus, are suitable for all skin types. However, to know if PHA is good for your skin or not, you must know your skin type and your skin concerns. AHAs like glycolic acid and lactic acid works amazingly well for normal to dry skin types with acne, lifts off dead skin cells, and hyperpigmentation. AHAs penetrate deeper into the skin; they may cause some irritation. While BHAs like salicylic acid are anti-inflammatory and more suitable for oily skin types. Since BHAs are lipid-soluble, they go right into the pores and shed away the dead skin cells, blackheads, and whiteheads.

Who should use PHAs? Are PHAs suitable for my skin?

Although AHAs and BHAs have excellent skin benefits and all three help reverse sun damage, dark spots, hyperpigmentation, reduce the appearance of wrinkles, and make skin smooth and improve its texture. However, PHAs may be less likely to irritate the skin.

If you find other chemical exfoliants a little strong for your skin, then a PHA product is a good option for mild exfoliation to keep the skin healthy and glowing. PHAs are also known to keep your skin hydrated and thus make a good fit for dry skin. PHAs are also considered safe enough to use for even those with skin conditions like eczema and rosacea.

Can we use PHA, BHA and AHA together?

There is no thumb rule for mixing acids one with the other. It is not uncommon to see products formulated with AHA and BHA and PHA together? So, yes! It can be done. However, you don't want to overdo it as it can cause irritation and damage your skin barrier. It may come out as stronger as you may not have expected. So we recommend taking things slow instead.

Where should you use them in your routine?

PHAs can be in all skincare products, such as cleansers, toners, essences, and moisturisers. The Juice to Cleanse Vinegar Kombucha Essence, for example, contains Lactobionic Acid, which gently exfoliates and nourishes skin, can be used after a toner. So you can add it to your skincare routine depending on the product you are using. Since PHAs are milder than AHAs and BHAs and do not cause skin irritation, you can use them every day, with sunscreen on the go during the daytime, no exception.

Final word

PHAs can be a good choice, especially if you have sensitive or dry skin and looking for regular mild exfoliation to keep your skin healthy and clean.

+Have you tried any product that contains PHAs? How has your experience been with it? Let us know in the comments below!


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