If you’re into skin care, chances are you’ve already tried to incorporate some kind of chemical exfoliator into your routine. Think glycolic, salicylic, lactic — these fall under the alpha hydroxy acid and beta hydroxy acid umbrella and are ideal for sloughing off dead skin cells, fighting breakouts, reducing signs of aging, and smoothing texture uneven. However, these are potent ingredients that have the potential to disturb your skin barrier – especially if you have sensitive skin – and lead to unwanted irritation (especially during the winter months). already dry). So, what other options are there if you want the benefits of chemical exfoliants without wreaking havoc on your skin? We can introduce you to the third and newest hydroxy acid (HA), polyhydroxy acid (PHA).

What is PHA?

You may be wondering, if HA can be harmful to people with sensitive skin or especially dry skin in the winter, then what makes PHAs different? First, let’s review what AHAs and BHAs do. BHAs, or beta-hydroxy acids (like your salicylic acid), are ideal for clearing acne-causing debris, pollution, and excess sebum from pores. That’s why they are recommended for those who suffer from acne or large pores. On the other hand, AHAs, or alpha-hydroxy acids, penetrate the outermost layers of the skin, removing the oldest dead cells to reveal brighter skin underneath. Glycolic acid and lactic acid are the gold standard of skin care, but this group also includes malic, tartaric, citric, and mandelic acids.

The third group, PHAs (most commonly galactose, lactobionic acid, and gluconolactone), can be considered a less potent version of the AHA. Prefix a lot of mean a lot of, and PHAs are essentially the same as AHAs but with more molecules in their chemical structure. This is important for how these molecules interact with the skin. “Think of a PHA as a nail, while an AHA is a nail,” says Dr. Joshua Zeichner, board-certified dermatologist and director of cosmetic and clinical research in dermatology at Mount Sinai Hospital. a single nail. “A nail in the skin can cause trauma, [whereas with a bed of nails] The pressure is distributed between the entire bed, so it’s much softer. Because of its large size, the PHA is an effective yet gentle exfoliant.”

That larger molecular size also means that PHAs can’t penetrate as deeply into the skin, resulting in less exfoliation than AHAs (and thus less potential for irritation on sensitive skin). In fact, according to a 2004 clinical trial that examined skin sensitivity to PHAs compared with AHAs, “subjects self-assessment and irritation classification showed that the PHA regimen was better tolerated than the AHA regimen.” AHA. For subjects in the AHA treatment group, stinging and burning were significantly worse, and sensitivity was also assessed to be worse for the AHA regimen. ”

Benefits of PH

Other than what the industry refers to as gentle giant Belonging to the hydroxy acid family, PHA is also very good at moisturizing the skin. According to a 2004 review, “PHAs provide additional moisturizing and moisturizing properties compared to AHAs and may enhance stratum corneum barrier function, thereby increasing the skin’s resistance to chemical challenges.” .” This is because PHAs can attract and bind to large amounts of water in the air and deliver that water to our skin.

Additionally, Dr. Dendy Engelman, board-certified dermatologist at the Shafer Clinic, points out, “PHAs have natural antioxidant properties and are great at neutralizing the harmful effects of free radicals. caused by environmental pollutants and/or UV radiation,” a big plus for those of us who live in cities or who lead an active, outdoor lifestyle. . However, their main claim to fame remains their ability to gently remove dead skin cells, reduce the appearance of wrinkles, reduce post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation, smooth texture, and increase radiance. .

Who can use them, and when?

With chemical ingredients and gentle exfoliating effects, almost anyone can use PHA for brighter, clearer and younger-looking skin. According to the aforementioned 2004 review, “PHAs have been found to be compatible with clinically sensitive skin, including rosacea and atopic dermatitis.” [(eczema)], and can be used after cosmetic procedures. Furthermore, this hydroxy acid can be beneficial for those with sensitive, acne-prone skin, helping to clear breakouts and remove buildup without aggravating your skin. Even if you use an AHA-containing toner during spring, summer, and fall, swapping for a milder PHA might be wise in the winter, when dryness and irritation are more common.

As with any type of exfoliating or regenerating ingredient, it’s best to take a low and slow approach when incorporating PHAs into your routine. After determining if this product is right for your skin by testing the patch for 24 hours, we recommend starting with a PHA product three times a week. You can use PHA products in the morning or at night, but we recommend starting with the night to avoid any unnecessary inflammation from sun exposure. After about a week you can increase your usage to every other day and after two weeks you can definitely use the PHA daily if you feel your skin needs it.

While PHAs are moisturizing by nature, we always recommend following this scrub with your favorite moisturizer. And as always, there is no effective cleansing or anti-aging regimen without proper sun protection, especially *for exfoliated skin, so make sure to apply it. your favorite SPF sunscreen in the morning and reapply every two hours.

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