PHAs are the next generation of Hydroxy Acids in skin care, much gentler but just as effective. PHAs are chemical exfoliants, moisturisers and antioxidants.
What are Hydroxy Acids, you say ? Heard of AHAs and BHAs ? These chemical exfoliants are used to treat acne, wrinkles, discolourations, and to give the skin a glow. Even if you have never heard of them, chances are your anti-aging or acne product contains Hydroxy Acids. The well-known aspirin face mask is actually a BHA.
What's the big deal about PHAs ?
PHA are as effective as AHAs and BHAs, but gentler: they can be used for all types of skin, also if you have fragile capillaries, psoriasis and other skin problems.
PHAs not cause UV sensitivity. So they can be used even in the summer, and without a strict sunscreen regimen.
PHAs are supposed to not penetrate the skin as deep as AHAs or BHAs, and this makes them safer: for example the PHA Gluconolactone gets a score on 1 on Skin Deep.
For whom are PHAs ?
- Sensitive skin, dry, photoaging, problems with capillaries, atopic dermatitis, acne.
- For those that don tolerate AHAs (or just want something gentler)
- For those who want to try acids in the summer, but are not too disciplined about using sunscreen.
What do PHAs do ?
- They loosen the top layer of dead skin cells, leaving the skin smoother. This helps with discolourations and small acne scars. (I explained chemical exfoliation here).
- At the same time they are supposed to stimulate the production of collagen and elastin, so they help to keep the skin thick and fight wrinkles. They strengthen the lipid barrier of the skin.
- PHAs help the products that are used after it to penetrate the skin better.
- They moisturise, and help to smooth away fine lines.
- They calm flareups, and help with healing of acne, rosacea, dermatitis, psoriasis and melasma.
- PHAs help with broadened capillaries, making them smaller.
I never tried AHAs because of stuff like this. I did the aspirin mask a couple of times, but then felt really bad after exposing my face to sunlight (I haven´t found a sunscreen that I like yet). Also, I try to avoid anything that might irritate my fragile capillaries and give me more redness on my skin. When I read about other people´s successes with acids, I felt a bit like I was missing out. So when I read about PHAs, I was all "finally something for me !"
I have used this diy PHA toner since a few weeks. It's only 6% PHA, so it's pretty gentle. It's meant to be used every 2 days, at night. The ingredients are Rose Water, Gluconolactone, Urea (moisturiser), Lactic Acid (conserves the Urea) and Licorice Extract.
6% is pretty low acid content, so I wasn´t expecting dramatic results. My skin tone has evened out -- less discoloration from the sun and redness caused by broken capillaries. It causes my skin to go slightly pink, but doesn´t pinch like a typical acid would. It´s also lightly moisturising. I´m pretty satisfied, and looking forward to trying out higher concentrations of PHA.
PHAs need to be at minimum 5% strength and the pH of 3-4. If you get hold of a PHA, you can mix it with Rose water (it has the right pH). The other ingredients of the toner I am using are nice extras, but not necessary. Try searching in the online diy-cosmetic stores for Polyhydroxy Acids (also search for names like Lactobionic acid, Galactose, Gluconic acid, Maltobionic acid, Gluconolactone)
Neostrata is the brand that has created the PHAs (I think ?) Anyway, they seem to be the only brand on the market with skin care products with PHAs.
I´m hoping that PHAs will get more popular and that a lot of products with them will be available soon.