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PHA Ingredient Spotlight

Writer and expert2 years ago
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When deciding how to eliminate dead skin cells, you usually have two choices: Alpha-hydroxy acid (AHA) and beta-hydroxy Acid (BHA). But there is a third type of chemical exfoliating acid that has become increasingly popular in skincare products, and that’s poly-hydroxy acid, better known as PHA.

What is a PHA?

Like AHA and BHA, PHA is a chemical exfoliating agent that sloughs off dead skin cells. Removing the dead cell build-up brightens skin, smooths fine lines and rough texture and helps skincare ingredients penetrate into the skin to do their jobs. (Think of the layer of dead skin cells as a messy desk—once the clutter is cleared away, work can actually get done.) BHAs remove excess oil in the pores along with old skin cells, making them effective for acne-prone skin, while AHAs and PHAs are known for their impressive skin refreshing benefits.

The primary difference between AHAs and PHAs boils down to their molecular structure: PHAs contain significantly larger molecules than AHAs. Their molecules are too big and bulky to burrow deep within the skin, so PHAs only work superficially, on the skin’s surface. This makes PHAs gentler and less irritating than other types of exfoliating acids, and a smart choice for people dealing with dry or sensitive skin. The primary benefit of AHA for skin is that it contains very small molecules. The molecules’ diminutive size allows them to sink in and work their exfoliating magic. This makes them potentially more effective for resurfacing, but also potentially more irritating (if you have sensitive skin).

In addition to being non-irritating, PHAs work as humectants, meaning they attract water to the skin—and trap it there—to boost skin hydration. PHAs are also chock full of anti-inflammatory, antioxidant properties and prevent glycation (a process that weakens collagen and elastin—the substances that make skin stay firm). Unlike their AHA cousins, PHAs do not increase sun sensitivity, which can result in skin damage. What’s more, PHAs neutralize any extra iron hanging around in your skin, which is important because excess iron can affect certain proteins that speed up the skin aging process.

The different types of PHAs

The most famous PHAs are gluconolactone and lactobionic acid. Gluconolactone is a sugar acid that is especially good at combating glycation. Lactobionic acid is derived from milk, and is usually a liquid exfoliator. While gluconolactone edges out lactobionic acid when it comes to glycation, lactobionic acid is a slightly better humectant than gluconolactone. There is a third, lesser known, type of PHA called galactose acid; it’s very similar to the other two PHAs, but its claim to fame is that it may help the skin heal faster.

While PHAs are capable exfoliators in their own right, they tend to be even more effective when paired with AHAs and other important skin rejuvenating ingredients in skincare products—like they are in Perricone MD’s new brightening peel treatment. Together, they offer more immediate results than when PHAs are used alone.

The perks of Perricone MD’s AHA / PHA Super Blend

Perricone MD’s AHA / PHA Super Blend, which is found in the new Vitamin C Ester Daily Brightening & Exfoliating Peel, offers the best of both worlds. The PHA gluconolactone exfoliates skin’s surface cells, nurtures the skin and prevents irritation, while glycolic acid penetrates more effectively. This powerful blend contains an AHA combination of glycolic acid and five fruit-derived extracts (bilberry, sugarcane, orange, lemon and sugar maple extracts). The PHA part of the blend comes in the form of gluconolactone (as mentioned above, that’s the PHA that is especially helpful in combating glycation). Together, the AHAs and PHAs offer multi-action resurfacing that makes skin glow, evens out rough skin texture and reduces the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.

AHAs and PHAs play nice with others, so they can be safely and effectively combined with important skin care ingredients in multi-tasking products. The new Perricone MD Vitamin C Ester Daily Brightening & Exfoliating Peel teams up the potent AHA / PHA Super Blend with ingredients like Vitamin C Ester and ferulic acid. Perricone MD’s Vitamin C Ester is a potent and highly stable (and less irritating) form of the powerhouse antioxidant vitamin C. It helps smooth, brighten and minimize the appearance of dark spots over time. Ferulic acid is a natural substance found in the seeds and leaves of plants. It’s actually more of an antioxidant than an acid, meaning that it fights the free radicals (nasty molecules with unpaired electrons swarming around in the atmosphere) that cause fine lines, wrinkles, dark spots and other forms of skin damage. Ferulic acid also has the added benefit of helping to stabilize vitamin C, and it boosts the effectiveness of other antioxidants. This is why we’ve paired these two ingredients together in the new vitamin C exfoliator.

While peels and chemical acids may sound intense, the Vitamin C Ester Daily Brightening & Exfoliating Peel is actually a fast and gentle way to pamper and refresh your skin. It works, in part, because of the unsung hero of exfoliating acids, poly-hydroxy acid.

Writer and expert
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