What Are AHAs, BHAs And PHAs In Skincare?


What Are PHAs In Skincare?

There’s a new complexion-perfecting acid on the block for 2018 and it’s a must-have for those with sensitive skin.

PHAs (AKA Polyhydroxy Acids) are very similar to traditional alpha hydroxy acids, because both work by breaking down the ‘glue’ that binds dull, dead cells to the surface of the skin,’ explains Daniel Issacs, Head of Formulation and Development at Medik8.

So what sets PHAs apart?

‘Their difference lies within their molecular structure,’ explains Daniel. ‘The molecules that make up PHAs are much larger in size, which means they cannot penetrate skin as deeply as traditional AHAs and BHAs. Instead, they work exclusively on the skin’s surface without disturbing the delicate layers that lie beneath. This ensures optimum skin renewal with minimal irritation.’

They’re especially beneficial for those who find other acids too strong. ‘Even very sensitive skin types can harness the resurfacing powers of PHAs,’ says Daniel. ‘In clinical studies, they have been proven to be compatible with dry, itchy skin conditions such as eczema and atopic rosacea.’

Glossier Solution Exfoliating Skin Perfector


– Glossier Solution, £19

With a mega-mix of AHAs, BHAs and PHAs, the newest addition to Glossier’s skincare line promises clearer, more radiant skin – and boy, does it deliver. We’ll take two more bottles, please.

– Medik8 White Balance Click Oxy-R, £59

PHA Glyconolctone is the star ingredient in this non-sticky serum. If spots leave you with stubborn, red, under-the-skin blemishes, you need it pronto.

– Zelens PHA+ Bio-Peel Resurfacing Facial Pads, £65

PHAs in Zelens’ handy pads shed dull skin cells, stimulate collagen for skin that is plump and pillowy (see ya, fine lines) and minimise enlarged pores. If you find Glycolic Acid irritating, stockpile them.

Zelens PHA+ Mirco-Peel Pads


Remember To Always Apply An SPF When Using Acids

Whatever percentage, acids have a tendency to make skin sensitive to things like UVA, so slathering on the SPF during the day is paramount to keeping your glow.

‘SPF is important if treatments are being applied to the skin that are causing exfoliation e.g. AHAs, BHAs,’ says Dr. Anjali. ‘The skin is more vulnerable to damage and pigmentation change following these types of treatments and pigmentation can potentially get worse if SPF is not applied.’


– Heliocare Advanced SPF 50 Gel, £19

Beloved by dermatologists all over the globe, this SPF is non-comedogenic, which means it won’t cause any blockages.

– NIOD Survival 30, £25

This serves up mineral-only UVA and UVB protection and won’t make your serum, moisturiser or foundation pill. Instead, it sits comfortably on the skin all day.

NIOD Survival 30 Mineral SPF

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