Exfoliation - PHA

Neostrata found and patented some less irritating hydroxyacids, polyhydroxy acids and polyhyroxy bionic acids. These hydroxyacids are generally referred to as PHAs. As is mentioned in Aged Skin Is Less Acidic – Hydroxyacids Can Help, PHAs include gluconolactone, glucoheptonolactone, lactobionic acid, and maltobionic acid.

Compared with AHAs, PHAs can more effectively attract and bind water. Lactobionic acid and maltobionic acid, in particular, can form a clear gel matrix which can retain water. In addition, PHAs are antioxidants, providing anti-aging benefits. Most interestingly, an in vitro study even demonstrated that gluconolactone provided up to 50% protection against UV radiation and did not significantly increase sunburn cells. Although further research is required, PHAs seem to be very promising skin care ingredients.

Comparisons between the skin improvements by AHAs and PHAs are rare. The only one I found was conducted by Neostrata, the company that sells PHA products. According to their 12-week clinical study, AHAs showed greater improvements for sallowness and pinch recoil. Otherwise, PHAs could provide comparable improvements with subjects experiencing less stinging and burning feelings.

Neostrata and its related brands (Exuviance, Coverblend, Neoceuticals and Neostrata Therapeutics) are the only ones that sell products containing PHAs for exfoliation (other products containing PHAs are not formulated to exfoliate) and they are relatively more expensive than AHA products available. So if you are comfortable with AHAs, there is no need to switch to PHA products. PHAs do have an advantage over AHAs in terms of the compatibility with clinically sensitive skin, including skin with rosacea, atopic dermatitis, or after cosmetic procedures. If you cannot tolerate AHAs, then PHAs can be good options.

Update: I did find other brands that have effective PHA exfoliation products as well. Please see all effective PHA exfoliation products in 18 Best PHA Products For Less Irritating Exfoliation.

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