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What is PHA: Guide to Chemical Exfoliants

What is PHA: Guide to Chemical Exfoliants

In the ever-evolving world of skin care, the quest for gentle yet effective exfoliation has led to the discovery of a remarkable class of compounds known as Polyhydroxy Acids (PHA). As we strive to maintain a healthy and radiant complexion, understanding the unique properties and benefits of PHA can be a game-changer for our skin care routines.

In our comprehensive guide, we'll get into the science behind PHA, explore its advantages, and share tips on how to incorporate this gentle exfoliant into your daily regimen.

What is PHA in Skin Care? 

Polyhydroxy Acids (PHA) are a group of alpha-hydroxy acids (AHA) derived from natural sources like gluconic acid and lactobionic acid. These compounds possess a larger molecular structure compared to other AHAs like glycolic acid, which gives them unique properties when it comes to skin care. [1] PHAs are known for their gentle yet effective exfoliating abilities, making them an attractive option for those with sensitive skin.

Should you exfoliate every day? While exfoliation is an essential part of a healthy skin care routine, over-exfoliation can compromise the skin's protective barrier and lead to irritation. It's generally recommended to exfoliate 1-3 times per week, depending on your skin type and the products you're using.

The Science Behind PHA: Benefits and Advantages

PHA's unique chemical structure and properties offer a multitude of benefits that set it apart from other exfoliating agents. By understanding the science behind these gentle yet effective acids, you'll gain a deeper appreciation for their skin-enhancing capabilities. Let's explore the key advantages that make PHA a standout choice for achieving a radiant, healthy complexion.

Skin-Friendly Nature of PHA 

One of the primary advantages of PHA is its skin-friendly nature. Unlike some traditional chemical exfoliants, PHA molecules are larger, which means they penetrate the skin's surface more gradually. This gentle approach minimizes the risk of irritation and makes PHA an excellent choice for individuals with sensitive skin or those who are not sure how to use chemical exfoliation. [2]

Hydration and Anti-Aging Properties 

Beyond its exfoliating capabilities, PHA offers additional benefits for overall skin health. These exfoliating acids have been shown to improve skin hydration by enhancing the production of natural moisturizing factors. [3] Furthermore, PHA can stimulate collagen synthesis, helping to reduce the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles, providing a more youthful and radiant complexion. 

PHA vs. AHA and BHA 

While PHA shares some similarities with other popular chemical exfoliants like alpha hydroxy acids (AHA) and beta hydroxy acids (BHA), there are notable differences in their mechanisms of action and effects on the skin. AHAs, such as glycolic acid and lactic acid, are known for their potent exfoliating properties but can be more irritating, especially for those with sensitive skin. BHAs, like salicylic acid, are particularly effective in treating acne and unclogging pores but can be drying for some skin types.

PHA, on the other hand, offers a gentle yet effective approach to exfoliation, making it an excellent choice for those seeking a more skin-friendly alternative. It can help slough off dead skin cells without causing excessive dryness or irritation.

Incorporating PHA into Your Skin Care Routine

When you start to incorporate PHAs into a regimen, you should follow some guidelines to ensure optimal results and prevent any potential adverse reactions.

  1. Start slowly: If you're new to chemical exfoliation, begin with a low concentration of PHA and gradually increase as your skin becomes accustomed.
  2. Patch test: Before applying a new PHA product all over your face, perform a patch test to check for any allergic reactions or sensitivities.
  3. Avoid over-exfoliation: Signs of over-exfoliation include redness, peeling, and excessive dryness. If you experience these, reduce the frequency of PHA usage or take a break until your skin barrier recovers.
  4. Use sunscreen: Chemical exfoliants like PHA can increase your skin's sensitivity to the sun, so it's crucial to wear a broad-spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher when using PHA products.

At Rael, we offer a range of PHA-based skin care products tailored to different skin concerns and skin types. Our Miracle Clear Lines includes a liquid exfoliator, a hyaluronic acid-infused serum, and a ceramide moisturizer that harnesses the benefits of PHA to address issues like acne, dullness, and uneven skin tone.

Embrace Gentle Exfoliation with Rael 

Experience the transformative power of PHA and embrace a gentle yet effective approach to exfoliation. At Rael, we prioritize clean and effective ingredients, ensuring that our clean skin care products deliver visible results without compromising your skin health. Explore our innovative PHA-based skin care products and embark on a journey towards a radiant, healthy complexion that glows from within. 


  1. Babuna E. The road to healthy skin: Gentle exfoliants. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology. 2019;80(6):e157-e159. Accessed on May 30, 2024.
  2. Polak D, Žmitek K, Shen J, et al. Regulation of Inflammatory Response by Polyhydroxy Acids and Their Derivatives: Potential for Skin Protection. Pharmaceuticals (Basel). 2021;14(4):328. doi:10.3390/ph14040328. Accessed on May 30, 2024.
  3. Sharad J. Glycolic Acid Peel Therapy - A Current Review. Clinical, Cosmetic and Investigational Dermatology. 2013;6:281-288. doi:10.2147/CCID.S34029. Accessed on May 30, 2024.

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