When it comes to skin regeneration, you must remember to add acids into your regime. And there are two main chemical exfoliants you should know about — AHAs and BHAs. For the longest time, our shelves were filled with them — from face washes (we are partial to the Murad one!) to well-known ones like our fave, Paula’s choice BHA. Now, a new acid has entered the picture. What are PHAs? How are they different from AHAs and BHAs?

When it comes to chemical exfoliants, we are all new to their benefits and ways to use them. This extensive guide was created to help you with that. But the numerous ways they take care of our skin makes them inevitable to our routines. Their main job is to exfoliate, remove layers of dead cells, contain excess oil and make sure blemished and scarred skin gets respite and infuses a bit of brightness to our skin. 

what are PHAs
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What are AHAs and BHAs?

Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) are gentle on the skin, great for sensitive, acne-prone skin, and they help with the skin’s texture and collagen. If you have pigmented skin and rough texture and uneven skin tone, these are your best bet. Beta Hydroxy Acids (BHAs), on the other hand, help unclog the pores and are great for oily-skinned people because they maintain the oil and sebum levels. They are great for acne-prone skin and help with whiteheads or blackheads.

Poly Hydroxy Acids (PHAs), what are they?

“PHAs are Poly Hydroxy Acids. They are a variation of Alpha Hydroxy Acids that are also hydrating and less irritating because they are larger, so they don’t penetrate as deeply as glycolic acid. They are also humectants, so they bind water and help reduce inflammation. Further, they help prevent ageing and help with skin’s collagen. Use every other day and build up to daily for the best effects. They exfoliate as well and brighten,” explains Dr Kiran Sethi of Isyaderm.

PHAs are new, and there are very few products that are harnessing their power right now. And it’s possible that in the future, this acid will gain more prominence. PHAs come with larger molecules than AHAs, which means they are great for acne-prone, sensitive skin that is dull and needs constant care. They’re mild and gentle on the skin. They are not as strong as the other acids, so they work only on the surface and are gentler. They are the gentlest exfoliants to use, with no irritation and maximum benefits.

Benefits of PHAs?

“PHA’s are useful for those who have sensitive skin such as rosacea or eczema as they have larger molecular structures compared to Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs). It means they penetrate the skin at a slower rate. They are gentle exfoliants. PHAs can provide visible improvements in sun-damaged skin. Use them to deal with dead skin, blackheads, acne scars, redness, uneven skin tone, and dullness. They fight clogged pores, maintain the moisture level of the skin and exfoliate gently. They help in reducing the look of fine lines and smoothen the skin. Some of the popular PHAs would be Gluconolactone, Galactose, Maltobionic acid and Lactobionic acid,” explains Dr Mike Singh of Bodycraft Skin Clinic.

Glow Recipe Watermelon Glow PHA + BHA Pore-Tight Toner, Rs 1,200 (approx.)

what are PHAs

Glow Recipe is always known for its stunning products and this alcohol-free Watermelon Glow PHA + BHA Pore-Tight Toner shrinks your pores, buffs away dead skin cells and gives you even-toned smooth skin.

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Available on Cult Beauty 

Rejusure Aha 25% + Pha 5% + Bha 2% Facial Peeling Solution, Rs 649

what are PHAs

A new label, we see PHA is at 5% here. It uses all three of the exfoliating acids and manages to give you a glow and brightness in one go. Tackling uneven skin tone, rough skin texture and dullness – PHA here helps hydrate and exfoliate gently. They even have a toner with PHA – interesting!

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Available on Nykaa

The Inkey List PHA, Rs 1,000 (approx.)

what are PHAs

Perfect for dull, congested and dull skin at an affordable price point, this exfoliator is gentle and deeply nourishing. It helps unclog pores and clear dead skin cells.

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Available on Cult Beauty 

Minimalist AHA 25% + PHA 5% + BHA 2% Peeling Solution, Rs 699

what are PHAs

Perhaps the most popular product in the roster, Minimalist also has a peeling solution targeted at Indian skin with hyperpigmentation. PHA is the gentle exfoliator here, and it acts as a moisturiser. And Gluconolactone (the PHA used in this formula) gives you 50% protection against UV radiation, too.

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Available at Minimalist

Dot & Key PHA + Bakuchiol Daily Peel Resurfacing Milk Serum, Rs 995

A unique formula already – but this time with Bakuchiol, which means this is a gentle formula that suits everyone. It’s lightweight and exfoliates beautifully and comes with humectants that help with ageing.

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Available on Nykaa

Latha Sunadh
Deputy Editor
When she's not trying on a new serum, researching on yet another classic fragrance and sharing lip balms with her 5-year old daughter, Latha Sunadh keeps it reined in with a nice song and a good book. Special skills include obsessing over handmade, home-made and handcrafted luxuries.
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