What are AHA BHA PHA?
AHA BHA PHA refers to the three hydroxy acids that are found
in various substances in nature, namely Alpha Hydroxy acids, Beta Hydroxy
acids, and Poly Hydroxy acids.
Mainly the Hydroxy Acids are used for exfoliating
skin (the process of removing dead skin cells from the surface of the skin),
for reducing pigmentation, for slowing down the aging of the skin and for
getting rid of excess oil.
Each of the acids has its own unique property,
allowing it to be used for specific purposes or skin types. For instance, some
are good for oily skin while others are for dry skin. And some acids are
suitable options for sensitive skins that could react to skincare
Read on and learn more about the properties and
benefits of each of the hydroxy acids.
How can AHA (Alpha Hydroxy Acids) benefit
Alpha Hydroxy Acids are generally used for
exfoliation, as they help break down the bonds between skin cells (the fancy
word for it is desmosome) to allow them to be cleaned easily.
Since the dead skin cells make the texture of your
skin appear rough and increase the likelihood of fine lines and wrinkles. On
the other hand, exfoliating your skin smoothens it and can actually brighten it
And this is a form of chemical exfoliation, which
is gentler than physical exfoliation that could damage the living skin cells.
However, you should still take care of the concentration of AHA
The Alpha Hydroxy Acids are hydrophilic, which
means they are attracted to water. This allows them to lock in moisture onto
your skin when you apply them. This makes AHA a suitable option for dry skin.
Since AHA can smoothen the skin and reduce fine
lines and wrinkles, they are perfect for people with aging skin. Even some
young people could have prematurely aged skin, so this would help
Of all the AHAs, Glycolic acid, derived from
sugars, and lactic acid, derived from milk, are the champion ingredients when
it comes to skincare. Not only is glycolic acid good for exfoliation, but it is
also good at controlling the production of sebum, which makes it suitable for
oily or acne-prone skin. Lactic acid, on the other hand, has nice hydrating
properties, making it perfect as a skin moisturizer. It also has anti-microbial
properties that make it suitable for the treatment of acne and pimples.
Citric acid is also an AHA derived from citric
fruits such as lemons, oranges, etc., that has anti-aging properties and can
brighten your skin.
Then you have mandelic acid derived from bitter
almonds that is gentle on sensitive skin with its anti-inflammatory properties.
Some more AHAs include malic acid derived from
apples that hydrate the skin and promote tissue respiration and tartaric acid
derived from grapes that have anti-oxidant properties.
How can BHA (Beta Hydroxy Acids) benefit your skin?
The most commonly used BHA is salicylic acid, which
is derived from willow tree bark, wintergreen oil, and sweet birch. Salicylic
acid is present in aspirin. If you have ever used aspirin to treat acne, you
now know the reason why.
Like the AHA, Beta Hydroxy Acids too are
exfoliators; however, they have a slightly different method of action and offer
some different benefits. BHA is able to penetrate the skin more deeply to
bestow its beneficial effects on it.
While AHA is hydrophilic, BHA is lipophilic, which
means it is attracted to oil. This makes it excellent for cleaning out excess
oil and sebum from the skin. The fact that it can penetrate deep into the skin means
you get a thorough cleaning of pores.
As you may have guessed by now, due to its
lipophilic properties BHA is suitable for those with oily skin, which is often
accompanied by acne.
Salicyclic acid, the predominant BHA, also
possesses anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it suitable for reducing
redness and irritation. Often these symptoms accompany acne, so all the more
reason for using this acid for the treatment of acne.
Also, it is anti-microbial. Since bacteria is the
main culprit behind acne, it should also help reduce it through this property
Moreover, some research findings reveal that
salicylic acid is photo protective as well, which means it can be used as a
sunscreen. This is actually a bonus benefit when it comes to skincare.
How can PHA (Poly Hydroxy Acids) benefit your skin?
All of the Hydroxy Acids help exfoliate the skin -
the Poly Hydroxy Acids aren’t an exception. The PHA is the latest addition to
the family of hydroxy acids that are used in skincare.
PHA is not much different from the AHA, in terms of
both the molecular structure and mechanism of action. Like the latter, it too
breaks down the bond between cells to help with exfoliation. And it also shares
the hydrating properties of AHA.
The only difference is that PHA has a larger
molecular size than AHA, this means it does not penetrate the skin as fast as
AHA. This leads to less irritation of the skin, if there is any.
This property of the PHA makes it suitable for
those with sensitive skin that could react to the products that contain AHA.
For instance, the PHA is a safe option for those with eczema or rosacea.
PHA also possesses anti-oxidant properties,
allowing it to slow down the aging of the skin. This and the fact that it can
reduce lines and wrinkles (similar action as AHA) make it suitable for those
with mature skin.
Some of the commonly used PHA include lactobionic
acid (derived from the lactose in milk), galactose (a simple sugar), and
gluconic acid (naturally found in cells).
are the risks of AHA and BHA?
Both AHA and
BHA are off-limits for people with certain skin types, say the dermatologists.
darker skin, sensitive skin, or rosacea should be very cautious when
using either product.
sensitive skin might experience irritation, redness, or flaky skin after using
either BHA or AHA.
are also a concern, so you should always test a small area of your skin or
consult with a dermatologist before using a product with AHA or BHA.
are allergic to salicylic acid, but allergies to AHAs are almost non-existent.
Why should you always wear SPF with AHAs?
Since AHAs are serious exfoliators, they will
thin out the top layer of your skin, making it more susceptible to sun damage.
On top of thinning out the top layer and making
your skin more sensitive to the sun, AHAs also remove pigment and decrease the
further production of pigment.
using AHAs, your ‘natural’ sun protection will be diminished.