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Polyhydroxy Acids

Polyhydroxy Acids

Why it's Dermoi

Polyhydroxy Acids are effective and next-generation skincare acids. They offer many of the same benefits as other hydroxy acids, such as exfoliation and improvements to skin tone, clarify, and texture, but are well tolerated by a variety of skin types.

They are a great alternative for sensitive and rosacea-prone skin types and can be used around the eye area. In addition, in-vitro study shows no increase in sunburn when cells are treated with PHA and exposed to UVB radiation, unlike with other hydroxy acids.

PHAs provide additional hydrating and antioxidant benefits in skincare formulations, making them a truly multitasking active.


Polyhydroxy Acids (PHAs) are a class of skincare acids that are often thought of as a next generation hydroxy acid. This is because they function in a similar way to other hydroxy acids (AHAs and BHAs) as they exfoliate the skin but have additional benefits.

Exfoliation is a powerful step in any skincare regime as it releases dead skin cells on the surface of the skin that contribute to dullness, acne, and clogged pores. PHAs exfoliate the skin, just like other hydroxy acids, by interfering the bonds that hold dead skin cells to the surface of the skin (desmosomes). By breaking apart desmosomes, skin cells are released from each other and from the outer layer of the skin.

PHAs have a variety of additional benefits. Firstly, they are non-irritating, making them an excellent alternative for those who find alpha-hydroxy acids too harsh, or have sensitive skin or rosacea. PHAs will not cause the redness, stinging, or burning sensations commonly seen with the use of AHAs. Because of this, PHAs can also be used around the eye area.

PHAs also act as humectants. This means they have the ability to draw water into the skin and increase skin hydration levels. Lastly, PHAs can have antioxidant properties. This defends the skin against environmental oxidative stress that leads to inflammation and premature aging.

An extremely common PHA in skincare formulations is gluconolactone. Gluconolactone gently exfoliates the skin, providing textural improvement and increased clarity, but can also strengthen skin barrier function, provide antioxidant benefits, and additional hydration.


1. Green B, Yu R, Van Scott E. Clinical and Cosmeceutical Uses of Hydroxyacids. Clinics in Dermatology. 2009;27(5):495-501.4
2. Bowes L. The Science of Hydroxy Acids: Mechanisms of Action, Types and Cosmetic Applications. Journal of Aesthetic Nursing. 2013;2(2):77-81.

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