Active Ingredients: PHA

Tiffany Ong Beauty Expert
Active Ingredients: PHA

Another chemical exfoliant to add to your list!

We all know the hype and craze around AHAs and BHAs but there’s another hydroxy acid that’s making its mark in the skincare realm. Say hello to PHA. I know it might seem unnecessary to add another acid to the already long list and having to wrap your head around another ingredient when you’ve just started to make sense of the difference between AHAs and BHAs. But not fret, it’s not as hard as it seems.

Confused between AHAs and BHAs, here’s everything you need to know!

PHA stands for Poly-hydroxy acid actually falls under the AHA family tree and its benefits are almost exactly identical to AHAs compared to BHAs. The main difference is that PHAs have a larger molecular size making them less potent than AHAs. This means that it is much more suitable for sensitive, compromised skin or anyone whose skin can’t tolerate AHAs/BHAs well as it doesn’t penetrate the skin too deeply and works mainly on the surface layers of the skin.

There are 3 types of PHAs;

  • Lactobionic acid
  • Gluconolactone
  • Galactose

If you are new to chemical exfoliating, take a read at our Chemical Exfoliating 101 guide.



Extremely gentle

  • PHAs are extremely gentle on the skin due to their larger molecular size. This makes them highly tolerable and suitable for very sensitive skin or those with chronic skin conditions like rosacea and eczema.
  • PHAs also do not cause the skin to be more sensitive to sun damage like AHAs/BHAs. 

Removes dead skin cells

  • PHAs benefits the skin just like AHAs, just at a slower rate. They help “deglue” the dead skin from the skin’s surface, contributing to quicker cell renewal and brighter skin.

 Evens out the skin

  • PHAs can also smooth out the skin’s complexion and texture of any pigmentation and roughness.

Hydrates the skin

  • PHAs are humectants meaning they attract moisture from the environment and retains the moisture in the skin.  

Antioxidant protection

  • PHAs acts as antioxidants that protect the skin from free radicals and environmental stressors, great for anti-aging.
  • The antioxidant properties also prevent glycation, a process that weakens collagen and elastin in the skin.


What to note?

  • Unlike AHAs and BHAs, there isn’t any drawbacks to PHAs as the chances of experiencing a sensitive/allergic reaction is very slim.
  • If comparing the effects of AHAs to PHAs, the benefits of PHAs will appear at a slower rate as they are less potent.
  • Do conduct a patch test prior to application.


Products we recommend and where to find them

The INKEY List PHA Toner

the inkey list pha toner

Formulated with 3% PHA + 3% Niacinamide, this toner is perfect for those with sensitive skin, or those with sensitive + oily concerns as the niacinamide helps to reduce excess oil production. It also includes aloe barbadensis leaf juice with calms inflammation.


Benton PHA Peeling Toner

benton pha peeling toner

This peeling toner contains PHAs, Centaurea Cyanus flower water, chrysanthemum morifolium flower extract and ceramide NP that smooths and hydrates your skin by promoting gentle exfoliation.  



Low pH PHA Barrier Mist

cosrx low ph pha barrier mist

Just a few spritz of this will strengthen your skin’s protective barrier. Containing 98% Coconut water and 2% Gluconolactone (PHA), this mist works as a shield that maintains the skin’s pH levels and retains all the goodness from your skincare routine from evaporating.

AC Collection Calming Liquid Intensive

cosrx ac collection calming liquid

Not only acne-fighting, this toner can also soothe inflamed skin. It is enriched with green tea leaf water, tea tree lead oil, centella Asiatica, BHA and PHA. It helps to combat acne-causing bacteria whist clearing the skin of excess sebum.


Some By Mi AHA BHA PHA 30 Days Miracle

threebs some by mi aha bha pha

A miracle in a bottle for acne prone, oily, congested skin. Formulated with all 3 hydroxy acids, this range works to exfoliate the skin, contributing to fresher, brighter and clearer skin.


Commonlabs Vitamin C Glow Boosting Face Mask

commonlabs Vitamin C Glow Boosting Face Mask

Made with lemon peel granules and formulated with a 7-fruit blend and AHA/BHA/PHA complex, this cream face mask helps to moisturize and brighten the skin be removing dead skin cells.


Purito ABP Triple Synergy Liquid

purito abp triple synergy liquid

As the name suggests, this toner/essence is formulated with the optimal blend of AHA, BHA and PHA. Helping to stimulate cell turnover rate, evening out skin texture and complexion for clearer and healthier skin.


Ingredients can be very hard and confusing to understand, especially when they're so similar in benefits and name, like AHA/BHA/PHAs. We hope this blog has helped you made understanding skincare just that bit easier. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment down below!

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