Q: When can I expect my skin to improve when using PHA products?

A: In most cases, you’ll need at least several months to start seeing a change in your skin, according to Dr. Briden. More dramatic effects can take years to see.

Q: Are PHAs safe for use on delicate areas like the lips?

A: Generally, yes. Many skincare companies are adding PHAs to lip care products. They help boost moisture levels, keeping lips soft and supple.

Q: Can I use PHA products after a laser procedure or chemical peel?

A: Yes, because PHAs are gentle and non-irritating, they’re ideal after a skin procedure. But check with your doctor about which products are best to use post-treatment.

by team

What are they?

Polyhydroxy acids (PHAs), such as gluconolactone and lactobionic acid, are among the newest alpha hydroxy acids (AHAs) to hit the skincare market. Made up of larger molecules than traditional AHAs, PHAs are typically gentler on the skin, causing less peeling, flaking and dryness. Unlike some AHAs, which can dry out the skin, PHAs are ideal for sensitive or dry skin types.

You’ll find them in

PHAs are frequently used in anti-aging and correcting skin treatments, like face lotions, creams, serums and eye products. Additionally, they’re found in acne treatments and products for the body, hands, feet and even hair.

Skin benefits

Consistent use of PHA products can improve skin in many ways. PHAs:

  • Promote cell turnover. By sloughing off dead skin cells, PHAs reveal smooth, healthy new cells underneath.

  • Attract water to skin. PHAs are humectants. By drawing in moisture, they help skin stay hydrated. When skin is sufficiently moisturized, it looks smoother and healthier.

  • Reduce wrinkles. In one study, after PHAs were used twice a day for six weeks, results revealed “a decrease in the number, depth and spacing of fine lines, wrinkles and crow’s feet,” Elizabeth Briden, M.D., a dermatologist at the University of Minnesota, tells Skin & Allergy News. PHAs are also effective in combination with retinoids.

  • Strengthen skin’s barrier. Our skin barrier, or stratum corneum, plays a vital role in keeping out irritating chemicals and substances. Because PHAs help improve barrier function, they can make skin less vulnerable to irritants.

  • Fight free radicals. Gluconolactone is an antioxidant known for its free radical-fighting ability, protecting skin from harmful UV exposure.

  • Lighten hyperpigmentation. Especially when used with hydroquinone, PHAs can lighten hyperpigmentation and photodamage.

  • Reduce flare-ups in inflammatory conditions. Dr. Briden notes that using complex PHA products can lower inflammatory episodes of acne, rosacea, dermatitis, psoriasis and melasma.

Product picks

If you’d like to incorporate PHAs in your skincare routine, you have many options:

Who should avoid PHAs?

PHAs are generally considered safe for all skin types. However, check with your doctor before using PHA products if you:

  • Have a known allergy or sensitivity to PHAs or AHAs.

  • Use prescription acne treatments, (especially topical retinoids or Accutane).

  • Are pregnant.

Learn everything you need to know about anti-aging skincare in our Anti-Aging Handbook.


NeoStrata HQ Skin Lightening Gel NeoStrata HQ Skin Lightening Gel is formulated with 10% Polyhydroxy Acids that help remove hyperpigmentation by gently exfoliating dark spots and enhancing cell turnover."
NeoStrata Bionic Eye Cream NeoStrata Bionic Eye Cream is rich in antioxidants and targets dark circles, puffiness, fine lines and the visible signs of aging in the delicate eye area."
NeoStrata Daytime Protection Cream - SPF 15 A light, antiaging, antioxidant moisturizing cream with 10% PHA (8% gluconolactone, 2% lactobionic acid) that has added protection of broad-spectrum sunscreens (UVA / UVB) for daytime use. "
NeoStrata Bionic Lotion A fragrance-free, light lotion to help soothe, condition and moisturize dry skin. Formulated with 12% gluconolactone and 3% lactobionic acid, a new "bionic" polyhydroxy acid (PHA), in addition to multiple skin conditioners and Vitamin E."
NeoStrata Facial Cleanser - PHA 4 This oil-free and soap-free, non-drying cleanser, containing 4% PHA (gluconolactone), is the perfect first step in your daily skin care regimen."

"The information provided on is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. If you have a medical question or concern regarding any news item or article on this news magazine, please consult your physician..."