Your Guide To Chemical Exfoliation: AHAs, BHAs, PHAs
Now, many of you might have heard of exfoliation, and how it can leave your skin feeling brand new. Before we dive into all the confusing terms, let's first unpack the concept of exfoliation. Exfoliation is the process of removing dead skin cells, dirt and other impurities from the surface of your skin. There are two types of exfoliation: physical and chemical.
Physical vs Chemical Exfoliation
Physical exfoliation refers to manually removing these dead skin cells and impurities from your skin. This includes anything that scrubs and rubs at your face like micro-beads, sugar or clay. Cleansing brushes and sponges (like konjac sponges) are also ways to physically exfoliate your face.
Now onto chemical exfoliation. You might be thinking, "Chemical? Isn't that dangerous?" Not necessarily! Chemical exfoliation refers to using acids to loosen the bonds between dead skin cells so that they can be shed more easily. AHAs, BHAs and PHAs are the acids commonly used in chemical exfoliation.
Example of a chemical exfoliator: Ceramine Botanical Peeling Gel
Is one method better than the other?
The short answer is, no. With both methods, you run the risk of over-exfoliation. With physical exfoliation methods, lots of people tend to underestimate the grittiness of the ingredients, or go way too hard at their face with their cleansing tools. By the time you feel pain and sensitivity, it's too late! You'd have over-exfoliated your face.
With chemical exfoliation, most brands tend to formulate their exfoliators as gentle as possible. However, the risk of over-exfoliation is still present if you use these products more often than recommended. You might still over-exfoliate even with the gentlest exfoliant, if you use it everyday instead of the 2-3 times a week as recommended. It's all about moderation!
The key to both physical and chemical exfoliation, is to find an exfoliator that is gentle on your skin, to avoid over-exfoliating.
What are AHAs, BHAs and PHAs?
Now that we really understand chemical exfoliation, what are AHAs, BHAs and PHAs?
AHAs (Alpha-Hydroxy Acids)
AHAs are water-soluble acids and they're what you think of when you think of exfoliation. They help shed dead skin cells, and can stimulate collagen production. They're helpful for skin problems such as wrinkles, uneven skin texture and pigmentation.
Who it's for: All skin types
Common AHA examples: Glycolic acid, lactic acid, malic acid mandelic acid
BHAs (Beta-Hydroxy Acids)
BHAs are oil-soluble acids and they also help to shed dead skin cells. Since they're oil-soluble, they can dissolve excess sebum and oil that clog pores. This makes them suitable for oily and acne-prone skin.
Who it's for: Oily and acne-prone skin
Common BHA examples: Salicylic acid (and related ingredients such as salicylate, sodium salicylate, and willow extract), beta hydroxybutanoic acid
PHAs (Polyhydroxy Acids)
PHAs are a newer type of acid that also help to shed dead skin cells, but they're much gentler than AHAs and BHAs. The reason being, they have the largest molecular size out of all 3 types of acids, which means that they cannot easily enter pores and cause irritation. PHAs lightly exfoliate the surface of the skin and helps to bind moisture to it.
Who it's for: All skin types especially sensitive skin
Common PHA examples: Gluconolactone, galactose, and lactobionic acid
1. Ceramine Botanical Peeling Gel (Contains PHA)
2. ATVT PHA AC Peeling Toner Pad (Contains PHA)
3. COSSG MOSSG Pore Cica Nose Ampoule (Contains AHA, BHA & PHA)
4. COSSG MOSSG Pore Cica Daily Peeling Toner (Contains PHA)