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PHA peaux acnéiques.

PHAs for Acne-Prone Skin.

What is PHA? Polyhydroxy acids are a part of the hydroxy acid family. They offer a gentler chemical exfoliation than other acids in the family. Discover the effects of PHA skin care on acne-prone skin.

Published March 11, 2024, by Sandrine, Scientific Editor — 8 min read

What Is Acne?

Acne is a chronic inflammatory disease that manifests itself by the appearance of pimples on the face and body. The causes of acne are multifactorial: genetic, hormonal, stress, taking certain medications… It generally affects teenagers but also adults.

In the case of acne, there is a hypersecretion of sebum (called hyperseborrhea) in the pilosebaceous follicles. The sebum will clog the pores, which are the openings of the sebaceous glands on the skin's surface. This oil-rich environment is conducive to the proliferation of the acne bacteria, Cutibacterium acnes (formerly Propionibacterium acnes), which feeds mainly on sebum. This bacterium secretes pro-inflammatory substances that cause inflammation and pimple formation. When acne pimples disappear, they can leave a spot or a scar on the skin.

What is PHA?

PHAs (polyhydroxy acids) are part of the family of hydroxy acids along with AHAs (alpha hydroxy acids) and BHAs (beta hydroxy acids). Considered the new generation of AHAs, they are known for their keratolytic effects, i.e., they eliminate dead cells (desquamation process), which boosts cell renewal and restores the skin's radiance. Moreover, this desquamation allows unclogging the pores in depth thus limiting the appearance of imperfections.

They also have moisturizing and humectant properties. That is explained by the many hydroxyl functions which they contain (OH-) on the level of their chemical structures. The latter capture the water molecules and prevent transepidermal dehydration, thus reinforcing the cutaneous barrier.

Contrary to the AHAs and BHAs, the PHA skin care products are adapted to all the types of skins, even those which are sensitive. Indeed, because of their high molecular weight, they remain on the surface of the epidermis. This explains their good skin tolerance compared to other acids which penetrate deeper into the epidermis.

There are many PHAs, but the following are often used in cosmetic formulas:

  • Gluconolactone: This is a polyhydroxy acid naturally present in skin cells. This antioxidant effectively fights free radicals.

  • Lactobionic acid: This is a lactose derivative that has a moisturizing and soothing effect.

The benefits of PHAs for acne-prone skin.

In contact with the skin, the PHA will have a keratolytic action by eliminating the dead cells on the surface of the skin and by unblocking the pores. The sebum will be able to better distribute itself on the surface of the skin. Thus, Cutibacterium acnes will be able to proliferate less, which will reduce the appearance of pimples.

Moreover, the PHAs have hydrating and humectant properties. Contrary to what we may think, moisturizing the skin is essential even in the case of acne. It allows avoiding transepidermal dehydration and to restore the cutaneous barrier, in order to protect the skin from external aggressions and to soothe the skin.

Thus, the use of PHA skin care for acneic skin is interesting because it acts against imperfections, gently, while respecting the skin barrier.

Cleaning and exfoliation, two essential steps.

Cleansing allows you to rid your skin of impurities and to fight against excess sebum. Before bedtime, opt for a double cleansing.

First, remove your skin's makeup, sunscreen and excess sebum. We offer two types of makeup removers:

In a second time, clean your skin with an aqueous phase. The skin being removed makeup, the cleanser will be able to wash it in-depth. In the case of acne-prone skin, opt for our exfoliating cleansing gel. Based on gluconolactone, this cleanser offers a gentle chemical micro-exfoliation. It unclogs pores and promotes skin hydration. It also contains aloe vera gel to moisturize and soothe the skin, as well as inulin to rebalance the skin's microbiota. The sweet orange essential oil it contains has antibacterial properties that are ideal for fighting pimples.

Once or twice a week, consider exfoliating your skin to remove dead skin cells. This will unclog the pores in depth, thus limiting the appearance of imperfections. Our peeling mask offers you a gentle exfoliation. It eliminates the dead cells and unclogs the pores thanks to its exfoliating complex (4 AHAs and 1 PHA). The application of this concentrated gel-mask helps to reduce imperfections and refine the skin texture.

However, since acne is a skin condition, 

these skin care steps do not replace 

a consultation with a dermatologist. 

The latter will prescribe a treatment 

adapted to your type of acne.


  • BARNETSON R. & al. A comparative study of gluconolactone versus benzoxyl peroxide in the treatment of acne. Australasian Journal of Dermatology (1992).

  • VAN SCOTT E. J. & al. Clinical and cosmeceutical uses of hydroxyacids. Clinics in Dermatology (2009).

  • GARNER S. & al. Acne vulgaris. Lancet (2012).


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