Chemical peels: this is how AHA, BHA & PHA make your skin glow
Chemical peels ensure a fresh complexion without rubbing and counteract the first signs of aging, but can cause serious skin damage if used incorrectly. We explain how to use AHA, BHA and PHAs gently and find the right peeling for your skin type.
Mechanical facial peelings with abrasive particles have lost their appeal for many cosmetics fans, especially since the microplastics they often contain are also controversial from an ecological point of view. An increasing trend in skin care, on the other hand, is chemical peelings, which can be tailored to individual skin needs with different acids and are intended to help create a fresh complexion.
How do chemical peels work?
In chemical peelings, acidic products are applied to the skin of the face. Unlike classic facial peelings with natural or synthetic abrasive particles that mechanically remove dead skin, chemical peelings work with the texture of the skin: the acids they contain remove keratinized areas and dead skin cells by coagulating the skin's own proteins. The removal of dead skin that blocks access to new, healthy skin has several positive effects: Exfoliation ensures that dry areas of skin disappear and the complexion shines again. In addition, the underlying skin can be better supplied with active ingredients. In addition, the acids contained in the peeling stimulate - depending on the type and level of concentration - the skin's own collagen production, Little acid theory: that's behind AHA, BHA and PHA.
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Chemical peels are divided into three categories:
1. AHA = alpha hydroxy acids ("alphahydroxy acid")
Many chemical peels available in drugstores and beauty salons are based on the action of AHAs. The alpha hydroxy acids include fruit acid, in cosmetics mostly in the form of citric acid, malic acid or tartaric acid. AHAs also include lactic acid, mandelic acid and glycolic acid (hydroxyacetic acid). Since alpha hydroxy acids have the smallest molecules compared to other chemical peels, they are most effective because they can penetrate particularly deep into the skin. In terms of their effectiveness, AHAs are therefore classified as medium to strong peels. At the same time, using a product with AHA is the riskiest option if you have no previous experience with chemical peels. Alpha-hydroxy acids are water-soluble and therefore well suited
2. BHA = beta-hydroxy acids ("betahydroxy acid")
Beta hydroxy acid refers to salicylic acid, which is known to be an effective ingredient in treating pimples, blackheads, and acne. This is due to the lipophilic properties of the acid: BHA binds fats, in this way cleanses pore-deep and has an anti-inflammatory effect. Therefore, products with BHA are good for people with inflammatory skin conditions like acne or rosacea. However, when used for the first time, peelings containing salicylic acid can cause skin irritation and should therefore be carried out by a professional. Beta-hydroxy acid has larger molecules than AHAs, which is why it generally causes less skin irritation in peelings on normal skin, but is also less effective and is classified as a weaker chemical peel. Women should be particularly careful when using it,
3. PHA = polyhydroxy acids ("polyhydroxy acid")
The latest development are chemical peelings with PHAs, i.e. polyhydroxy acids such as lactobionic acid and glucolactones. The advantage of PHA products is that they have an anti-inflammatory and lipophilic effect just like BHAs, but are much more tolerable due to milder acids and are therefore also suitable for sensitive skin types. PHAs are therefore a good alternative to BHA peelings for women with sensitive skin who suffer from inflammation or blemishes. PHA is also used in anti-aging care, as the acids can reduce small wrinkles with age and improve skin elasticity.
BHA, PHA or AHA? How to find the right chemical peel for your skin
Depending on what effect you want to achieve on your skin by using chemical peeling, you can choose the right product. These acids are ideal for the respective skin type:
1. You can treat normal skin with all three types of chemical peelings, depending on your skin needs. Peelings with a combination of AHA and BHA clean pore-deep, soften wrinkles and fine lines, smooth out discoloration and at the same time donate moisture.
2. A PHA peeling is the most gentle on dry, flaky or irritated skin. Depending on compatibility, products with BHA can also be used.
3. BHA products are particularly effective for combination skin, blemished skin and acne.
4. Depending on your tolerance, rosacea can be treated with BHA or, alternatively, with milder PHA peelings.
5. Sun damaged skin is treated with AHAs or PHAs.
6. AHA peels achieve the best results on mature skin.
After choosing the type of acid and concentration, you can choose the right cosmetic product tailored to your skin needs and care routine: Chemical peelings are available in pharmacies, drugstores or beauty stores as peeling pads, gels, fluids, creams, masks or toners.
How dangerous are chemical peels to use at home?
Depending on the type of chemical peeling, the acids are contained in different concentrations. AHAs are effective at a concentration between five and ten percent, BHAs at one to two percent - and at the same time not entirely harmless. The first time you use a chemical peel, be aware that even mild products are powerful acids. In the event of improper use, permanent skin damage such as severe chemical burns, burns, pigmentation disorders, flaky skin areas or extreme dryness can occur. In addition, chemically injured skin can sometimes no longer be healed completely. It is therefore advisable for beginners or women with skin problems to consult a professional beforehand: Get advice from a dermatologist or beautician as part of a professional skin analysis as to which chemical peeling and which acid concentration is suitable for your skin type and how to use the corresponding products gently. In cosmetic studios and dermatological practices, you may also receive a sample of the appropriate product for testing.
How to integrate chemical peelings into your care routine
If you dare to do AHA, BHA and PHA at home, there are a few things to keep in mind when cleaning and caring for your face:
1. First the facial cleansing, then the chemical peeling, then the usual moisturizing care and special care products such as eye cream or night care: You will achieve the best results with this application sequence.
2. Since chemical peels affect the pH of the skin and are absorbed directly by it, rinsing off is not necessary. You can move on to moisturizing right after exfoliating.
Caution: Since the skin is particularly sensitive to light after a chemical peeling, you should definitely use a high to very high sun protection factor (at least 30 to 50+) after the treatment in order to prevent sun-related skin damage. This applies not only to the day of the treatment, but also to the days after the peeling.
The first time you use an AHA, BHA, or PHA peel, you should do it in the evening. This allows your skin to recover sufficiently overnight and any irritations that may occur can subside by the morning.
With BHA products in particular, the first few uses may result in a slight tingling, burning sensation or slight reddening of the facial skin. However, there is only cause for concern if the skin changes do not go away after a few minutes or more. A slight reaction is normal and harmless.
Contact one of our specialists today for a free skin consultation to find a skincare management plan that’s right for you.