At this point, it’s safe to assume that we have a pretty good understanding of how chemical exfoliants, aka hydroxy acids, benefit the skin. We have three main groups of acids in skincare. And these are alpha-hydroxy acids (AHAs), beta hydroxy acids (BHAs), and polyhydroxy acids (PHAs). And they each have their own benefit. But what about multi-acid treatments; products that contain all three acids? What would be the point or benefit?
Let’s take a step back and brush up on these first. You have your alpha-hydroxy acids like glycolic acid to smooth and brighten. You have your beta-hydroxy acids like salicylic acid to reduce acne and pores. And you have your polyhydroxy acids like gluconolactone to gently exfoliate while hydrating.
Multi-acid treatments or multi-acid peels refer to products that are formulated with all three types of these hydroxy acids; AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs.
Multi-acid exfoliants are the combination of different types of hydroxy acids. So it’s not like a combination of glycolic and lactic acids, which are simply different AHAs.
A bright young lady named Karen Smith once said: “You have your cousins, and then you have your first cousins, and then you have your second cousins.”
Similarly, you have your acids, and then you have your dual acids, and then you have your multi-acids.
The Benefits of Combining AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs Together
On their own, each exfoliating acid serves a purpose to target a specific area of concern. But when combined together in a single product, they can enhance each other’s benefits.
A combination of AHAs and BHAs can help you deal with acne as well as textured skin. But the point of adding the third acid, a PHA, is all about utilizing its unique properties.
This can change your exfoliation game to a great extent. Because PHAs are known for their hydrating and antioxidant properties. So, while you exfoliate, you can mitigate dryness and irritation by introducing this third acid into the mix.
The people that can benefit the most from using multi-acid exfoliants are people with aging skin that tend to suffer from multiple skin concerns.
Additionally, if single acid exfoliants leave your skin too dry, dehydrated, red, and sensitive, you can now exfoliate more comfortably.
The Best AHA/BHA/PHA Combination Products
Below are the best skincare products that combine both AHAs and BHAs as well as PHAs. Toners, pads, peels -keep reading to find your new go-to multi-acid exfoliating formula.
This is a great example of a multi-acid product that combines all three hydroxy acids with a focus on PHAs. The peel contains 10% gluconolactone followed by 5% glycolic acid and 0.5% salicylic acid. So instead of focusing on one area, you can target several skin issues in the gentlest way possible.
Gluconolactone plumps up the skin and gives you a surface-level exfoliation. Meanwhile, glycolic acid smooths the skin texture and salicylic acid reduces pimples and decongests clogged pores. The treatment is great for getting rid of dead skin cells without leaving the skin red or dehydrated.
This one is an exfoliating toner. The multi-acid formula contains salicylic acid. And it contains both glycolic and lactic acids from the AHAs family. It also has gluconolactone, which adds a hydration boost to your skincare.
The toner unclogs pores and prevents the formation of acne. It also helps brighten the complexion and revive lackluster skin. And it leaves the skin soft and smooth.
This is an amazing multi-acid peeling liquid. The formula is mad brightening as it is exfoliating. Because it’s made with vitamin C to target discolorations and hyperpigmentation. And it packs other brighteners like azelaic acid and tranexamic acid to amplify the effects too. The peel has a combination of glycolic acid, lactic acid, and gluconolactone.
It also has malic and mandelic acid for added benefits and skin-replenishers like hyaluronic acid, glycerin, and aloe to give you a plump base. The formula exfoliates the top layer of the skin. It dissolves the build-up of dead skin cells on the surface and inside the pores without damaging your skin barrier. So if you have sun damage and uneven skin tone, this is the multi-acid peel to reach for.
These pads give you a bit of physical exfoliation as well. They’re soaked in all three exfoliants; AHAs, BHAs, and PHAs. Glycolic and salicylic acids wipe off dead skin cells and unclog pores to reveal smoother and brighter skin.
Thanks to gluconolactone, the pads exfoliate without irritating the skin or leaving it parched and vulnerable. The multi-acid pads also have azelaic acid and tranexamic acid to help with hyperpigmentation and scars.
This is a super gentle multi-acid peel and is also one of the most affordable ones. The total concentration of hydroxy acids is 10%. And it contains lactic and glycolic acids to buff away dead skin cells and increase radiance. The combination of the two is great for improving skin texture.
With salicylic acid, you can clear out blackheads and calm inflammation. And you can do all that without the post-peel redness all thanks to gluconolactone. The formula is non-irritating and a great way to reduce the look of aging skin as well.
These are incredibly practical peel pads to add to your Sunday pamper routine. The pads utilize naturally-derived acids, which tend to be gentler on the skin. The combination of glycolic and lactic acids is amazing for increasing radiance and dermal thickness and reducing dullness and flaky skin.
The added salicylic acid is enough to keep inflammation at bay and stop acne in its tracks. Plus, soothing allantoin and barrier restoring niacinamide leave the skin normal, unbothered, and plump -unlike the traditional post-peel irritated face.
And lastly, this triple acid peel is the best Korean AHA-BHA-PHA product. The whole line consists of a multi-acid complex offered in cleanser, cream, toner, and serum. This is the face serum from the line. It packs glycolic and lactic acids from the AHAs family.
And it has salicylic acid as well as lactobionic acid to hit the trifecta. The serum also contains major anti-inflammatories like Centella Asiatica as well as tea tree oil. So if you have oily skin, blackheads, congested skin, and enlarged pores, this is the multi-acid formula to use. Plus, it’s super budget-friendly.
Read Next: The Best Tranexamic Acid Skincare Products